Natasha's eyes quickly flickered over her emails, searching for one name in particular. "I can't seem to find anything." She said, half to herself, half to the man on the other side of the desk, brown eyes burning into her from behind the laptop. "Are you sure you sent it?" She risked asking. "I mean, it wouldn't be the first time."
"Natasha." He sighed, but it nearly sounded fond. "I swear I sent it, I had Pepper right there in that chair watching me as I typed every single word, and then Happy called up to grab lunch and I-" He hesitated, and Natasha couldn't help herself as the corner of her lip twitched.
"And then you what?" She questioned, almost basking in the look of recognition that flashed over her bosses face. "You forgot to press send didn't you?"
"Pepper is going to murder me." Tony stated quickly straightening up in his chair and pulling his keyboard towards himself. It would still be in his drafts, life was not completely over, at least not yet. "Don't look so smug." Tony cut back, the swooshing sound of an email being sent coming from the computer speakers. "If she finds out you let me go all afternoon with it floating in the drafts she will murder you next."
"No she wouldn't." Natasha replied simply with a small shrug of her shoulders. "Pepper loves me, and you know it."
"Too much I think." Tony hummed before he was pushing himself away from his desk, and checking his wrist watch. "Come on Romanov, it's way too late why are you still here anyways?"
"Because you are." Natasha replied, standing up and tucking away her laptop. "I've been told that's part of my job, where you go I go, what you do I do. I get to be you, but just look better doing it."
Tony smirked, pulling his suit jacket from the back of his office chair, and waiting for Natasha to head out of the office before following her. "You know, if you were anyone else I'd have you fired for being so snarky, but I like you Big Red, not sure why, but there's just something about you."
"It's because I let you call me big red without filing a complaint with HR." Natasha pointed out, stepping to her desk and grabbing her purse and jacket from the hook. "Though I would hope after a year of working together that you would come up with something a bit more imaginative."
"That's probably part of it." Tony laughed as he slowly moved towards the elevator bay. "Any plans for tonight?"
"I have a hot date with a bottle of wine and a laundry machine." she sighed, pulling her jacket on as they waited for the elevator. "What about you? I Saw that email from Christine what's her face, are you going to dinner with her?"
"First of all, don't be nosy." Tony raised a single finger, before adding a second one. "Secondly, never with her, been there, done that and if I wanted to jump back into the dating pool it would not be with a literal shark."
"And Thirdly?" Natasha asked, because she knew Tony enough to know it was coming.
"And thirdly." Tony spoke, lifting a third finger to make his point. "I do not have the time, or the energy to date right now."
"That's fair." Natasha agreed. "I hear weddings are the place to meet someone new anyways, so who knows what you'll come home with from Vermont."
"Do cute people even live in Vermont?" Tony asked as the elevator announced it's arrival with a ding. "Seriously why are you choosing to get married there, what's the draw?"
"Some barn that James's friend helps run." Natasha admitted with another shrug. "Or owns, I'm not sure, basically for a discount."
"If you had asked I could have paid." Tony says, holding his arm out to prevent the doors from closing before Natasha had a chance to get inside. "You could be getting ready to fly out to Italy, or the Maldives, or anywhere but Vermont."
Natasha laughs as she steps into the elevator. "You're already paying for the welcome dinner, which by the way we didn't even need to have."
"It's my duty as boss of the bride." Tony says with a one shoulder shrug. "Besides I have't had a chance to even meet this illusive fiance of yours yet, I needed some place to do it, somewhere I could judge him and not feel bad about it, you know?"
Natasha rolled her eyes, pressing the button for the ground floor. "Will you please ask Pepper one last time if she's sure she wont be able to make it?"
"Yes." Tony agrees, removing his arm from against the elevator door. "Goodnight Miss Romanov."
"Goodnight Mister Stark."
Pepper nodded along as she typed, her fingers moving over her keyboard graceful and fast. Tony admired the way she always held herself, like class and pride personified, with an aurora of do not fuck with me to compliment her soft beauty. It wasn't a surprise to him that he had fallen for her completely the day she arrived in his office. A young lady hired to help him find his footing, grab his dry cleaning and remind him to eat. At twenty years old that was like winning the lottery. He had been tossed to the lions after his fathers death, and if it hadn't been for Pepper Potts, Stark Industries would have died along with Howard.
It had been nearly ten years, and he was still head over heels for her - they had tried that can't sleep kind of romance, but it wasn't for them. Better off as friends, but the type of friend you would sell your soul to save. Which is why Tony was finding it nearly impossible to be mad at her for not really listening to him, even though he had been in her office complaining for almost half an hour now.
"So, should I do it?" he finally asked, knowing full well she hadn't heard much of anything he had just spewed out.
"Probably not." She replied plainly still, eyes squinting briefly at her screen before she hit the enter button with a little bit more force than was probably necessary. Satisfied with whatever she had just sent, she set her green eyes on to Tony. "Why are you looking at me like that?"
"Did you even hear what it is I wanted to do?" he asked with a questioning eyebrow.
"Honestly no." Pepper admitted, a soft smile on her pink lips. "You lost me some time after running for mayor of flavor town? Which I don't even want to know what you mean, but generally your ideas are not good and you probably shouldn't."
"Wow, okay. Flavor town is very important and we need someone who knows what good food is in charge, and not some guy that thinks beans on hot dogs makes them gourmet." Tony protested, this was one of the many reasons they were better off as friends. "But besides that topic having ended ten minutes ago, I asked you if I should just cancel all your meetings and make you come to Vermont with me."
"Definitely No." Pepper turned to face him straight on as if scolding a puppy. "I already had to move around all these meetings so that you could take the time off, I just can't swing it. I'll send a very expensive gift okay?"
"Did you want me to come back early?" Tony offered, choosing to ignore the puzzled look Pepper was giving him. "I Could fly home right after the ceremony."
"Okay." Pepper narrowed her eyes at the man. "What is it, what's wrong?"
"What?" Tony tried to paint his best version of offended on to his face. "Can't a guy want to come home and help his CEO run his company because he cares?"
"Oh please." Pepper fondly rolled her eyes, though her smile did reappear. "we both know I do not require your help, what is wrong?"
"I don't know anyone else going to this wedding." Tony admitted, leaning back into the chair he had taken over across from Pepper. "what if they're all terrible people?"
"Then you should fit right in." Pepper teased.
"You are so hilarious." Tony deadpanned. "I'm serious, I like Natasha, I think she's great, she kind of reminds me of you but a little less-"
"If you say mean I will kick you-"
"Polished?" Tony finished instead, knowing her threat was not empty. "I haven't even met the groom, and at this point I've been invited and had to miss so many events I'm sure they think I am a giant ass."
"Vermont is a big place Tony." Pepper sighed. "It's a few nights, you make nice, you have a little fun, stay out of the tabloids, you come home refreshed. It's a win for all of us." She turned her attention back to her computer screen, another email or something having caught her attention. "If it truly is awful then you make up an excuse to come home, no one will be the wiser."
"And you are sure there is nothing that can convince you to come along?" Tony had to ask, at least once more.
"I'm sure." She replied, though she was once again typing, and Tony knew he was about to lose her again.
"Mom says she can't go out." Tony announced as he stepped off the elevator onto the floor of his office, and Natasha at her desk in front of it. "I begged, I pleaded, she said no way, now how could she possibly be seen having fun."
"Oh really?" Natasha asked, glancing up from her desk once he got closer. "If she heard you call her mom she would probably stab you with the heel of her shoe."
"Don't talk to your elders that way." Tony quipped, all but strutting into his office.
"You're younger than me." Natasha smirked, pushing away from her desk as Tony passed.
"By six months." Tony reasoned, dropping himself into his chair.
"Exactly." Natasha pointed out, crossing her arms. "Are you ready for the trip?"
"Yes." Tony confirmed. "I booked my hotel room, I have a car rented from the airport, and I will greet you at the welcome dinner at seven on the dot, and I promise to not make you work even once the entire weekend." He went over his mental checklist to make sure he wasn't forgetting anything. "Are you ready?"
"I think so." Natasha admitted. "Are you okay if I head out then?"
"Go, be free." Tony waved his hand in the space between them. "Escape before I change my mind, you have a flight to catch."
"Thank you Tony." Natasha grinned wide turning on her heel to leave. "See you in Vermont!" She called over her shoulder as she headed away.
Natasha had been with Stark Industries for nearly three years, when Tony first met her, she was working with Legal, helping them sort paper work and fax contracts. Nothing exciting, in fact the only reason he even noticed her was because of the way she looked. Any red blooded american, male or female, would tell you that Natasha was gorgeous. Of course she was so much more than that, but Tony was not above admitting it was the first thing he had noticed. When Pepper moved up to CEO, Tony needed someone to take her place.
He fought with every single person that Pepper put in that position, no one was good enough, and the ones that did work hard were either too afraid of Tony to put him in his place, or got too frustrated and quit. It took a year of his assistant being a revolving door of people before Pepper promoted Natasha.
Natasha did not give Tony an inch, and yet still managed to stroke his ego enough that he knew she was the one. He took to her quickly, and she him. Tony gladly added her to his very short list of friends, So when she came into the office after Valentine's day with a ring, Tony knew there was no way he was not going to be apart of it. Thankfully, Natasha didn't disagree. So now he was heading off to Vermont, to finally meet the groom, and everyone else Natasha occasionally mentioned when speaking about her life.
"The last time I dressed casual, I was put on the worst dressed list in OK Magazine." Tony frowned into his cell phone, currently pinned between his ear and his shoulder as he checked himself out in the mirror.
"Tony, I thought we discussed what constitutes as an emergency and what does not." Pepper's tired voice came through. "I am failing to see how this does."
"Just help me." Tony nearly wined, brushing a hand over the front of his black button up."Did you get the photo yet?"
Tony could hear pepper sigh, and the phone rattle as she looked at what had been texted to her. "You look fine." there was a slight pause before she added. "Are you standing on your toes in this photo?"
"Shut up." Tony rolled his eyes, trying to ignoring the laughter from his friend. "I was trying to give you the whole picture."
"By looking taller in a photograph?" Pepper chuckled. "I think you look good, even on your toes. Where's this dinner?"
"In the hotel restaurant." Tony looked himself over, one last time before deciding it was as good as he was going to get, and he would be late if he changed again. "Wish me luck?"
"You don't need it, you're the most charming person I've ever met." Pepper, always the flatterer. "But good luck."
Tony knew he was charming, he didn't want to sound too full of himself, but he could charm the robe off a monk if he tried. It's what he grew up doing, flash a smile throw a compliment and get them eating out of your hand by the end of the night. But he didn't want to do that tonight, if he was going to be friends with Natasha he wanted to be friends with her friends, the right way. Without putting on a facade every time he saw them. Or a least he was going to try.
When Tony got to the restaurant, it was full of people, and Tony recognized none of them, thankfully, Natasha must have spotted him through the crowd because suddenly she had called his name and was frantically waving from across the room.
"Tony!" She exclaimed, squeezing herself through the bodies to join his side. "You made it."
"I told you I would." Tony was just relieved to see a familiar face, so he wouldn't take offence to her surprise. "I know it's hard for you to believe but I can do some things on my own."
Natasha rolled her eyes, but grabbed his hand and yanked him into the throngs of people. "There are some people I want you to meet, specifically." She weaved them around a few more bodies, exchanging a few hellos with people she obviously knew - but wasn't too concerned about introducing. "You need to meet the wedding party, I haven't shut up about you, and my friend Clint thinks I'm lying about knowing The Tony Stark.."
"He sounds fun." Tony commented, following her towards a row of tables against a back wall.
When they cut through, a short dirty blond wolf whistled. "So he's not a figment of your imagination!" And that had to be-
"Shut up Clint." Natasha sniped back.
"I want you to meet someone." And just like that Natasha was pulling Tony to her side, and pointing towards a table of smiling faces. "That's my man of Honor Clint, he's annoying but we go way, way back.-"
Tony looked at the faces as Clint said something else snarky that caused Natasha to flip him off, and he couldn't help but notice the familiar wave of emotions that most people went through when meeting him. Always started with a genuine smile, and then once they realized who they were looking at it was either shock or surprise, sometimes disgust, which was usually followed by a blank stare, or another smile. Tony's default reaction was to smile and nod.
"-And then we have Sam, he's one of the groomsmen, and Sharon my bridesmaid-" Natasha carried on. "Where's-"
Tony noticed everyone glance towards two more men joining the area, and that's when Tony saw him. A few extra years on his face, but sure as hell it was-
Tony was the one who spoke, but it was not his voice that came out. No, the voice was small and cracked and foreign to Tony's ears. It was the voice of his past self uttering a name to a face he never thought he'd see again. He knew his mouth was hanging open, and he figured he would be the one now with a wave of emotion carrying over his face, while people looked at him.
"Hey, Tony." the voice that came back at him was the same as it ever was, warm and welcoming, and it made tension and anxiety radiate through Tony's core.
"You've met?" Natasha's voice was carrying from somewhere near by, but Tony only had tunnel vision, his ears were ringing and as much as he wanted to pretend like this was all a bad dream all he could do was stare straight at head into the face of the only man to have ever broken his heart.
"I have to go." Tony swallowed back the bile that was rising in his throat, forcing himself to turn away, blinking himself back into reality. He needed to look away from Steve so he turned directly into Natasha, completely forgetting that she was at his side. "I have to go." He repeated, this time directly to her.
"What?" Natasha's eyebrows knotted as she looked from Tony to Steve and back again "Tony what's going on?"
"I have to go back to the hotel room." Tony quickly blurted. "I forgot something, I just, I have to.." He stumbled out his lame excuse, taking a step back, with every word, one step closer to escaping. "I will be back, okay, right I'll be.." he waved his hand and before he could even finish he was turned on his heel and was hightailing it out of there, through the people and right out the doors of the restaurant.