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one's aspect to the sun

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Having your favorite thing about Pepper Potts be the way her eyes don't quite laugh at you as she tells you off is damn near sacrilege.

To fail to choose her steady, never-stopping efficiency; her ability to do six things at once and four of those before you ever knew they were needed; her legs, her freckles, her borderline obsessive love for certain shoes; the way she hums into a kiss, just a little, if you catch her just the right way; her endless patience that doesn't run out until moments just like this one -- choosing that secret laugh over all of these, that look while she tries to chastise you but can't quite hold it up… that's more than sacrilege, really, that's akin to being Tony Stark. Natasha can't think of a worse thing love could have done to her.

She remembers saying, not so long ago, sure and clear -- not for the first time (memorable only because she was looking into the smirking face of the alien god of lies): love is for children. She'd known it was the truth, right enough, but she hadn't known how -- had never even thought love would make her a child again, only some thin transparent grace away from skipping in the fields hand in hand with flowers in her hair. She's too old, too thoroughly an adult. And yet, that secret laugh.

"You knew Tony was just trying to get out of that board meeting," Pepper says. "Natasha, you don't go picking fights with supervillains because Tony needs his morning to fill up. Thor I don't even wonder about, but you?"

"Ridiculous," Natasha murmurs in agreement. That laugh grows brighter, clearer; pale lashes dip, last-ditch effort to keep it in check. "Pepper --"

"No, don't try to sweet-talk me," Pepper says, voice still that mix of earnestness and fond, wry exasperation. "I've spent years building up immunity to that kind of thing. It won't work."

"Well, I'm better at it than Stark is," Natasha says.

Pepper's eyebrows rise – Natasha can't even quite tell if this is mock-thoughtfulness or if she's actually considering the question. "I don't know, Tony's sometimes surprisingly good at --"

But Natasha's given as much acknowledgement to Tony Stark's existence as she's happy with for one afternoon, and she's much more interested in the way that laugh spills out when Pepper closes her eyes and smiles into the kiss, that hum that might be her favorite thing after all, the hundred tiny secret details of Pepper's hand in Natasha's hair and the tilt of her head and her freckles glimpsed up close just before contact. Love is for children; Natasha is more at peace with this than she ever thought she'd be, really.