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Pretend You're In Love

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Tony Stark was a man of discipline.

Finish what you start, make the next better than the one just finished, make no mistake. There was no times for mistakes in the world of Tony Stark. Not when those mistakes could cost you the life of someone you love. He wouldn’t – couldn’t – risk any of his team mates lives.

Tonight, he found himself staring at the dismantled Iron Man suit in front of him. He tore it apart the previous night, doubting his own abilities, believing there to be something wrong with the machine that would cost him blood on his hands. He was determined to make sure that the suit was perfect, not a single flaw was allowed to happen.

All this most likely stemmed from the past few weeks of nightmares he had been having when he attempted to sleep. It was always in a fight, never the same fight, never a fight that he has actually fought in the real world with the other Avengers. But that didn’t make it feel any less real. The fight was going, intense. Everything seemed to be going good, they seemed to be winning, but then, things would go wrong. One night, it was Steve being thrown off the top of a building and he was supposed to catch the falling soldier, but his suit misjudged the distance by just a few inches, which caused Steve to fall toward his end and Tony to wake up in a breathy panic, sweat dripping down his forehead, unable to breathe or go back to sleep. It wasn’t always Steve that he failed to save. At some point, it was one of the other Avengers, and it was always some very minor flaw in the design of his suit that had caused him to fail to save his friends.

Most nights, though, it was Natasha Romanoff.

Chapter Text

A ring from the doorbell startled Tony, making him aware of the morning sun rising. He looked down at the current piece of the puzzle he was attempting to fix – that being the arm of his suit – and sighed. He didn’t get done nearly as much as he had wanted, and that made him somewhat upset with himself. How was he going to be ready for a fight if it was taking him so long to fix the damn suit?

He jumped at the ringing of the doorbell once again. It was probably some solicitor trying to sell him something that he could make himself. Either that, or it was a journalist who was going to attempt to get the inside scoop of his life, which was definitely not going to happen.

“Jarvis, who’s at the door?” he yelled, beginning to clean up his workspace.

“It appears to be Agent Romanoff, sir,” the AI answered.

His heart skipped a beat. Romanoff? Why was she here? Was something wrong? Was there some sort of danger that Shield had found out about and now they needed the Avengers to get together to create a plan of attack? And his suit still wasn’t fixed. Shit.

The doorbell rang again.

“Jarvis, let Natasha in and tell her I’ll be with her in a minute.”

Tony quickly finished putting everything away, sighing as he covered up the mess of the arm with a sheet. He walked over to the stairs, glancing at his reflection in the glass, noting that his hair was a bit of a mess, but other than that, he looked like his usual self, down to the black and purple bags under his eyes.

When he entered the room, his eyes immediately found Romanoff sitting on the edge of one of his couches, ankles crossed, back straight, poker face on. He couldn’t help but notice the rather large envelope in her hands with the Shield logo large on the side that was up and saw that it was still sealed. Must be for him.

“I take it you’re not here for a fun time, huh?” he joked, walking over and sitting across from her on the other couch.

“No, I’m here for business matters, actually,’ she stated, showing no emotion.

His eyes glanced down to the envelope in her hands, then back up at her face, raising an eyebrow in question.

She sighed, handing him the envelope. “It’s an assignment. For both of us, I might add. I haven’t read it yet, and Fury said we don’t have to accept it. He just said that it would be a great help to both him and the rest of Shield if we did accept.”

Tony took the envelope and slowly opened it, careful not to rip the envelope. He was extremely curious about what the assignment might be. Once the envelope was opened, he took out the paper it contained. There was two papers, and upon further examination, saw that they were pretty much identical, aside from the name at the top, so he handed the one with Natasha’s name to Natasha so she could read it.

As he read through the letter, he felt his heart skip a beat.

Dear Tony Stark,

The Agents at Shield have been notified of a threat in France. However, due to negative press the past few months, we would like to keep it on the down low. To do this, we have decided to come up with a few plans to keep the press distracted so we can go investigate this possible threat without it being publicized.

Although several circumstances have been thought out and planned, we have one that we believe would be the best to execute. Since you, Tony, are big eye candy for the press, we thought it would be a great distraction for you and Agent Romanoff to pretend to get together, as if the two of you decided to enter a relationship. It will be up to the two of you to go as far with the relationship as you would like, just as long as you continue to give the press what it wants and keep it distracted.

We understand if you decide not to go along with the plan. We do not wish to force either one of you into doing this is you are not comfortable. While this is an assignment, it is not a mandatory one. However, we do need to know your decision within two days’ time.

Tony looked up at Romanoff, who he found to be looking at him as well.

“Well?” she asked him.

He shrugged him shoulders, throwing the paper next to him on the couch. “I’m okay with this if you are. It won’t be that hard to keep the press wanting more. Holding hands at one store, kissing at some restaurant someplace else. And we don’t have to go too far with it.”

To be honest, he wasn’t okay with this at all. Just looking at the woman in front of him was enough to drive him mad, make his heart ache because he couldn’t touch her, kiss her, love her like he wanted to. How was he supposed to go for who knows how long ‘pretending’ to be in love with her, and not get hurt in the end? He knew that whatever SHIELD was investigating was bigger than him, and he knew he should do the right thing and go through with this assignment. And so he would.

He watched her, trying to gauge her response, but damn was she good at keeping people guessing. She nodded slightly at his words. “Fair enough. I’ve done worse assignments than pretending to be the famous Tony Stark’s girlfriend. It won’t be that difficult.” She gave him a devious smile.

“Alright. So, should we come up with some ground rules for this then?” he asked, leaning back on the couch.

Natasha stared at him for a moment. “Like, no sexual touching in public?”

Tony snorted and smile slightly. “But the press loves that sort of stuff.”

Natasha just glared at him. “No sexual touching or you’ll never want to have sex again.”

Tony’s smile disappeared and he cleared his throat. “Alright, no butt touches." 

“Good,” the redhead nodded in approval. “And how about no big life-changing decisions, like proposing.”

Tony sighed, acting as if he was disappointed, but agreed. “How about moving in together, though? That is, if the others need more time and we begin to bore the press.”

“I highly doubt you could bore the press, Stark. However, that is no unreasonable, as long as I get my own room and you promise not to try anything on me while I sleep. You’ll regret it if you do.” She gave him a look of warning. She was a very light sleeper, thanks to her training in the red room. Even as she slept, she was very well aware of her surroundings, and would surely injure Stark in her sleep if he were to try anything on her.

“Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not that type of guy,” he said, getting up and walking in the direction of the kitchen. “Would you like a drink, Natasha?”

“No, thank you,” she replied, following him almost silently. If it wasn’t for the fact that he was used to being alone, he probably wouldn’t have heard her light footsteps just a foot behind him.

“Are there any more ground rules you would like to establish?” he asked while pouring himself a drink.

She had stopped in the doorway, leaning against it. He could tell she was evaluating her surroundings as they stood there in silence for a few moments.

“If either one of us is uncomfortable, we stop. We pretend to have a huge fight or something and break things off. Publicly.”

He thought over what she had just said, and nodded. It was very reasonable, as this was just an assignment. However, this assignment did mean that he wouldn’t be able to pick up any women at any of the Stark Industries event. He pushed the thought aside. He hadn’t brought anyone home in a while, for a certain reason that sat in front of him, so having to wait a little while longer didn’t bother him too much.

He watched her glance at the watch on her wrist as he took a sip of his drink.

“I better get going. When should we start this?”

He thought for a moment, setting the glass on the counter. “How about tomorrow evening? Stark Industries is holding a charity event, and Pepper was very insistent about me making an appearance. You could be my date? The press will be there and it’s very pubic.”

He watched her composure carefully for any difference in emotion, but found none. It wasn’t until she nodded that he gave her a small smile.

“Alright, everything’s settled. Now for tomorrow night –“

“I already know how to dress,” Natasha interrupted him, referring back to when she was undercover as he assistant. “There is one last thing, Tony.”

He looked at her, eyebrow up in question.

“No sex.”

Chapter Text

Natasha stood in front of a full length mirror, staring at herself. She felt odd and very unlike herself. But she had to admit, she did look pretty.

Her short red hair was curled and pinned back, a couple strands left loose, framing her face. She had an almost perfected smoky eye, which took her hours to finally get right after watching many Youtube videos. She had on a slight blush, and to pull it all together, a dark red lipstick. She wore simple black dangly earrings, the only jewelry that she was wearing at all.

The most important part of the look was the dress. A simple, fitted, long black dress. It was sleeveless and had a sweetheart neckline. It was snug in all the right places. Sure, she didn’t dress like this to events when she was Tony’s assistant, but she had noticed the wives and girlfriends of important people dressed similarly. And since she was the date of one of the most important people at the event, she figured she should bring out the guns and make herself look as stunning as possible.

And damn, did she do well.

She turned away from the mirror to go find her purse. Since her dress had no pockets, she found an old purse to carry around instead, keeping a couple of small weapons handy inside. She could never be too careful.

As she checked the clock, she couldn’t help but feel a bit nervous. What was she doing, getting so dressed up for this event? She wasn’t trying to impress anyone, was she? She sighed and shook her head. No, this is just a job. Act as Tony’s girlfriend, which also meant that she should do her best to fit the part. That was all she was doing.

She poured herself a glass of champagne to calm her nerves as she waited for the billionaire to arrive. Earlier that evening, they had decided it would be best if he had picked her up and they arrived together. Begin this charade as soon as possible.

The twist in her stomach reminded her of how much she didn’t want this to be a charade. She wanted it to be real, but she knew the likelihood of that happening was pretty much zero. She downed the rest of her glass and tried to mentally prepare herself for the evening.

Chapter Text

There was a knock at her door. Natasha’s heart leaped, feeling as if it were about to jump out of her chest. She swallowed, setting her glass in the sink, and making her way to the door. She slowly opened it, pokerface on with a slight smile.

She couldn’t help but be slightly stunned. He cleaned up good. Well, she already knew that. He was wearing a nice suit, and the color of his shirt was almost the same color as her hair. He probably did that on purpose to make it obvious that they were each other’s dates. His hair was slicked back slightly, enough to have him look nice, but messy enough to where you could tell he wasn’t trying so hard.

“You look nice,” he said, clearing his throat. “So, you ready to go? We’re already late.”

She furrowed her eyebrows together. “I thought you said it started at 9.”

“No, I said I would pick you up at 9. It started at 8, but I like to be late.”

Ah, the usual Tony Stark. He always had to be fashionably late, how could she forget that.

“Let me go grab my purse and I’ll be ready to go.”

She walked back toward her bedroom, leaving Tony at the door. She walked to the other side of the room so that she was out of his sight, then proceeded to breathe deeply. Her hands were sweating and she had no idea how in the world she was going to make it through the night. How was it that she could go until the last possible second before a building exploded, trying to get a file, and be completely okay with it, but pretending to be Tony Stark’s date made her want to throw up?

This is why she hated emotions. They controlled you when you least expected them to.

She grabbed her purse off her bed and walked back out into the living room, giving Tony a nod. “Alright, I’m ready to go.”

 


 

 

The yells of reporters and TV interviewers could be heard inside the limousine. Natasha really did not want to deal with them, but she knew she had to. And would continue having to do so for as long as she and Tony continued this act. She felt a hand grab hers gently, and when she looked down, she saw that it was Tony’s hand. Probably for the cameras, she thought.

The door of the limo opened and she found herself being pulled out of the car while simultaneously being bombarded with the flashes of cameras and the yells and questions of interviewers.

“Tony, over here-“

“Who is with you tonight?”

“Tony Stark, do you-“

“Is she your girlfriend?”

With all the preparation she had been through as a kid, nothing could have prepared her for this. She couldn’t tell who was asking what or what words went to what sentence or even which direction each question was coming from. Everything in her told her to get out of the situation, to run in the opposite direction and hide somewhere.

But she couldn’t. A few moments after they exited the car, she could feel Tony wrap his arm around his waist and lean in close to her, whispering in her ear so only she could hear.

“Just smile and look in different directions. Don’t say anything. Ignore them, keep by my side, and we’ll just keep walking until we get inside.”

She stayed close to him, doing as he said. She felt odd, smiling and letting her picture be taken. However, she knew she had to, as part of the plan. This was good, them being seen together with minimal space between them. Something told her to look up at him and smile a little, and she saw that he was looking down at her with a soft facial expression. Someone took a picture, and she knew that it would be everywhere by morning.

It wasn’t a long walk before they were inside. The place was magnificent. Tables set up with nice white, clean clothes, brilliant flower tree-like centerpieces, a dance floor in the middle of the room, and, of course, an open bar.

“Would you like a drink?” Tony asked her, beginning to head off in the direction of the bar.

“And have the chance of you slipping a roofie in it? No thanks.”

“Hey, I may like to bring home lots of women, but I am still a man of decency,” he said, pretending to be insulted.

“Just a water then, thank you.”

She watched Tony walk off toward the bar, then found herself a bit unsure of what to do next. She stood in the spot in had left her in for a moment, scanning the room. She didn’t seem to know a single person there. They were probably all people from Stark Industries and higher up people of other big companies that Pepper corresponds with when it came to dealing with the business. She sighed, feeling completely out of her element.

That was when she noticed Steve and Bruce standing away from everyone in a corner. She smiled slightly to herself and made her way through people toward them.

“Hey boys. What are you doing here?”

The pair looked up and it seemed as though they were caught off guard.

“Oh, uh… Tony invited us,” Bruce said. “Wow, Natasha, you look great.”

“Thank you, so do you guys,” she responded, giving them a slight smile.

She noticed that Steve was looking away, trying not to stare because he knew that was impolite. She wondered if they knew about her and Tony’s assignment.

“Why are you here, Nat?” Bruce asked, answering her question.

“Oh well, I’m uh,’ she stammered a little bit, “I’m Tony’s date.”

Before they could say anything, she felt an arm go around her waist while another handed her a glass of water.

“That’s right, the Black Widow here is now off the market,” Tony boasted.

Natasha rolled her eyes, looking at the other two guys. “Kind of. This is all part of an assignment.”

She watched as Steve’s eyes looked back and forth between the pair, then nodding in acceptance of the situation. Bruce, however, had his mouth slightly agape and there was something in his eye that told her he knew something was up. Could he sense that she had feelings for Tony and thought that that was why she agreed to doing this?

“Apparently SHIELD has some investigating in France to do, so we’re the distraction for the media,” she explained quickly.

Bruce just nodded. She watched Steve look around the room, obviously completely uncomfortable in this setting. To be honest, she was pretty sure that Tony was only one of them that wasn’t uncomfortable.

“Alright ladies. Gentlemen,” the DJ said over the speakers, “I know you like to dance, but right now, we’re going to do a slow dance. So guys, grab your girl and get on down here.”

“Really? A party DJ?” Natasha asked. “Isn’t this supposed to be a charity event?”

Tony shrugged. “Yeah, so? Doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun. Now common, we gotta have at least one dance.”

“Does it have to be this one?”

“It looks good,” he pointed out.

She couldn’t argue with that, so she let herself be led by him to the middle of the dancefloor. She put a hand on his shoulder and the other in his hand, and was happy to note that his free hand was safely on her waist and not any lower. She looked up at him and saw a glint of something in his eyes.

She felt her chest tighten, not wanting this moment to end. She heard the music begin to play. “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls. He stepped closer to her and he stared down at her. She swore she could almost feel a spark between them. She felt Tony begin to move them, taking the lead. She followed, allowing him to guide her in simple motions. He didn’t try anything with her as they danced, just held her close and danced slowly. She never took her eyes off him. She could always say that it looked good for the cameras, but that would be a lie. She was memorized by him, the way he looked under the lighting. He looked like a man in need of love, and she desperately wanted to give that to him. But she knew she couldn’t, she was too broken, but so was he.

Realizing this, she stopped them and stood on her toes, kissing him full on the lips.

Chapter Text

Tony sat on his bed, staring down at his heads.

Never in a million years did he think that Natasha Romanoff would kiss him. Even though that happened a few hours ago, he still wasn’t sure how to comprehend it.

He could remember it vividly though. One moment, they were just staring at each other, dancing. And before he knew it, her lips were on his, kissing him, and he kissed back. She felt soft and sure, like she wanted to kiss him. But it ended as quickly as it began.

He swallowed, shaking his head. No, she didn’t really want to kiss him. It just looked good. He was sure that was what she was thinking. But he couldn’t help but have a shred of hope that maybe, just maybe, she returned the feelings he had for her.

He wasn’t going to let himself get his hopes up. She couldn’t possibly have meant anything with that kiss. This was Natasha. If she had feelings for anyone, it would be Clint.

“I don’t know if I can do this,” he whispered to himself, feeling lost.

Walking to the kitchen, he tried to think of the pros and cons of continuing with the assignment. If he decided to continue, he would have to endure this pain of feeling this way toward her, but knowing everything she did most likely meant nothing more to her than an assignment. However, if he wanted to end the assignment, he would have to have some good reason. She would want to know why he didn’t want to continue, as not much made him uncomfortable. And he knew he would have no good response.

He poured himself a drink, breathing in deeply before downing it in one gulp. He needed to get in control of himself. He was Tony Stark, playboy and womanizer for crying out loud. One woman shouldn’t have this much control over him.

But Natasha did.

After putting the glass in the sink, he headed down to his lab to drown out his thoughts and continue working on his suit. He needed distractions.

Chapter Text

The last few weeks have been some of the best that Tony has experienced. Even if it was all fake.

Natasha was an extremely good actor, able to even convince him that she had feelings for him. But by the end of every day, she made it quite clear that this was all business. Even if there was a spark between them whenever they kissed, or that when they hugged, she always lingered just a few seconds longer, and he let her because he never wanted to let her go.

Today was no different.

The press was always flocking them, wanting to know how the relationship between Iron Man and the Black Widow was progressing. There were even rumors that the reason he, Tony Stark, was in a committed relationship was because he had gotten Natasha pregnant. He remembered her seeing it and then slightly freaking out, pulling him back behind a building and demanding him to tell her what he had said.

“I didn’t say a thing,” he said, hands up, slight smirk on his face.

“Then why are they saying that?” she demanded.

“It’s the press,” he chuckled, placing his hands on her arms and rubbing them in an attempt to calm her down. “They’ll say anything to get their magazines sold. Just let them, it keeps people happy and the media from all sources wanting more.”

He remembered her stare, the one that could kill. He had leaned forward and kissed her forehead. He didn’t know why he had done it, but the thing that surprised him the most was that she seemed to calm down after that.

And, just like that day, Natasha once again got a little freaked by the media coverage. A magazine in the window said that a baby bump was beginning to show. She gripped Tony’s hand and they continued on their walk. Tony could sense that she was upset, so he stopped their walk and had them sit down on a bench.

“What’s the matter? Is it that magazine in the window we passed?” he asked her, holding her hands gently in his.

She sighed, shaking her head a little. “Yes. I didn’t think I gained weight, but I must have, and of course they’re assuming that I’m pregnant.”

He chuckled. “It’s called Photoshop, hun.”

She looked at him with a confused expression, to which he laughed a little bit more.

“It’s a program used to edit picture. They probably found one of us and used it to make it look as if you are beginning to show. We’ll clear it up first chance we got, okay?”

“But I thought –“

He knew what she was going to say. That it was good media and would continue to bring more coverage on the two of them, thus, more distractions from what SHIELD was going across seas. But he could tell that the whole situation was making Natasha uncomfortable, and honestly, that was the last thing he wanted.

“I know, I know. But listen. This makes you uncomfortable, I can tell. So we’ll just be a little more public and come up with something else we can do to keep the media’s attention, alright?” Tony stared into her eyes.

She finally nodded. “Thank you, Stark. That’s actually… very kind of you. I would have never expected something like this out of you before.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Before what?”

“Before this assignment. I mean, we have gotten to get to know each other a lot more the past few weeks.”

He knew this was true. They have spent quite a bit of time together recently, and they did discuss some of their interests to each other. He even discovered that her favorite movies were the Bond movies – which he wasn’t all that surprised with. A part of him said that he should attempt to make a move on her, take her out for dinner on a real date rather than a fake one. But he had a strong feeling that she would decline the invitation, and then this whole charade would get weird and she could call it off.

“You okay?” Natasha asked, squeezing his hand slightly.

He looked at her, putting a smile on his face. “Well of course. Common, I should take you home, yeah?”

In her eyes, it looked like she may have been a bit disappointed with his suggestion, but it was quickly gone.

“Yeah, that’d probably be best. I’ve got some training to do anyway.”

He nodded, taking her hand and they stood up. They didn’t speak as he walked her back to her apartment, which was only a few blocks away. He was sure to walk her up to her apartment, and even when they were out of sight of any cameras and reporters, he continued to hold her hand, and she never pulled hers away either.

“I’ll see you tomorrow then,” Tony said with a small smile.

“Yeah. See you.”

He watched as she stepped inside and shut the door behind her. He lingered for a few moments, briefly playing with the idea of knocking on her door and kissing her when she opened it. Instead, he shook his head and made his way back downstairs and to the street where his car was, slipping inside, and driving away.

Chapter Text

A creak in her living room woke her up instantly. She knew all the creaks and other noises that her home made, and this was not one of them. She heard a few others, as if someone were walking and testing the floor to see where it creaked, not wanting to wake her. All her senses were on high alert.

She slipped out of bed and walked silently toward her door, knowing where to keep her feet so that she didn’t make a noise. She listened closely, but heard no other sounds. Maybe she was just imagining things. But then what was the whisper she just heard? Shit. Someone was in her home and she was stupid enough to not bother putting a panic button near her door. It’s right by her bed, which is a good five feet away. Maybe she would be able to reach it before someone –

Someone was on the other side of the door.

Natasha could feel their presence, hear their breathing. She could tell they were trained, but by who? She waited, not wanting to be the first one to make a move. The doorknob began to turn slowly and the door started to slowly open.

She stood back, letting the intruder open the door and step in. That’s when she slammed the door shut with her foot, using that force to give her some leverage and push her up so that she could get her legs around the man’s neck. The man groaned and reached for his legs, which she then proceeded to twist her body around to twist his neck uncomfortable, and soon, he was fighting for air.

The click of a gun sounded behind her. “Get off him, Agent Romanoff.”

Shit. How could she have missed someone else coming inside the room? She mentally cursed herself for being so unaware.

She sighed, letting go of the man and standing up in front of the older man with the gun pointed at her head. She held up her hands and stared at him, as if challenging him. He stared back and waited, not saying anything else, and no one moved. She used this opportunity to analyze the situation and try to figure a way out of it. She focused in on the way he was loosely holding the gun.

Without another thought, she was kicking at the gun, hitting his wrist with such force that it broke it and he dropped the gun, the sound of it hitting on the ground echoing in the room. She swooped it up and jumped on her bed, holding it tightly in both hands, pointing it toward the men.

“Who are you?” she asked, keeping both men in sight.

She was disappointed to find out they were both wearing masks, which made her unable to get clear descriptions of them.

“I’m afraid we can’t answer that,” the older man hissed as he held his now broken wrist.

“But you can. So tell me, who are you?” she yelled, placing a finger on the trigger. “And don’t think I won’t shoot, because I will.”

The man chuckled. “Go ahead. Do it, then.”

She bit her tongue, hating that response. If she shot them, she would have no answers as to who they were. That would not only put her in danger, but all the other Avengers in danger as well. She found herself wishing that Tony were there to help, give her some idea of what to do.

Her attention got pulled to the sound a tick, and then she found herself surrounded by smoke. Everything was going dark and she felt the gun leave her hands. Someone caught her before she hit the ground, but she knew she wasn’t safe.

Chapter Text

“Have you heard from Natasha?” Tony demanded, walking toward Steve, Clint, and Bruce, who were sitting around in the living room of the Avengers tower.

They all looked at him with confused expressions on their faces.

“She isn’t with you?” Clint asked, worry filling his voice.

Tony shook his head, breathing out. His chest hurt and he felt like he was going to be sick. He had called her earlier that morning to talk about if they were going to do anything that day and then make arrangements. She normally picked up right away, but when she didn’t, Tony knew something was up. He had tried calling about six more times after that but to no avail. That’s when he decided to come to the Avengers tower, hoping maybe she was here or one of the other guys saw her.

No such luck.

“I dropped her off at her house last night,” he informed them, bringing up a few screens on the monitors hanging in the room. “And now she’s gone. I tried calling, but she didn’t answer. And she always answers.”

He looked through several files, trying to see if she had hit one of the panic buttons in her home. But she hadn’t. He briefly wondered if that meant she was okay, but quickly pushed the thought aside. If she was okay, he would have heard back from her by now. He sighed, aimlessly scanning through files, hoping that something would come up as to where she might be.

That’s when Tony remembered the audio recorder he had secretly set up in her apartment. He had done it back at the beginning of their mission, wanting to be sure that he had some way to know if anything bad had happened to her in case someone tried to harm her in any way. Tony knew that if someone was going to try to harm him, it would be through his biggest weakness – his girlfriend, who was being played by Natasha at the moment. It only took a minute for him to find the files from the audio recorder.

“Jarvis, scan through last nights’ recordings and see if anything abnormal comes up,” Tony instructed the AI.

He sat down and strummed his fingers against the desk, staring up at the monitor impatiently. She had to be safe, this was Natasha for crying out loud. Maybe he had said something yesterday to upset her. He carefully thought through their conversations in his head and failed to come up with anything that would push her away so much.

“Sir, I found something abnormal at the time 11:48 pm. Would you like me to play it for you?” Jarvis reported.

Tony sat up in his seat, extremely focused in on what the AI had just told him. He barely noticed Steve, Clint, and Bruce walking over to stand behind him to listen to the audio themselves. It seemed that they were all hoping that Natasha was perfectly safe, that whatever Jarvis had deemed to be abnormal was actually nothing.

“Yeah, play it.”

The audio was silent at first, none of the men able to detect any noise. Then a faint creak was heard, and a sudden struggle. There was a groan and a quiet thud, as if someone had fallen. A quiet click was heard, then finally, someone speaking.

“Get off him, Agent Romanoff.”

Tony swore that he could feel his heart jump in his throat as soon as he had heard the words. She was ambushed last night. From the sounds of the recording, there seemed to be only two people who broke into her apartment. She should have easily been able to take them out.

He was pulled back into listening to the audio once again when there was an apparent struggle. There was a thud again and a man – possibly the same one who had just spoke – groaning in pain.

 “Who are you?”

That was Natasha that time. At this point, she was still fighting. Good.

 “I’m afraid we can’t answer that.”

“But you can. So tell me, who are you. And don’t think I won’t shoot, because I will.”

Tony couldn’t help but smirk a little bit. He knew she would get control of everything. She had the gun, and he knew very well that she would shoot if she had to.

His heart sank and the sudden realization that if she had indeed gotten control of the situation, and stayed in control, that he would know where she was.

The man chuckled. “Go ahead. Do it, then.”

A tick could be heard, and then what sounded like a fog machine. Tony’s eyebrows furrowed together, fearing what these sounds might mean.

“Let’s take her back to base. We’ll get answers out of her there.”

Tony straightened up in his seat, staring intently at the screen, as if he were trying to see into the previous night so he would be able to get a description of the man who was now kidnapping Natasha. To be able to pull a stunt like this off, they had to be trained.

“Jarvis. Pause it and do a voice recognition on the last person who spoke.”

“Will do, sir. Voice recognition in progress now.”

Someone had cleared their throat behind him. He quickly spun his chair around, seeing Steve, Bruce, Clint, and now, Fury.

“I see that Agent Romanoff is not here with us yet,” he stated, looking around at the four Avengers, then settled his eyes questionably on Tony. “Do you know why that is?”

“It appears that the Black Widow has been trapped in a jar,” Tony said between teeth.

How he was able to be sarcastic in this situation, he would never know. Because right now, he was worried sick. Worried that they would not be able to identify the man who had talked in the recordings, worried that because of this, they wouldn’t be able to find Natasha, and that she would –

No. He would not think like that. They would find the men who did this to her and they would be punished. That is, if Tony didn’t his hands on them first.

Fury’s expression faltered just slightly. “Do anything you can to find her. Finding her will be our top priority right now.”

Tony, Steve, Clint, and Bruce all nodded to Fury. Fury nodded back, then turned around and walked away.

“I have been able to identify the man in the audio recordings, sir.”

Tony turned his chair around. “Spill the beans then.”

“It appears to be a man by the name of Victor Remmings."

Chapter Text

The deafening silence was the first thing Natasha became aware of. It was too silent for her to be at home; usually, she would hear the neighbors above her walking around, doors shutting down the hall from her own apartment, and one of the dogs in another apartment barking at the noise. She knew she had to quickly assess the situation, figure out where she was and why she was there. As she became more awake, there was a fogginess in her head, and her eyelids were heavy and not allowing her to lift them so that she could see her surroundings. Something wasn’t right.

She attempted to move her arms, hissing softly when she found that she was bound where she was by metal barriers. After a quick jerk of her legs, she found them to be in the same predicament. There was no way for her to escape, not until she was able to open her eyes and completely evaluate both her surroundings and the situation that she was in. But the heaviness was still there, and she felt herself beginning to succumb to the darkness in her head that was trying to get her to go to sleep again. She shook her head, concentrating very hard on opening her eyes. She couldn’t understand why she couldn’t open them, this had never happened before.

It suddenly clicked. There wasn’t a heaviness that was preventing her from opening her eyes. There was a blindfold on her that was wrapped around her head so tightly it was keeping her eyes shut. All her senses heightened. She didn’t like this situation at all. Too much could happen and she would have no way of preventing it. She couldn’t move, couldn’t even see!

She began to remember the events of the previous night, beginning to piece things together. She had been ambushed, tricked, as if the intruders had known how to work her. She mentally cursed herself for being such a fool as to believe that there had only been one person who had come into her home. She should’ve been paying closer attention to her surroundings, not just focusing in on the boy she had almost strangled. Then maybe she wouldn’t be here and the two men would be in jail. More memories popped up once she remembered more about the second man. She had gotten the gun and was in control of the situation, but then… she couldn’t remember anything after that point. She sighed, keeping an ear out for anyone who might approach her.

A few moments later, she heard the sound of heavy boots on tile flooring. The sound seemed to be muffled out, which made her believe that she was in a room with a closed door. Her suspicions were proven to be correct as the creak of door nearby alerted her that someone was now in the room with her. She immediately tensed up, keeping a very close ear on this unknown person. She couldn’t let her guard down knowing that it could cost her her life. And being alive and having that man from last night focused on her was crucial, because as long as he was with her, the rest of her team was okay.

“Well, well, well. Natasha Romanoff. Or should I say, Black Widow. Which do you prefer?”

Natasha felt her heart jump a little, but kept calm. It was the same man from last night. And now that she’s heard his voice again, he sounded familiar.

“I don’t care what you call me because I won’t be here for very long,” she stated.

She knew that once she didn’t answer her phone for Tony, or Fury if he called, that they would immediately investigate her whereabouts. And once they found that she wasn’t in her apartment or anywhere in Stark Towers, they would know she was in trouble. They would be here soon, she was sure of that.

“I’m afraid you won’t be leaving us, Natalia,” the man said. Natasha could hear the smirk in his voice. “Do you remember me, Natalia? Because I remember you.”

She heard him walk behind her and closer. She tried testing the restraints around her wrists, but there was no way for her to break them. They were metal. So were the ones that were around her ankles. She felt a hand on her shoulder and tried to pulled away, praying that the chair would be able to move, but it wouldn’t. So as long as she was in this chair, she had no means of escape. That just means she would have to use her other skills she had up her sleeve.

“Former lover, perhaps?” she asked, her voice a little softer than before.

She felt the man’s breath as he whispered in her ear. “Oh, how I wish. But no, we go way back. I’m talking the Red Room.”

Natasha’s heart stopped. Her mind raced until it was finally able to recognize this man’s voice and match it with someone from her past. Victor Hemmings. She swallowed hard, memories coming to the surface of her time at the Red Room with Victor. He was a trainer, and a relentless one at that. She remembered that he had cornered her many times and beaten her for doing one little thing wrong on a certain move. He would always yell at her and the other girls to be perfect and that he wouldn’t expect anything less. He was a tyrant.

The knot on the back of her head loosened completely and fell. She was finally able to view her surroundings. The room was a stone grey color, nothing but bricks surrounding except for the metal door. It was probably a thick door, ensuring there would be no way for her to escape. Which is why there wasn’t a single window either, not even a tiny hole so that a person in the room may view the outside world. This prevented Natasha from being able to see the sun outside, which made her question how long she had been unconscious for. She kept her physique calm, but was quietly getting frustrated and a bit frightened.

Victor stepped around Natasha to stand in front of her. She looked up at him, memorizing his features. She noted that he looked quite the same from her Red Room days, only a little bit older now. He had a smile on his face like he had won some type of prize. She raised an eyebrow, questioning him.

“I am going to have so much fun with you,” he said with a smirk.

She wanted to retort, say something about how that wouldn’t be happening, but decided it was best to keep her mouth shut. Victor knew how she worked, how she was tried, what she was capable of. Anything she did, any wrong move she made, could end very badly.

After a short stare down between the two of them, Victor walked over to the door, knocking on it twice. The door opened and three men came in the room. Natasha tried to see past them, but the only thing she was able to see was the same stone colored walls, which was nothing helpful. She focused on the new men in the room, examining them closely. They all wore the same clothing, black pants and a white shirt. Each man had a gun that hung on their hip. Two of them were holding some type of weapon. Careful examination of the weapon had her conclude that they looked to be tasers. The third had a second gun in hand, a bigger one than the one on his hip. She silently cursed Victor for being so careful. She knew that he knew that he would have to take as many precautions with her so that she couldn’t escape.

He came back over and revealed a pair of handcuffs. “You’d better listen, or you’ll be dead.”

She decided it was best to comply with his demand at the moment. He took the restraints off her wrists and she held them out obediently. Once the new handcuffs were around her wrist, he took off the restraints around her ankles.

“Up,” he commanded, and she stood.  

The two men with the tasers immediately went to her sides while the man with the gun was behind her. She looked up at Victor, slight smirk on her face.

“Are these men really necessary?” she asked sweetly.

Victor chuckled. “I believe you know the answer to that as well as I do.”

She nodded slightly. Victor went back to the door and knocked three times. The door was opened and Victor walked out, the gun pressing on her back making it apparent that she should follow. So two knocks and more men with weapons came and three knocks and they would be able to exit. That could become useful later.

Once out in the hall, they walked a little ways. All the doors were metal. Some were quiet, others were the sounds of the people on the inside banging away at the door as if it would do any good. Natasha eyes the men on either side of her. They didn’t seem to be paying close attention to her.

She dropped to her knees, which made the man behind her with the gun trip over her. She quickly got lower, making him fall over with a thud on the ground, the gun falling out of his hands. The men on her left put his taser on her arm, sending shocks up her arm and through her body. She swung her leg out and tripped him, grabbing the pole as it fell out of his hands, and breaking it in two. The other man put his tasor in the middle of her back. She groaned in pain, but took one half of the pole and stuck it in his gut, a sigh escaping her lips once the taser on her back was dropped. A resounding bang rang out through the halls. At the same time, Natasha felt a sharp pain on her arms. A quick look around and she found the last man with the gun aiming at her. Victor was staring back, a gun in his hand as well. She looked down at her arm and discovered her arm had a bullet graze and now blood was trickling down it.

“I told you to listen, didn’t I?” Victor snarled.

“Well you should know as well as anyone that I tend not to do that very well,” Natasha retorted.

He came up to her and slapped her across the face. Her head moved sideways and there was a very sharp sting on her cheek now, but she stood her ground, moving her head back and staring him straight in the eyes.

“Majais, come here,” Victor yelled.

The last man, still aiming the gun at Natasha, walked over. “Yes, sir?”

“Stand behind her. Anything funny moves, shot her, got it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good,” he uttered. “Now, follow me.”

He turned back around and continued walking down the hall. Natasha heard a groan coming from the man she had impaled, but decided it was best not to glance his way. Victor stopped at a room, the smile on his face making her very uneasy. He opened the door and went inside.

“I hope you remember this,” he expressed, the smile on his face very present in his voice.

Natasha’s heart stopped when she saw the machine in front of her after she entered the room. It was one of the very machines that had been used on her when she was a spy in training. Although it hadn’t been the worst of the torture – or rather what they called training – devices, it did stir up a lot of unwanted memories in Natasha’s head. She felt Victor pushing her toward the machine from behind, but she stood her ground, wanting to stay as far away from it as she could. However, she just couldn’t match his strength, and within moments, lost her footing as he practically threw her across the room to the machine. He took advantage of the situation, quickly throwing her down and strapping her into the chair.

She struggled against the straps, trying to find some sort of weak in them so that she would be able to escape, but unfortunately, there were known to be found. She swallowed the lump in her throat and stared at her kidnapper. She tried to ignore the stabbing pressure now on the middle of her back, but her mind kept going back to it, telling her to run away because she knew what would happen soon enough.

Victor stared back her, looking almost proud of the sight on front of him. He walked over to her, grabbing her chin so that she wouldn’t be able to look away, and then leaned down very close to her, so close that she could feel his breath on her face, which made her want to cringe away.

“From your reactions, I see that you do in fact remember this device,” he smirked. “I hope you remember how effective it is.”

She didn’t say anything. She couldn’t. She was afraid that if she did, she would say something she would regret. By opening her mouth, she was not only risking her safety, but the safety of her friends as well. If Victor had been able to kidnap her, who’s to say that he wouldn’t be able to kidnap any of the other Avengers. Her heart hurt, knowing that everyone was in danger and she couldn’t protect any of them because she was here. Even if by being here, she was currently keeping Victor occupied, that didn’t mean that he didn’t have other men doing his bidding, going to track down and capture the Avengers one by one. While she did have complete faith in her teammates, she couldn’t help but worry that they would be tricked as she had been.

Victor stared at her for a few moments longer, then pulled away from her. He took a remote from his pocket, showing it off to her.

“I have all the control. Say or do something I don’t like,” he clicked a button and pain radiated from everywhere in Natasha’s body, causing her to gasp, “And you’ll get that. Once I’m done asking questions, we’ll go through the… regular training that you had through as a child.”

Natasha glared at him, wanting this to be over with as soon as possible.

“First question: Where are the other Avengers?”

She didn’t say anything. No matter how many times he pressed that button, no matter how much pain she was in, she wasn’t going to say anything. Her life was not worth risking the lives of her friends, her teammates.

“Times up,” he said, pressing the button.

Natasha moaned loudly in pain. It lasted longer than the first time, and she knew it was for a purpose. She knew Victor was going to break her down until she told him whatever he wanted to hear. Unfortunately for him, she would die before telling him anything.

“Next question. Do the Avengers know all the things you have done?”

“Yes,” she answered truthfully.

Victor looked conflicted for a moment, but decided against pressing the button.

“Who is the leader of the Avengers?”

Silence. Then seering pain going through Natasha’s entire body, longer than the previous two times. She yelled in pain, clenching her fists together.

“Last question for today. How hurt will you be when I kill your precious Iron Man?”

Natasha swallowed hard, scowling at him. Victor smiled, pressing the button again. She continued to stare at him, taking deep breaths to try to keep her mind off the pain as it consumed her. She groaned quietly, her eyes beginning to water. She tried moving her back away from the source of the pain even just a little, but she couldn’t. She yelled out, screwing her eyes shut, feeling as if she was going to black out any moment.

Then it stopped. She gasped like she had been unable to breathe for the past few minutes. Her body was tired and sore, her head hung low as she tried to recover from the pain.

Victor rolled a screen up in front of her so that she could see the images on the screen. She knew this part and feared the images that would come up. She sat back in the chair, knowing that the sooner she got this over with, the sooner she’d be out of the chair and back to her room.

An image of Steve Rogers came up on the screen. After a moment of looking at it, she felt the pain go through her body again. She didn’t have enough in her to scream anymore. Next was Bruce, and then Thor, followed by Fury and Clint. Each time, the pain got worse, and each time, her body got more worn out. The last image was of Tony. Her heart ached, realizing now how much she was missing him.

Then pain. Complete and utter pain, and she screamed as it consumed her entire body relentlessly. She wanted the pain to end, would do almost anything for it to stop. Her jaw clenched and tears ran down her face as she tried to fight against the pain. But nothing worked, and she couldn’t take it anymore. Her body couldn’t take it anymore.

Then everything went black.

 

Chapter Text

Natasha woke up and found herself in a different room. She was laying on a table, strapped down with metal restraints, and there were a couple of IVs going from her right arm to a bag that looked to have just water in it. Looking down, she found herself to be in some sort of hospital gown. There was a heart monitor hooked up to her finger as well, and she couldn’t help but hope for just a second that she had been rescued and was now in a room at Stark Tower. The hope didn’t last long, however. The creak of metal door rang out through the room, then a loud bang as it shut behind someone.

“I’m so glad to see you awake!”

Natasha cringed at the voice, everything in her telling her she had to kill the man and get the hell out of the building. Her survival instincts began kicking in. She laid still, staring up at the pale grey ceiling, listening as Victor began walking around the table so that he was standing near her head. He stood over her, his head in her line of sight, staring down at her. She wanted to look away, but she couldn’t force herself to. She tried reading his expression, attempting to understand what was going through his head. She wanted to know what his plan for her was. He was unreadable though. Then he smiled.

“I hope you’re ready for the next training session,” he spoke loudly, his voice echoing in the room.

Her body tensed, still sore from the previous training session. Part of her hoped that she wouldn’t be going back to the chair, but another part was scared of it being something else because the possibility of it being worse than the chairs was far too high for her liking. At least with the chair, she knew what she would be expecting, even if it did make her want to scream out in pain and almost give in to his will.

She kept her eyes on Victor as he walked away from her. He seemed to be looking away from her, but she could tell that he was watching her from the corner of his eyes as if preparing himself in case she decided to attack him and run. She was too tired for that, though, but was that it didn’t show. After a few moments, he walked back toward her, a sneer across his face. She held her ground as best as she could laying on a table. She heard the steady beeps from the heart monitor and was thankful that her heart did not give her fear away.

The restraints were soon off and she sat up, but Victor quickly tied her hands around her back before she could do anything. She wasn’t going to be stupid again, though. She knew that, at the moment, there was nothing she could do to escape. She just had to hope that Tony and the rest of the team would be able to track her down and rescue her from this hell hole.

Victor pulled Natasha off the table and set her on her feet, taking a gun out and pointing it at her. “No funny business. I won’t hesitate to put a bullet through your head, then the heads of all your dear friends.”

Natasha’s heart seemed to have stopped in her chest. She couldn’t feel air going into her lungs and her chest was painfully tightening up. She stared at Victor a moment too long before getting her face back to its neutral form, so he was able to see how that affected her. His cruel smile returned and he grabbed her arm, pulling her out of the room.

“You’ve given me a great idea. But it’ll be saved for later.” Victor snarled in her ear, leading her to another room.

Natasha swallowed hard, both at his words and at the table in front of her.

_________

 Natasha now laid in a small room with a very small mattress and a sheet. The walls seemed to be smeared with dirt and blood and who knows that else, distracting any viewer’s eyes from the bright yellow they were. To her, it felt like she was in a hospital room, the colorful far too cheery for what happened in the room. She shivered, pulling the sheet around her, pulling her knees up to her chest as she curled in on herself.

She was entirely too weak and tired for her liking. Victor had put her through several more “training” procedures in the past few hours, and each of them drained her to the point of almost passing out. But Victor seemed to know just when to stop so that she wouldn’t black out again, and would then inject her with something foreign which caused her energy levels to spike up high enough so that she would be awake and somewhat ready for the next procedure.

As she closed her eyes, she could see flash images of everything that happened. Her laying on the table, wires being attached all over her body, hundreds of them. Victor had control of another controller, and she found that it could control which wires sent shocks to her body and the intensity of the shocks. She had been able to handle this procedure better than the chair, but by the end of the session, she was still completely drained of energy until Victor injected her with his chemical mixture.

She opened her eyes and stared straight ahead at the wall across from her. Tears threatened to leave the corners of her eyes, but she blinked them back. Never has she felt so weak against someone. This feeling was new to her, defeat. In a way, she couldn’t understand why she was no longer able to handle this torture anymore. She had been able to before, been able to stay strong and take the worst of the punishments Red Room had to offer. But here, now, after all this time… She just couldn’t do it, mentally or physically. She just wanted to give in, do something to provoke Victor to shoot her, to end all of this pain and suffering.

But that would mean that he would go after her teammates.

Sighing, she turned to lay on her back and look up at the ceiling. She knew she wouldn’t be getting much sleep tonight. Her body was too sore and every move she made sent a sharp pain throughout her entire body. She continued to stare up at the ceiling, imagining what might have happened between her and Tony if she hadn’t been kidnapped. Thinking of Tony made her heart ache. She hadn’t realized until now how much she was missing him. Even though he could be a bit of jackass sometimes – all the time – she still couldn’t help but miss being in his presence, holding his hand and kissing him, even if it was all for show. Part of her still hoped that maybe it wasn’t all for show. That maybe, just maybe, he had the same feelings for her as well.

This thought helped her slowly fall asleep, smiling slightly as she imagined Tony laying right beside her.

____

Victor grabbed a fist full of her hair and pulled her head back so that she was looking at him. She glared at him, never breaking eye contact while he glared back at her, a small, amused smile on his face. From his eyes, she could see that he was pleased with what he was doing to her. Breaking her down, little by little. She could also see that he had bigger plans in mind, plans that she feared would break her down much more quickly than any of the pervious tortures have done.

“Now, we’re going to make a little video for your lover,” Victor said in a mocking tone.

Natasha’s eyes grew wide for a moment before she caught herself, quickly going back to her pokerface. But it was too late. He had seen her reaction and knew that this was something that triggered her, and that Tony was someone he could use against her. The smile on his face grew into a full on wicked grin.

“It’s not going to be that bad, sweetheart. Just a little time in the chair again.”

Her stomach twisted. She hadn’t been in the chair in a while, and she did not want to go back. And she definitely did not want to be recorded for Tony to see on the chair either. But she didn’t have a choice, and she felt herself being lifted up and lead to the room, her body too tired and sore to fight back much. Instead, she focused her energy on mentally preparing herself for the pain that was soon to come. She couldn’t let her body show just how much pain she was going to be in, she couldn’t let Victor have that satisfaction.

She was put in the chair again and quickly restrained. She noticed that it was a different room than her previous visit to the chair. She also saw three cameras pointing to her at different angles. She clenched her jaw, staring at her captor. He merely looked amused, standing behind the cameras with the remote in his hand. After a few seconds of them staring at each other, Victor pressed the button on the remote. A ripple of pain went through Natasha. She clenched her jaw tighter, her hands forming fists. He must have adjusted the settings on the chair because the pain this time was a lot worse than before. She knew he had done this to get a good reaction out of her. But she would do everything in your power to prevent that from happening.

Victor slowly stepped toward her, but turned around the face the cameras. The pain had ceased for a moment, but Natasha knew it would be back soon enough.

“Hello, Mr. Stark and friends,” Victor said, addressing the cameras. “I don’t believe you know me. My name is Victor Hemmings. And I have something very dear to you.”

He stepped away to reveal Natasha behind him. She looked down, not wanting to look at the cameras, afraid that her features would betray her and show how much pain she was in, how tired she was.

“We’ve been having a good time, her and I,” he chuckled, stepping back in front of her. “So much so that I believe I won’t give her up. That is, of course, unless you do something for me.”

Natasha’s head snapped up so that she could glare at him. She knew that she was just part of a trap. Victor wanted something from the Avengers, and he knew they would do anything he asked in order to get her back.

“Don’t listen to him!” she yelled at the camera. “Guys, don’t, I’ll be fine. Just stay!”

She kept yelling pleas for them to stay and not come to get her because it was a trap. Victor had snapped his fingers and a guard came over to her and put a gag in her mouth. She was yelling helplessly against it now, not caring how weak she looked. She would do this a thousand times over if it meant that her friends listened and didn’t come for her, that they stayed safe.

“Well, I hope to see you soon, Tony, so that we may discuss this further. I’m depending on the fact that you can track this video.” He started to walk away from the camera, then stopped and walked back to where he had been standing. “Oh, by the way, to ensure that you or your friends don’t try anything, if you do, just know your precious sweetheart will go through so much worse than this.”

With that, he moved out of the line of sight and pushed down the button. Pain like nothing Natasha has ever escaped course through her body. Her nerve felt like it was on fire. She screamed against the gag, feeing tears escape the corners of her eyes. She struggled in the seat, unable to get away from the horrendous pain.

Through your cries, you somehow heard a very familiar, and in that moment, angelic voice.

“Sorry, pal, but I don’t like it when people take my stuff.”

Chapter Text

Ever since he found out the name of the man who kidnapped Natasha, Tony hadn’t stopped searching for her. He had JARVIS go through every wireless camera in the world, along with phones, Bluetooth sets, really anything that Jarvis could access. While he had Jarvis do that, he did his own research on Victor Hemmings. He knew that if he wanted to rescue Natasha, the best way to do that would be to know his enemy. Besides, this guy was probably a wanted criminal anyway and could pose a serious threat to the team later if they were unable to capture him.

What he found on the man made him very concerned.

Victor Hemmings had been associated with the Red Room, the same place where Natasha had received her spy training. Tony knew that this alone was enough to cause for extreme concern. Anyone who was associated with that horrid place was bound to be messed up. More research told him that Hemmings was indeed a wanted man. However, he was quite wealthy, due to helping Hydra with training spies of their own and creating weapons and other devices for them. This wealth made him able to get others to help him, even take the fall for him. It also alleviated the police from ever capturing him. He pretty much paid them to not take him away.

The man made Tony sick to his stomach.

No, Hemmings could not even be considered a man. After everything he had done, everything he continues to do, he was no less than a monster in Tony’s eyes.

This made him worry greatly for Natasha.

He was currently sitting at a computer, looking at all the articles and government reports on Hemmings. The more he read, the more he wanted to kill the guy. His head started hurting as his brain soaked up the information. He groaned in frustration, moving his hands to the screens in front of him, pushing all the articles aside so that he was staring at a blank screen. It was then that he saw the reflection of the good ole cap.

“Can I help you?” Tony asked, turning his chair so that he was looking at Steve.

Steve continued to watch him for a moment, the slight pink in his cheeks showing that he was a little embarrassed about being caught. After a moment, he regained his composure, and then cleared his throat before speaking.

“Is everything alright?”

Tony scuffed. Wasn’t the answer obvious? Of course everything wasn’t alright. Natasha was missing, shouldn’t everyone be worried? She could be dead for all they knew. Sure, she was one hell of an assassin, but that didn’t mean she was immortal. Was he the only one that was concerned about this?

Steve walked toward Tony and sat in the open chair next to him. He didn’t say anything for a few moments, just watched and gauged Tony’s reaction. He clasped his hands together and leaned forward. After a few moments, however, he broke the silence.

“You know we’re all worried, right?”

“It doesn’t seem like it,” Tony grumbled. “You guys are just sitting around while I’m doing all the research!”

He hadn’t noticed that he had started yelling until he was finished speaking. Yeah, sure, he got upset from time to time and was a bit overdramatic, but he rarely ever yelled unless it was during a battle. Steve continued to watch him with concern in his eyes. Tony had to look away, knowing that Steve was probably catching on to what was going on with him and why he was so upset.

“You love her.”

Tony snapped his head around to look at Steve again. He held his breath as the words sank into his head. He knew he had feelings for Natasha, but he had never equaled them to loving her.

“No. I just.. I’m just concerned,” Tony said, trying to cover up his behavior quickly.

It didn’t pass with the Captain.

“Tony, it’s pretty obvious how you feel about her,” Steve replied, getting up and walking over to Tony. “You don’t have to hide it.”

Tony took a deep breath and tried to swallow down the lump in his throat. He knew that, no matter how much he denied his feelings toward Natasha, Steve wouldn’t be fooled. He let out a shaky breath, just looking at Steve with a broken face.

“Yeah, I do,” he finally admitted. “And I’m scared I won’t get her back.”

Steve gave Tony a small smile and put a hand on his shoulder. Tony tried to look back at him, but his gaze just fell to the floor in defeat. In a way, it was nice to admit this weakness. He felt like a weight had been lifted off his chest and he was able to breathe better now. He knew he wouldn’t be able to lie to himself about how he was feeling about Natasha anymore.

“We’ll get her back,” Steve promised.

 ___

Tony was startled awake by the sound of an alarm going off. He almost fell out of his chair as he was sprung up, trying to remember through his sleepiness how to turn the damn thing off.

He looked up at the screen, then his heart stopped.

JARVIS had picked up on a signal of a camera, and in the frame of that camera was Natasha. The sight of her made him want to scream. She was bound to a chair, her hair nowhere near as neat as it usually was, and her eyes looked dead.  There were bruises all over her arms and she was beginning to look malnourished.

“Find the location. Now!” Tony snapped, finding his phone and quickly messaging everyone about what was going on, telling them to meet up at the tower.

“The location is in New Jersey, sir. About 20 minutes from here by car.”

Not soon enough, Tony yelled in his head. He clenched and unclenched his hands, trying to keep his anger to a minimum so that he could continue to think clearly. If that was by car, then it would probably be quicker in his suit. He should be there in no time. But he still had to wait for the rest of the team to get there so that he could let them know what was going on and give them the location so they could follow. He knew he’d probably arrive first, and he would be able to protect Natasha and hold off whoever had kidnapped her until the rest of the team was there.

He was brought out of his thoughts by the clearing of a throat behind him. He turned around and saw the rest of the team, minus Natasha, there. Steve stood up straight and proud, just like a soldier. Bruce was a bit slouched, nervous and unsure of what was going on. Clint had his arms crossed over his chest, looking like he was ready to kill someone. Someone had gotten ahold of Thor thankfully, who was looking confused but ready to battle if necessary.

“I found Natasha. And I’m going to have JARVIS give you guys the location and I’ll meet you there,” Tony quickly said as he threw his arm out, calling for his suit.

“Shouldn’t we come up with a plan of attack?” Steve asked.

“The plan is to attack, Cap. We don’t have much time, especially not with what that guy on the screen there is saying. I have to help her.”

The rest of the teams’ attention moved to the screen, watching the video that was currently being broadcasted. By the time they looked back to where Tony had been standing, he was gone.

As he flew toward the place JARVIS had told him the video was being recorded, he was very thankful he had adjusted how fast the suit flew. He had asked JARVIS to play the video in his helmet as well so he would be able to keep tabs on how Natasha was doing. After only a couple of minutes, he saw some weird government-looking place nestled in the woods. It wasn’t too big, so he knew that finding Natasha wouldn’t be a problem. That didn’t stop him from being very frantic. He just wanted – no, needed – to get to her and get her out of this place. He stopped once he was over the middle of the building, trying to think of what to do next. He could just blast his way in. No, then if he didn’t find Natasha right away, something could happen to her.

“JARVIS. Can you find Natasha’s heat signature?” he asked hopefully.

“I can try, sir. But there are no promises.”

“Just be quick.”

Tony looked around the building, trying to figure out where the best place to attack would be. On the screen in front of him, he saw JARVIS registering heat signatures. There weren’t many people there, maybe 15 or 20. This was either a small operation or just one of many buildings.

“I’m sorry, sir, but I am unable to locate Agent Romanoff.”

He sighed, looking around helplessly. He had to do something, and soon, because someone was going to notice him flying idly above their building. He scanned the building and the heat signatures that were still present on his screen, finding an area with just one person. He swooped down and headed in that direction, bringing his hand up to engage the repulsor and blasted a hole in the building so he would be able to get in. He landed swiftly, looking around for the person that was shown to be there. After scanning the room, he found a man huddled in the corner, a shocked look on his face. Tony walked over to him, then the man pulled out a gun. Tony held up his hands as if he were surrendering.

“Look buddy, I just need to know where Victor is. We’re old friends, it’s his birthday, wanted to surprise him.” Tony lied through his teeth.

The guy just stood there, gun still trained on Tony. He looked Tony over once more before lowering the gun. So gullible, thought Tony. The guy moved from his corner and started walking toward a hallway, beckoning with his hand for Tony to follow. After a few seconds of walking, they stopped.

“Last door on your left, should be in there, but I’d wait outside for a few,” the man said, still looking nervous.

“Thanks,” Tony said before flying toward the door.

As he flew down the hall, he heard Natasha’s screams from outside his helmet instead of just the video. It broke his heart and made him absolutely furious at the same time and he practically growled at JARVIS to turn the video off. He found the door to the room that she was in and burst through. He stared at Natasha in horror for a moment before turning to the man that caused all of this.

 “Sorry, pal, but I don’t like it when people take my stuff.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Tony held up his hand, getting ready to blast the repulsor. It made the familiar hum as it charged up for a few moments. Victor took this chance to get a blade from his pocket and bring it to Natasha’s throat.

“One wrong move, Stark, and she’s dead,” he snarled.

There was no way that Tony could shoot Victor without hitting Natasha, so he slowly put his hand down. He stared at them, glaring at Victor from behind the helmet. His heart broke as he mentally examined Natasha. She was badly injured with bruises littering her arms and doubtless other places, and she was in need of some serious help, both physically and probably mentally. He needed to get her out of her and back to the Tower quickly.

“What do you want?” Tony asked, trying to keep his voice even.

“Your help.”

Tony wasn’t at all surprised by this. Although he had been otherwise occupied while the video had played, he still heard everything Hemmings had said. Without another word, Tony had the helmet lift up off his face so that he could talk to the man without the barrier of his face plate. He wouldn’t dare take off his suit though.

“Alright, with what?”

Victor smiled and it made Tony want to vomit. He knew the man was enjoying this, he could see it in the expression and his eyes. He made a quick glance down to Natasha and saw that the knife was still placed on her neck, but the pressure was just the same. If he could just get Victor away from her and somehow escape…

“I need some weapons, Mr. Stark. Powerful ones.”

Tony’s eyes snapped back up to Hemmings and he shot him a death glare. Weapons? No, Tony wasn’t about to help him with that, especially since he knew the man was from Russia. Besides, he stopped making weapons years ago to start in clean energy. He wasn’t about to help a wanted criminal with this. However, as he looked back at Natasha again, he knew that he probably didn’t have much of a choice if he wanted to get her out alive. Maybe he would be able to get the bastard away from her long enough for them to make an escape.

“Alright. If it means I can get her out of here safely and not any more harmed than she already is, I’ll help.”

“Get out of the suit then.”

Tony clenched his jaw, but after another moment or so, chose to follow the man’s orders. The suit opened like a case and he stepped out, hands up to show he was not a threat. Seemingly happy with this, Hemmings moved away from Natasha, placing the blade back in his pocket. He walked over to Tony, giving him a small smile.

“I’m glad that we have come an agreement. Now how about you do me another favor and call off your team?” Hemmings said with a smirk.

Tony sighed, walking back over to the suit. Victor cleared his throat and Tony turned to face him.

“That’s the only way I can communicate with them. I’m sorry that you didn’t think about giving me that command before I was out of the suit. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”

Tony stepped back into the suit, waiting just under a moment for communications to come back up. He watched Hemmings, who stared back at him. The man was far enough away from Natasha that he might be fast enough to get them out of there.

“Hey, Steve, Clint, stand down, and tell the others the same,” he said, a plan quickly forming in his head. “Everything is fine.”

In almost a blink of an eye, Tony quickly shot at Hemmings. He flew back against the way, giving Tony enough time to run to Natasha and rip the restraints from her. She started to scream and Tony heard a laugh from behind him. Her screams started to increase and when Tony turned around, he saw Hemmings laughing cruelly and turning the knob on his remote that controlled the chair Natasha was still sitting in. Tony walked over and grabbed the man’s wrist, hearing a crack sound and then a cry of agony. He threw Hemmings at the wall again, then stepped on the remote the man had dropped. Natasha’s screams immediately quieted. He quickly made his way back over to her and picked her up. He could hear the chaos being created by the other Avengers. He was glad he remembered the phrase, he usually didn’t remember stuff like that.

“Tony…”

He looked down at Natasha, his heart skipping a beat from her voice. She had never called him Tony before. It was always Stark. He didn’t know what this meant, maybe it meant nothing at all. Perhaps she was just too tired to think of anything else at the moment. His thoughts stopped in their tracks when she groaned, her face full of pain. He held her close while being gentle, afraid of hurting her. He started to flew, crashing through the ceiling and shielding Natasha so that none of the piece would hit her.

“Hey, guys, the creep is in this room below. I gotta take Natasha back to the hospital though,” Tony said in his microphone as he hovered over the room he was just in.

Thor came over and landed in the room, grabbing the man who was unconscious from Tony propelling him into the wall. Thor and Tony began to leave from the scene, Tony on his way to the hospital that SHIELD was able to use a floor of and Thor to the actual SHIELD building to bring the man to Fury. Tony would have taken Nat back to his own tower, but that was further away, and he was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to make it that far. Tony kept glancing down at Natasha, shaking a little bit every so often to keep her awake.

“Common, Nat. No sleeping,” he urged, scared that if she did go to sleep, she wouldn’t wake up. “We’re almost there.”

She groaned again, her breathing becoming shallow. Her eyes were shut, but she wasn’t asleep yet. When Tony looked down, he saw blood dripping down from the corner of her mouth. He went into panic mode, telling JARVIS to put everything they had into the boosters. He needed to get Natasha to help, otherwise, she wouldn’t make it. And he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if anything happened to her.

“Nat!” he yelled when her head rolled back.

No response.

“Dammit, Nat, you stay with me,” he growled, his heart lifting a bit once the hospital was in sight.

“Sir, I’m afraid that Agent Romanoff is no longer breathing.”

Chapter Text

Three days.

It’s been three days since Tony had barged into the HYDRA base and rescued Nat. It’s been three days since the last time he saw her beautiful eyes. It’s been three days since she called him Tony. It’s been three days since she was last awake. It’s been three days since the first time her heart stopped beating. It’s stopped two times after that. It’s been three days since Tony has been asleep. It’s been three days since he left her room.

Three days.

Tony was sitting in his usual seat next to Natasha. He didn’t get up much, only to go to the bathroom or to pace around the room because he couldn’t stand staring at Natasha anymore and not being able to do anything to help her get better faster. He held her hand in both of his, gripping it like it was his lifeline. To him, in the moment, it was. While she was away, he realized he couldn’t lose her. He had been stupid before to not have said anything to her about how he felt about her. And as soon as she woke up – he wouldn’t even think about how her not waking up was a bigger chance than her waking up and being okay – and as soon as he saw those beautiful eyes of hers again, he was going to tell her everything he had been dying to say to her the past few months. He wasn’t even scared of the rejection, he just wanted her to know how he felt.

He looked from their hands up to her face. She was in bad condition. When he had brought her in, the doctors told him that she was lucky to still be alive. She was suffering from two broken ribs, several cuts along her body, a few of them being pretty deep and were infected, and whatever else her body and heart went through during the shocks from the chair. Some of the bruises that had been present three days ago were gone now. She was starting to get some color back in her face and Tony thought that in that moment, she looked like she was just sleeping. And for a moment he believed that she was, mostly because it hurt his heart too much to know that that wasn’t the case.

He sighed and stood up, gently laying her hand back down at her side. He then proceeded to walk around the room again, going through everything in his head again to try to come up with a way to get her better. But there was none. Physically, for the most part, she was okay. Her body would heal, but it was up to her to wake up.


 

Everything was dark. There nothing to see, nothing to feel, to hear, to touch. It was like all of her senses were taken away from her. She felt present, but at the same time, felt like she didn’t exist at all. She knew she wasn’t dead, though. More like somewhere in between. The entire experience was very strange.

She wasn’t sure how long it had been, but she was slowly getting some of her senses back. The first was hearing. Everything was quiet at first, and although she couldn’t figure out how to get out of the darkness in her head and see the light of day, she could hear what was going on around her. For the most part, it was just the beeping of a machine, someone walking around, and a couple of people talking. The voices didn’t ring any bells, but one of them was comforting to her, and she liked to hear it a lot. It made her less afraid of what was going on with her.

Next, she was able to smell. Although there weren’t many smells around her, she did notice whenever a delicious aroma was near and made her have another feeling, although this feeling was foreign to her at the moment. Aside from these smells, it mostly just smelled… clean. That was the best word she could think of to describe it.

At some point, she noticed she didn’t feel as weighted down by the darkness anymore. She was feeling a little lighter and a little freer. She also noticed the beeping sound she had grown to be familiar with was speeding up. For a moment, she wondered where that sound was coming from. The thought was pushed aside, however, when she noticed a bit of light, and willed herself to find it.

 


 

The heart monitor began to pick up in pace. Tony stopped walking around and stared at Natasha. His heart was beating hard in his chest and he was honestly scared in that moment that she was dying. It wasn’t until he noticed she began to stir that his worry grew into slight joy, but then quickly back to worry. How much pain would she be in if she was waking up? Sure, the doctors had said they had given her enough pain killers to where she shouldn’t be able to feel a thing, but what if it wasn’t enough?

He quickly sat down beside her again when she started to make a few noises, like she was trying to figure out what was going on and how to use her body again. He held her hand again, his thumb rubbing circles into the back of it, ready to do whatever she needed him to do so that she would be alright.

He continued to watch her, a small smile on his face when her eyes opened a little. They closed back shut, and he figured it was from the lights. He quickly ran over to the light switch and turned the lights in the room off, then went back over and sat down next to her again. The heart monitor wasn’t beeping as fast anymore, which did relieve him a bit.

“Hey,” he whispered when her eyes opened again.

She didn’t respond at first, and he didn’t mind. He would wait until she was ready and, knowing Natasha, she would be ready quickly. But that didn’t matter. If she never spoke again, that didn’t matter to him either. As long as she was okay.

“What happened?” she asked, voice really rough from not having used it.

“We traced the video and kind of barged in and rescued you,” he said, then chuckled when he saw the look of disbelief on her face.

It was good to know she was going to be okay and was still her normal self.

“Are you okay?”

It kind of surprised him to hear her ask that. She should be worried about herself, not him. Tony sighed and squeezed her hand, deciding that now was the best time to confess.

“I am now,” he breathed out.

“What do you mean by ‘now’?” she asked after a few moments of silence.

“I mean that… I’ve been really concerned the past few days while you’ve been in here. And before that, I was a wreck trying to figure out where you were and if you were okay. Truth is, I… I think I love you, Natasha.”

There. He said it. His feelings were out in the open. He watched her as she processed the information, looking into her eyes and seeing… hope? No, it was relief. He furrowed his eyebrows together, trying to figure out why she had that look in her eyes.

“I love you, too,” she whispered, giving him a smile.

Chapter Text

The first chapter of the next story Commitments Are Never Easy is up! I hope you enjoy!