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It’s been years since Natasha Romanoff first entered Tony Stark’s radar, pretending to be an assistant under Fury’s orders. She figured it would be quick, just assess whether Tony would be fit to become an Avenger and return to her life. She never imagined that almost a decade later, they would find themselves amid one of their greatest challenges of all time. Together.

 

They’ve fought, made up, kicked ass together, repeatedly. Tony was never one to back down from a challenge. Until now.

 

Natasha understands his conflict, as he does have a family. He has everything that he could ever want, so why would he want to give that up? She knows damn well that they can’t do this without him, but she sees where he’s coming from. They’re on opposite sides.

 

“Nat.”

 

She’s sitting against the side of Tony’s house, staring off into the forest beyond, taking a moment to try and admire the beauty of nature when she hears his voice. It’s unexpected, as she assumed that he wouldn’t even want to talk to her about the plan after what she had asked him to do. Of course, there was the possibility that it wasn’t even about the Avengers, but what else did they have to talk about? The Avengers were their whole lives.

 

“Hey Tony,” she greets him as he comes to sit beside her. His hair has grayed in the past five years and Natasha comes to the realization that Tony is older than the rest of them, well besides maybe Cap. Nonetheless, the guilt strikes her again as it sinks in what she is asking him to do.

 

“It’s pretty,” he comments.

 

She just nods. “I can see why you chose to settle here. It will be a nice place for Morgan to grow up.”

 

He nods absentmindedly, finding himself staring off in the same direction as her, admiring the beauty around them.

 

“I never thought we’d get here, you know. I was so convinced I was going to die all those years ago that I stopped thinking about the future. I never thought that I’d ever end up here, especially not by the side of my ‘assistant’,” He coughs in emphasis at the title, poking fun at the alias that she had used all those years ago.

 

“Fury’s idea, not mine,” she quickly defends for what feels like the millionth time. It feels good though, being back sitting there beside Stark, exchanging mindless banter. Like old times, almost.

 

“Nat, you could die,” and she knows that he’s not talking about their history anymore.

 

“Any of us could die,” she replies nonchalantly.

 

“That doesn’t bother you?”

 

“We’ve lost so much, Tony. I don’t think there really is a choice. We have to do whatever we can to bring back everyone who is gone.”

 

“Even if it costs us our lives?”

 

“I’ve never had so much to live for in the first place, Stark. It doesn’t bother me.”

 

Tony lifts his head off the wall to look at her. She avoids his gaze, knowing full well what look would be in his brown eyes.

 

“Natasha, look at me.”

 

She reluctantly lifts her head off the wall as well, turning her head to look him in the eyes, doing her best to hide the tears accumulating in them. Somehow, she feels like she knows. She’s not coming out of this.

 

He’s about to say something, about to give her a lecture about self-worth, but when he sees the look in her eyes, he decides against it. Instead, he just wraps his arms around her, pulling her into a hug. The memories are flowing through both of them, unspoken words passing between them.

 

You matter to me.

 

I care about what happens to you.

 

I care about you.

 

She’s always been like a daughter to him, though he would never admit it. He’s always cared about her, no matter all the times they fought. They would always care about each other.

 

That’s when it hits him.

 

He has to go. He has to fight to try to bring back his friends, his family. They all matter to him more than anything. She’s right, there isn’t a choice.

 

They just bury their faces in each other’s shoulders, not even trying to stop the tears from flowing. They have to go. Maybe neither of them will come out of it alive, but it’s okay. They have to try.

 

It’s okay.