Author: Me, ladychi
Rating: Mature, for violence, sexual scenarios (not in this chapter)
Fandom: Marvel's Avenger Movies
Pairings: Tony/Pepper, Steve Rogers/Darcy Lewis (Thor), Bruce/awesomeness, Natasha Romanov/James "Bucky" Barnes
Summary: The most serious of the "Bump" series thus far. The Avengers, particularly the Stark/Potts family come under fire from an unlikely source, as Pepper becomes the target of The (infamous) Winter Soldier.
The story of how the Avengers really became a family.
Catch up with the rest of the series here.
The meeting quickly broke up, but Tony and Natasha remained in the corner, discussing something in low and strident voices. Pepper gave them a few minutes, and then steeled herself to interrupt.
Pepper really and truly admired Natasha Romanov. She may have been a little dubious about “Natalie’s” very brief stint as Tony’s personal assistant, she may have been a little nervous, knowing Tony’s reputation, initially, but Natasha had taken good care of Tony, she hadn’t treated him with kid gloves, and she was truly excellent at kicking ass. Knowing all of this, Pepper only felt slightly anxious about what she’d agreed to do.
She interrupted Tony and Natasha’s conversation with a quick touch to Tony’s forearm. “Tony? Would you mind going to get me a glass of water?”
“There are half a dozen people here whose sole purpose is to... YOu’re glaring at me. That’s the shut-up glare, isn’t it?”
“Ah. Just so we’re all aware that I’m aware of your nefarious plan to get me out of the way. Don’t start taking off clothes until I get back.”
Pepper watched him stride off with an amused smile on her face, which slowly faded as she directed her attention to what she’d planned to do. “Natasha, I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind overly if I asked you for a favor.”
Pepper had watched Natasha during the briefing, but Natasha’s eyes focused on her and seemed clear, unclouded, for the first time.
“I don’t make deals without knowing the terms,” Natasha said, her eyes sliding away, her arms over her chest.
“I know you’ve got some experience with this Winter Soldier guy,” Pepper said, “and Tony seems to think that since we’re not going to be able to keep my condition out of the press for much longer, his attention might shift to me, and since I refuse to spend twenty-four hours a day with him.... and I’ve been taking a few self-defense classes, but...”
“Stark’s got reason to worry.” Natasha uncrossed her arms and shifted her weight. “If Winter Soldier’s primary objective is to wipe out the last of the Starks, then he will be nothing if not a completist. He’s very thorough. He’s very good... and he’s very discreet.”
“I know. That’s why I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind accepting a liaison position with Stark Industries... at least until this all blows over.”
Natasha’s lips pursed. “However this ends, I can guarantee you it won’t blow over, Ms. Potts.”
“All right, Pepper.” Natasha sighed. “Run it through Coulson and SHIELD. Let them know you have my okay.”
“Thanks. There just wasn’t anyone else I’d feel comfortable with.”
Natasha raised an eyebrow. “Most people aren’t. Comfortable with me, I mean.”
Pepper shrugged. “You have fabulous taste in boots. That goes a long way with me.”
Natasha’s mouth twitched in amusement. “Fair enough.”
“Sooooo. Potts is preggers.”
“Knocked up. Got a bun in the oven.”
Coulson was starting to get irritated. “Yes, Darcy, she said as much. I was right there, you were right there.”
“And no one said anything. That’s the kicker. Everyone knew and no one said anything. We’re talking about Tony Stark, man. I don’t know very much about him, but I know for a fact he’s not the world’s best secret keeper. I mean, he’s definitely got some Sirius-like qualities with the charm and the questionable sexuality... I don’t doubt that he’s straight, I’m just saying he could like it both ways and it wouldn’t surprise me... but if I were James and Lily I still would have gone the Remus direction, know what I mean? There’s a dude who could keep a secret. He walked around as a werewolf for years with only one or two assholes figuring it out.”
Coulson blinked. “Darcy... nothing you just said makes any sense.”
“You know Captain America mythology front to back but you don’t know Harry Potter?” Darcy tsked. “I knew there was something off about you the moment I met you.”
“Yes, well, at that time I had a four-inch gash in my chest. That might have been it.”
“No, you were giving off dubious-geek vibes. I knew something was off about your street cred, right then. I’m adding Harry Potter to the list.”
Darcy sighed, as though this should be perfectly obvious. “The list of things someone should probably expose our favorite popsicle to, but probably wasn’t considered important or culturally relevant enough to make whatever list your psycho-babble experts came up with.”
“Yes. You’re a little slow on the uptake today, Phil. Everything okay?”
“Headache. Bad headache. Which, by the way, you aren’t helping.”
There was a knock on the door, and Darcy got up to answer it. “Agent Coulson?” Maria Hill stepped in the room. “Just giving you a courtesy head’s up. We’ve lost track of the potential aggressor. We’re flying blind here.”
Phil waved a hand. “We expected as much. Thanks, Maria.”
Maria ignored his dismissal. “Is Stark prepared for what’s about to hit him?”
“About as prepared as a man with his ego and a lot to lose possibly can be,” Phil said. “We’ll do our best to keep an eye on him, but the man’s practically a walking tank.”
Maria nodded. “Fair enough.” She turned on her heel and walked out.
Darcy whistled as she closed the door. “You know, I’m not a judgemental person, normally --” Phil bit back a laugh “-- but that woman is a stone-cold Ice Queen bitch if I ever saw one.”
Phil shrugged his shoulders. One thing he’d always liked about Darcy was her perceptive nature.
The mission was of paramount importance. Like a song stuck in his head that wouldn’t let go, or a pattern suddenly appearing everywhere where once there was randomness, he couldn’t escape the drive to complete it. It surrounded and consumed his every thought, even the ones running underneath the programming, hidden in the backbeat of the music of his thoughts, the ones that whispered he’d been here before, not for a mission, that he’d walked these streets and loved girls and had friends and...
The mission was the only thing of importance.
The backbeat began to fade.
Clint appeared in Natasha’s doorway, almost without sound. She smiled when she sensed his presence -- he’d always been a good agent, and he had, from time to time, bested her, but she knew him well enough to expect him to come.
“Hey, Nat. Don’t shoot. I’m coming inside.”
“I’ll try to resist the urge,” Nat said, rolling her eyes. “I’m in the kitchen.”
“Are you … cooking?” He looked more than a little horrified by the idea.
“No. I’m making tea,” Natasha said, “and doing some packing.”
“They’re sending you out?” Clint blinked.
“No. I’m going to spend the next couple of days at Stark Industries.”
“Tony ask you to keep an eye on Pepper?”
Natasha smirked. “Sometimes you are a darling unconsciously sexist man. No. Pepper, being well aware of her limitations, asked me herself.”
“Ah. That’s good.” Clint crossed his arms. “Listen, Nat, I’m going to ask you for a favor.”
“That’s a popular choice these days.”
“I need you to level with me.” Clint cleared his throat. “How do you know The Winter Soldier?”
Natasha bit her lip and carefully arranged her features until they were blank. “I...have not thought much about him in years.”
Clint leaned in and looked at her, as though with those piercing eyes of his he could look through her pupils and straight through to her soul. “Bullshit.”
Natasha looked away. “He... was very much like me. Wiped. Reset. Over and over and over again. By the time I met him, he could not even remember his true name. We were friends, once.”
“How worried about this guy should I be?”
Natasha shrugged. “That depends.”
“How worried about you should I be? I’ve never seen you like this about a person before.”
“I will be fine. It is very likely that he is not the person who was my friend anymore. I am not the person who was his friend. We shall both endeavor to do our jobs.”
Clint nodded, like she’d given him the final piece to the puzzle he’d been trying to work out. “Then I’m going to Stark with you. Clearly you’re not in the right frame of mind to handle this by yourself.”
“Fuck you, Barton.”
He smiled. “You already have, darling. But I think there’s something more here, something more with this Winter Soldier guy and listen, you wouldn’t let me deal with something like this alone. You wouldn’t let me walk into a situation knowing I’d be compromised every step of the way. Not without some back up.”
Natasha looked away.
“You know I’m right.”
“Yes, I do.”
“Good. So -- if you need me, you know where I’ll be.”
“Just above me. Just out of sight.”
Clint grinned. “Exactly, babydoll.”
Natasha rolled her eyes.
“Well... today sucked.”
Pepper’s lips curved in amusement as the door to their master bedroom closed behind Tony. “I will allow that we have had better days.”
“People wanting to kill me... that’s nothing new,” Tony said, whipping his t-shirt off to expose his bare chest to the bedroom. Instantly, everything took on a slightly blue tinge. She was growing to need that hue to sleep.
“I can’t say that’s something I like to think about,” Pepper said softly, taking a cloth to her eyes to gently remove her makeup.
“No -- but it’s a fact,” Tony said, “the thing that’s new and different and exciting about this little conundrum is that you’re going to be a target too.”
“Are you about to say something that will offend my Brown sensibilities?”
“Wouldn’t dream of it, Potts.”
Pepper laughed. “Yes, you would.”
A quiet knock interrupted their routine.
“That’s odd,” Tony said. “JARVIS, who’s at the door?”
“Dr. Banner, sir,” JARVIS replied dutifully.
“Come on in, Bruce!”
“Tony, I’m practically naked in here,” Pepper hissed.
Tony looked confused. “You’ve got a robe on. I’ve seen you in shorts that cover less.”
“Not acceptable. You go talk to your friend out there, but get me a shirt, Tony. And some pants.”
“You’re very demanding today. Is that one of the symptoms of pregnancy? Increased demanding...ness?” Tony called as he searched through the drawers from something appropriate in Pepper’s proprietary scale. Bruce opened the door and stepped inside. Tony gestured to the master suite’s sitting area.
“Oh dear God, Tony, you’ve got an IQ of like 204 or something ridiculous, use a real word,” Pepper snapped, her hand appearing out of the bathroom door. “And give me my pants.”
Tony handed her one of his old MIT shirts and a pair of his boxers (part of the benefit of having a long-term girlfriend was getting to see her lounge around in all of his stuff) and joined Bruce at the table.
“What’s up, buddy?”
“I’d like to do a brief check-up, if that’s all right.” Bruce shrugged. “It was a long and stressful day, and with older women and pregnancy...”
“Excuse me,” Pepper said, her expression playfully upset.
“In terms of life, you are definitely not old. In terms of child-bearing...”
“Oh God. I’m in my mid-thirties. It’s not like I’m fifty year old gestating twins or something,” Pepper said under her breath.
“I’d also like to draw some blood and get started on all of that as quickly as possible,” Bruce continued, acknowledging Pepper’s teasing with a smile. “I hate to bother you at this hour, but JARVIS just informed me that you were both home.”
“That’s because we both just arrived,” Pepper said, as Bruce began to strap on a blood-pressure machine to get a reading.
“I know that curbing your work hours may not seem very practical, but can I suggest that you are already under a lot of pressure, and with today’s information come to light, it might be something you should consider? Stress and pregnancy are not good bedfellows. It’s not generally a good thing when you’re just getting home from work at...” Bruce checked his watch. “11:15 p.m.”
Tony looked a little abashed. “So, she should be working a straight 9-5 then?”
“I didn’t say that. Pepper should work as much as she feels comfortable working... within reasonable limits. Just... be sensible.” Bruce put his blood pressure machine away. “Particularly since your blood pressure is a little high. I’m not too worried... yet. We’ll continue to monitor it as closely as possible, though. There may be a chance that we might have to take some more formal steps to correct it, if this continues. Also, I want to set-up an ultrasound.”
Pepper reached for Tony’s hand. “Are we going to be able to tell... anything?”
“You’re what? 8 weeks along? Almost 9?”
“Probably not sex at this point. But you’ll get a good picture of a little human being, particularly with SI’s superior technologies. I just want to take a peek because I want to be sure the radiation from the arc reactor isn’t affecting the fetus in any way. We know the radiation it puts out does nothing to harm adults, but we’ve got no data on fetuses.”
Tony nodded, his eyes carefully blank.
“Tony.” Bruce was quietly insistent. “I’m practicing an overabundance of caution here. And I’m being as honest as possible. I’ve got no reason to suspect... anything. I’m just... looking.”
Bruce left the room a little more sedate than he’d entered it.
Tony and Pepper fell asleep holding hands, the arc reactor glowing between them.