It had been six months since Tony had accidentally acquired a Black Widow bodyguard slash friend. Natalia was kind of terrifying now that she was all the way awake and her injuries had healed.
She spoke good English with a Russian accent and had quite quickly wormed her way into his life. Maria loved her, Rhodey thought she was great (mainly because Natalia scared off the fake friends trying to leech off of Tony), Howard was scared of her even if he pretended not to be, and Obie seemed to be okay with her.
Natalia did not like Obie for some reason.
"He is not-" she was currently struggling to describe why she disliked Obie. "He behaves wrongly around you. Like he wants something from you."
Tony blinked at her. "C'mon 'Talia, he's my godfather. He's not bad."
Natalia stared at him, eyes narrowing. Too close. He's too close, he can't see.
She would just need to protect him.
"What a pretty pair they make." People whispered often. At the funeral Tony kept his arm looped through Natalia's, seeking support. Obie stood beside him, a rock. Rhodey was there too, grimly protecting Tony from all the vultures.
Natalia held his arm, dark green eyes narrowed at all the people who filed past to speak to Tony and Obie. And Aunt Peggy, who'd come to the funeral. She and Obie had dealt with the bodies. The coffins were closed.
Later, Aunt Peggy eyed Natalia and turned to Tony.
"Who's this?" she asked gently. Maybe she had a reason to wonder. Natalia knew what other people would think of her. Pretty with her dark red hair and green eyes and her marble-white skin.
Not a bodyguard, not a friend. A 'special friend'.
"This is my friend, Natalia." Tony answered quietly. He was exhausted. He'd slept only twice in the week and a half since his parents' death.
Natalia would make him sleep. He always slept better when someone was in the bed with him. Natalia and Rhodey were often bed partners for him.
Peggy stared at Natalia, who stared right back.
"Are you an MIT student, Natalia?" Peggy asked.
Peggy tilted her head to one side. Natalia had seen the woman's picture in a file. Director Carter of SHIELD. Well trained, intelligent, dangerous.
Well, Natalia was equal to that. She demurely lowered her eyes and tucked herself closer to Tony. Made herself seem smaller and unthreatening. Uninteresting. Just a very pretty nineteen year old.
Peggy turned her attention back to Tony. Obie gave Natalia a strange look. She had never bothered to hide how dangerous she was in front of him. Better he knew and feared her than chance Tony being hurt by the man.
Natalia slipped away once she was certain that Rhodey would stay with Tony.
She walked straight to the graves. Crouched beside Maria's. Laid a white rose on the headstone.
"I will protect your son, Maria Stark." she said in a low voice. "I will protect him with my life."
By the time Tony became CEO of Stark Industries, everyone knew not to mess with him. Natalia had prevented three assassination attempts with extreme prejudice.
One assassin had been Irina Petrova, the little brat. One of the ten girls who had survived the Red Room. Natalia had taken great pleasure in beating her. Irina had fled, thoroughly humbled. The bitch had thought she could defeat Natalia, the best Black Widow.
Natalia liked Pepper Potts, who had stormed into Tony's life and changed it quite a lot. All of Tony's previous PAs had not been able to handle Tony and his bullshit, or Natalia had scared them away, or they'd been a spy or an assassin (or Irina Petrova). But Pepper proved herself equal to all of that.
"Tony, for the last time, no, you can't skip this meeting." Pepper snapped, exasperated.
"Fine." Tony whined, dragging out the word.
Natalia smiled. This was good. Now if only Stane would meet his tragic demise. Natalia still disliked him. There was just something so off about him. He behaved like Madame B around Tony but Tony just didn't see it.
Tony had won an award but was he at the ceremony? No, of course he wasn't. Natalia sighed as Rhodey arrived overflowing with impatience and gave Tony the trophy.
And then of course Tony just handed it off to someone else. Happy retrieved it apologetically.
"You really are the worst sometimes." Natalia told Tony. She had lost her accent by now, after years of living in America.
Tony shrugged. "I have a lot of trophies, 'Talia. I don't need another one."
Natalia rolled her eyes and slid into the car. A reporter was asking Tony some questions and it was pretty clear that he was going to take her home.
Christine Everhart, who are you?
Not the first reporter Tony had slept with.
Well, tomorrow they'd be off to Afghanistan for the Jericho demonstration.
Natalia would start thinking about what to do about Stane afterward.