Natasha Romanov wasn’t sure when Bruce Banner became her responsibility. Maybe they’d drawn lots in SHIELD command when she was out of the room. If so, she demanded a recount, being involved in that man's life was way too complicated. Likeable but terrifying, a combination too contradictory even for her tastes.
“I’m not his nursemaid, you know,” she sighed. “And I’m in Norway. Not exactly handy for the buses.”
Fury’s voice rumbled over the phone. “Natasha, get your raggedy ex-soviet ass back to New York pronto.”
“Couldn’t Clint do it?” She didn’t like the whine that crept into her voice; another reason to avoid Banner at all costs.
“Just do it.” He hung up. Would it kill him to say good bye sometimes?
Pepper was waiting for her in the lobby. Stark had made a boo boo, Natasha could tell by the tightness around her eyes.
She skipped the pleasantries. “How bad is it?”
“Bad,” Pepper said.
“Is he still in the building?”
“Oh yes,” Pepper said flatly. “He’s still in the building.” This couldn’t be good.
Natasha braced herself. “How many dead?”
“None, thank goodness,” she answered, the stiffness finally easing from her spine. “It was one of Bruce’s stipulations when he came to work here, that we build him a safe room. We used the SHIELD specs. The room held.”
Natasha suppressed a shiver. They’d never had an opportunity to field test their cell on the Hulk. Guess they knew it worked now. She wasn’t sure how she felt about that. “Is he still…?”
“No, he’s Bruce again,” Pepper said. “He came to about three hours ago.”
Typical, she had come all this way for nothing. “Well, I guess I should be on my way, then.” Stark may not actively dislike her nowadays but he didn’t exactly invite her for tea and crumpets, either, best not to wear out her welcome.
“Actually,” Pepper said, “Could you stay? I’d like you to talk to him.” She reached out and caught her hand, and Natasha blinked.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, as she gently extricated herself from Pepper’s fingers.
“He won’t come out,” Pepper said. “He’s been sitting in that safe room – that cell – for the last three hours and he hasn’t budged. Not even when Tony bent his ear for a full twenty minutes on the joys of plein air sex – you don’t want to know.” She added hastily, when she saw the expression on Natasha’s face. “Please, will you talk to him?”
Ah shit, corralled by Pepper Potts. God knows she was good at it. She had to be, to wrangle Stark into some semblance of a rational human being on a daily basis. “I’ll come up.”
He let out that low, knowing laugh of his when she entered the cell, the door sliding closing behind her. “Great, just what the Doctor ordered, a master assassin to take care of me."
She ignored the jibe and hunkered down beside him. “So, what was it this time? Stark pinched your butt?”
“You think you’re funny, don’t you?”
“I have been accused of having a certain amount of style and wit.”
“You’ve been hanging out with Stark too long.”
“Oooh, take that back.”
He laughed, a real laugh this time. “I’m going to come out, you know,” he said. “I just need a little more time.”
“Uhuh.” She sat down and leaned back against the wall, stretching her legs out before her.
“What are you doing?”
“I can see that,” he drawled. “I meant, what are you doing sitting here.”
“Well, I’d use a chair, but this cell seems to be shockingly lacking in the basic amenities. I’d speak to the management about that, if I were you. “
He sighed. “You're not going to go away, are you?”
“Pepper has promised me dinner on Stark’s dime if I get you out of here.”
“As long as it isn’t Shwarma.”
“Don’t remind me. Needless to say, I’ll be picking the restaurant this time,” Natasha said. “Coming?”
He raised a brow. “Is that an invite?”
Natasha smirked. “You’re coming.” She stood up and held out her hand to pull him up. He took it. “One thing, though, you’re going to need a tie…and a suit…and probably some underwear and shoes, too.”
He looked down. “Oh…right…forgot about that.”
She smothered her grin as she turned and led the way out of the cell. It was nice to know Banner could turn a colour other than green.