Stark Tower was a busy place and Natasha struggled with it a little. As much as they had their own space, and as much privacy as they all gave each other it still put her on edge. She could hear them, feel them – their energy filled the entire building – and there was no escape.
Until she found an empty room, finished but plain, mirrors all along the back wall, the floor made of perfectly polished oak, an empty ottoman in the corner. It was sound proofed for some reason, and when she spoke to Stark about it he couldn’t remember what he’d wanted it for. Even Jarvis said the room had only ever been noted as Y.R on the original plans.
A forgotten quiet room?
Natasha took it.
She had a barre installed along the mirrored room and found her old ballet slippers. She didn’t have many personal items but the soft pink silk shoes had followed her from city to city, country to country. They had seen better days, tattered and torn in places; she was sure they weren’t doing her feet any good but she couldn’t part with them. Even if she eventually bought herself a new pair.
In the silence of the room this, this is what she had needed.
The stretch of her limbs and joints, the balance and concentration. All those years ago, ballet had been both a cover and a comfort to her and now it still gave her that inner peace she needed. Especially surrounded by all these people she was now connected to. All these people she considered friends. Practising ballet in this silent room meant she was alone with no one pulling at her, or pushing her. No agendas, no lies, no covers.
Until she found Pepper Potts doing yoga in the middle of her room.
She had her eyes closed, face beautifully serene, moving through a what she vaguely remembered being called a downward dog gracefully. She was as flexible as Natasha had imagined. More so perhaps. She didn’t want to disturb her, not when she looked so peaceful but as she backed away Pepper’s eyes opened and saw her silently walking away.
“Oh, Agent Romanoff!” she yelped.
Natasha stopped and turned, ballet slippers still hanging from her hand and Pepper rose to her feet.
“I’m sorry Ms Potts, I didn’t mean to disturb you. I didn’t think anybody else used this room.”
“Will you please call me Pepper?” she asked.
“Okay,” she said with a smile. “And it’s Natasha, but not Nat,” she added, “I don’t like being called Nat.”
“Noted,” Pepper said, with a retuning smile, stretching out a little in tight black yoga pants that were just a little bit see-through and distracting. Especially when Natasha could see the other woman’s ass reflected in the mirror.
“You dance?” Pepper asked.
“Yeah. I put the barre in to help practise. It relaxes me.”
“I had wondered where that had come from. Jarvis wouldn’t tell me.”
“I swore him to secrecy on pain of death.”
“And I’ve just stumbled in on your secret. I’m sorry Natasha, I didn’t know, I won’t tell anyone,” she said all in a rush. “You can trust me.”
Natasha nodded, not quite sure how to tell this woman that she did trust her – a lot – unexpectedly and for reasons she was burying deep.
“It’ll be our secret,” she said. “this room.”
Pepper nodded, scooping up her yoga mat.
“Please, why don’t you dance, I’ve been down here a while.”
“It’s fine, I can come back later.”
Pepper shook her head, already half way to the door, taking a long drink of her water.
Natasha nodded and watched her leave, not entirely sure she even wanted to dance now but needing to even more.
It was easy enough to avoid each other when they used the room. Their room. As easy as asking Jarvis if it was empty, but Natasha never did ask because she hoped to catch Pepper again. Dressed in tight pants and a little crop top, stretching those heavenly long legs out, looking divine in her serenity. She was ready with a lie, ready to apologise and say she forgot to check with the all-seeing AI, ready to watch for a long moment, taking in her fill before walking away. Those visions of Pepper, carried her through the days now, the missions, the long noisy nights in her bedroom. She needed them as much as she needed the peace the ballet brought her.
So she never asked, she just went, knowing either way she would get something she needed.
In the end, Pepper was the one who interrupted her.
She was in the middle of a pirouette, her balance on one leg as she turned, concentrating on keeping her hips in the right position, her toes touching her knee as she spun. Her shoulders felt out of place though, and she nearly fell when she saw Pepper watching her, but managed to keep up right and come to an almost graceful stop. She felt a slight blush rise but kept her face neutral.
“Hi,” she said, when the other woman didn’t speak, just standing there holding bottle of water tightly.
“Oh, I’m sorry Natasha,” she said, voice strained. “I forgot to check the room was empty.”
“It’s okay.” She managed to contain her smirk, her smile softer.
“That was – that was beautiful.”
Pepper was a little flustered, eyes wide, still gripping the bottle tightly. Her skin was reddening, from her cheeks down to her breasts and Natasha knew what it meant, the other woman wore arousal plainly, but it still confused her a little. She felt a little out of sorts, knowing she could instil these feelings in Pepper Potts.
“May I watch you? For a little while?” she asked. “You’re very good.”
Natasha hesitated, no one had watched her dance for a long time and she wasn’t sure she wanted to be watched. She did want Pepper’s full attention though, have her eyes on her, roaming her body.
“If you want,” she said, with restrained pant.
Pepper beamed at her, fetching her yoga mat that she now kept in ottoman in the corner and settling into the lotus position in front of Natasha.
Taking a deep breath, Natasha lifted up on to her toes and did another pirouette, starting a routine she had learnt when she was much younger. One she knew she could do perfectly, so Pepper could see her dancing flawlessly. See her as flawless. She noted as she stretched and turned that the older woman was enraptured, following every move she made carefully. When she was done, and she had stopped dancing, she noted the calm look on Pepper’s face was tenser than usual, the breathing faster.
The smile even more brilliant than anything she had seen before.
“Beautiful,” she said in a hushed voice, “just…beautiful.”
Natasha smiled, not sure what to say, or how to move forward.
“Agent Romanoff,” Jarvis cut in before she could reply. “Agent Barton requires your attention.”
“Is it important?” she said, already unlacing the ribbons at her ankle.
“He believes so.”
Natasha rolled her eyes; with Clint that could mean anything. She pulled one slipper off and started on the other, and Pepper stood and stretched out.
“I guess I’ll see you later,” she said.
“Yeah.” She slipped off her other shoe and smiled, heading towards the door. “You’re welcome to watch me dance any time you want Pepper.”
“Oh. Thank you.”
Natasha gave her another quick smile and a nod before leaving her along in the room.
When she got back from ‘helping‘ Clint with his somewhat explosive problem, she was tired and achy and three days had gone by. She found herself heading down to their room for the silence, to try and distance herself from the energy thrumming through the building. If she didn’t dance she would just lie on Pepper’s yoga mats until the ringing in her head stopped and she could really sleep.
Pepper was in the middle of a painful looking yoga move she didn’t recognise when she opened the door. Shifting from one foot to the other, smooth and graceful, breathing deeply, counting it through. She caught Natasha’s gaze in the mirror and smiled.
“You can watch if you want,” Pepper said quietly. “Or I could teach you.”
“Teach me yoga?”
“Yeah, it’s not hard to learn. You have a lot of balance already and probably knowledge of breathing techniques.
“Yes but – “
Pepper stood, fetching a second mat from the box and setting it next to hers in the centre of the room. Tired but curious Natasha kicked her shoes and socks off, coming to stand next to her. She wasn’t in her usual dancing clothes of yoga pants and tight t-shirt but the looser sweat pants and vest would do fine for this she presumed.
“Are you okay?” Pepper asked, looking her over carefully.
“But too keyed up to sleep?” Pepper said.
“Okay, well let’s start simple. Stand with your feet together and take a deep breath. Relax your shoulders.”
She mimicked the other’s woman’s pose on the mat, arms at her side.
“Now copy me.”
Pepper took a deep breath, raising her hands over her head, palms together, reaching up much higher than Natasha could as she copied her. She forgot how much taller Pepper was sometimes. They repeated the move a couple of times before Pepper moved onto another easy pose, spreading her legs apart and now it was Natasha’s turn to be enraptured as she demonstrated the move, hands at her hips, shoulders relaxed, extending her arms out to the sides this time until she was almost touching Natasha.
If she just moved a little closer.
“This is called The Warrior,” she said, bending her right knee. She didn’t move then, nodding to Natasha to do the same. She moved slowly, getting her legs in the exact same position, stretching out her arms.
Her fingers brushed over Peppers and she smiled.
They remained like that for a minute, before Pepper stood up straightened and repeated the pose facing the opposite way; Natasha doing the same. It was calming – the balance and discipline wasn’t unlike ballet. She felt better immediately, just being with this woman helped; surrounded by her calm attitude and careful strength. Her warm scent was intoxicating and she breathed more of it as they stood together in their poses.
“Do they all have names?” Natasha said, when they returned to standing.
“Yep, the first one was the Mountain pose,” she said, “ready to try using your balance?”
Pepper nodded, and moved into another pose, shifting her weight onto one leg, bringing the other up to rest against her thigh, arms above her head again and Natasha focused on the rise and fall of her chest. It was enchanting in a way; Natasha couldn’t take her eyes off the woman long enough to follow the pose herself until Pepper gave her questioning look, bringing her out of her thoughts and pressing her to copy the pose.
“Good,” Pepper said, with that dazzling smile that almost had Natasha lose balance.
“You’re an excellent teacher.”
“Excellent student, makes all the difference,” she said blushing, “want to continue?”
“Please, for a little bit.”
Pepper nodded, taking her through a few more poses until they were both more relaxed and Natasha felt she could sleep.
“Thank you, I – thanks.”
“Any time,” Pepper said, putting the mats away. “You’re a natural.”
Natasha tired, relaxed and feeling warmth at her core leaned forward and kissed her on the cheek gently before wishing her a good night and walking away.
She was dancing again when Pepper interrupted her next, just a few simple moves and bends against the barre. Stretching out her legs, finding her balance. A few days had passed since she’d kissed the other woman on the cheek and they hadn’t seen each other since. Pepper was a busy woman, but Natasha had hidden herself away in her own rooms, not sure what she was doing – or what she was going to do about Pepper Potts. Her feelings were pretty clear, and Pepper’s too, but she shied away from relationships; she even kept Clint at arms bay most of them time and they fought more than they were friends sometimes.
Relationships were dangerous, any kind, and she didn’t want to bring Pepper into her world. She may have survived being in Tony’s world, and living with the Avengers but she was different. Her life was different. She spent her time atoning for everything she had done, and it wasn’t pretty and she wasn’t pretty.
Not on the inside.
But she was inexplicably attracted to the calm intellect of Pepper, the delicate beauty and grace. When she walked into the room, blushing lightly and smiling shyly, she didn’t send her away like she had considered the moment she’d walked into the room.
“You’re really very good,” Pepper said, “How long have you been dancing?”
She walked up to her, leaning on the barre and watching Natasha bend and stretch. She had only really started to warm up and wondered exactly what the other woman was commenting on.
“I’m not sure,” she said with a wry smile, but Pepper frowned, a sad little look gracing her features and Natasha wished she had just lied. She lied every other time. “A long time,” she added.
Pepper nodded, satisfied for now Natasha assumed.
“Could you teach me?”
She wasn’t sure, but she sure as hell wanted to try and nodded to Pepper to stand by the barre. “Well, I can teach you a little, but you’d need shoes in the long term. It does a lot of damage to your feet dancing without them. But there are a couple of things I can show you if you like.”
Natasha smiled at her. “Okay. There are five basic positions,” she said, “that’s where we need to start. Let me show you.”
One by one she ran through the five positions, moving slowly through each one, Pepper’s eyes on her, moving up and down from her feet to her hands and up to her face. She smiled at her, and Natasha struggled to keep her focus under Pepper’s intense scrutiny. She was concentrating on this as she would any report or meeting, taking in every minute movement Natasha made, she recognised the look from when she’d been a plant in Stark Industries.
“Think you can do that?”
She sounded more nervous than Natasha was used to, but stood opposite her, showing her the positions again so she could copy what she was doing. The first and the second positions were simple enough, though she noted Pepper struggled to point her feet out opposite each other, but managed it moving from first, to second and into the third position easily enough, one arm curved in, the other stretched out, feet pointing in opposite directions, heels touching. She was still and stunning.
Pepper moved to the fourth position, one arm stretched up in the air, curving her other arm in. Natasha was demonstrating the position and waiting for her to match up her feet, legs crossed feet pointing in the opposite direction, heels touching again. She managed it, with a brilliant smile, and as she copied her going into the fifth position, Natasha was tempted to lean forward and kiss her on the lips. See if she could still keep her balance.
“Well done,” she said, hoping she sounded as sincere as she felt. “Let’s do it again.”
Pepper nodded and together they went through the positions again, quicker this time, the other woman was a quick study and already flexible and fit. She was lithe, petite despite her height; perfect really for dancing. More so than herself, Natasha thought, especially once her breasts had started to grow, but then she wasn’t training to be a professional dancer and the breasts had been more useful in the long run.
“What else?” Pepper asked, eager and sweet.
“A plié,” Natasha said, “is a bend that is done from most of our basic positions. There is demi-plié and a grand-plié.”
She demonstrated the two variations of the move, heels together, toes pointing out, one hand on the bar as she bent her knees slightly. She stood straight, then did the same move, bending her knees further.
“See the difference?”she asked.
Pepper nodded and copied the move, doing both variations almost like Natasha had shown her.
“No, no, not quite right,” she said, making Pepper frown and Natasha almost wished she hadn’t said anything, given the look on her face. h“On the demi-plié you keep your feet on the floor. With the grand-plié your heels should rise off the ground and are lowered as you straighten the knees.” She waited to see if Pepper understood, or had a question, but instead she went repeat the move correctly this time, with some ease. “And again?” Pepper nodded and repeated the move. It wasn’t smooth, she jerked a little when standing.
“Considering you’ve never danced before,” Natasha said, “very good.”
That brilliant smile again, and Natasha wished she could teach her more, praise her more, to see her smile and blush all over again and again.
“What else can we do? I mean what about a spin or….something?”
“Not without shoes. And not without more practice.”
She really did, Natasha could see that and watched as she tried to do the grand-plié again, forgetting to hold onto the barre, raising up a little unsteadily as she did so and losing her balance. Natasha caught her easily, wrapping her arms around her frame to hold her up.
“That is not as easy as I think it is,” Pepper said, voice soft, a blush spreading over her face.
She was so light, so delicate and pressed against her like this all warm and soft, she couldn’t help but reach up and kiss her on the lips.
Pepper mumbled something that sounded like ‘finally‘ before kissing her back, arms wrapping around Natasha and pulling her closer to her, holding her there with more strength than she had expected from the other woman. Her lips were silk and unyielding as they moved over her own, small hands smoothing down her back to her hips.
“Are we going to talk about this?” Natasha asked, breathing hard and keeping Pepper close to her.
“I’d rather just kiss you again,” Pepper said, with a grin and Natasha decided there probably wasn’t much to talk about anyway. She leaned forward and kissed the taller woman again, one arm holding her against her, the other moving up into Pepper’s hair, tangling in the light red locks.
“I don’t do relationships,” Natasha said, “not usually.”
“Then make an exception. For me,” Pepper said. “I’ll be worth it.”
Natasha didn’t doubt that for a second, and when she kissed her again, she was pretty sure she was going to give Pepper everything she asked of her. Including sex and love and everything in between. Not that she would be admitting to that just yet, instead she just kissed her, tasted her, felt every inch of skin that she reach, until Pepper was pushing her back against the barre.
Which was really uncomfortable.
“Pepper, Pepper,” she grumbled, the other woman reaching underneath her top to stroke at the skin of sides, up to her breasts, kissing her hard and deep. Natasha pushed back, holding her at arms length for a moment. “The barre isn’t very comfortable,” she told her, trying not to let her breathing betray how close she was to bearing her entire sole to this woman for more of her lips against hers.
“Oh, hell, sorry.” Pepper laughed, making Natasha smiled. “Bedroom?”
“I don’t get dinner first?”Natasha asked.
“I thought you didn’t do relationships?”
“Not usually,” she said, drawing her in for another quick kiss, “maybe I want things to be different.”