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weave in and settle

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“Don’t leave your heels there.”

Pepper doesn’t roll her eyes. She steps out of her right shoe, picks up both and sways into the bedroom. She figures while she’s in there, she can change out of her suit and into something that will be comfortable if she gets to lie on the couch all night.

Pepper stops. She doesn’t know Natasha has been there all day. Natasha is rarely anywhere all day unless she’s ordered to be. Pepper gets out of her skirt and keeps her shirt mostly buttoned. She walks out just like that.

Natasha doesn’t look up at her.

She notices that the coffee table is perfectly clean and there aren’t breakfast dishes on the dining room table or the kitchen counter.

“Any specific reason I can’t leave my shoes by the door today?” Pepper sits down next to her but not close. She draws her legs up, rests her chin on her knees. Natasha rubs her thumb over Pepper’s toes, but still doesn’t look at her.

“You didn’t rinse out any of the mugs this morning. I don’t like drinking tea from a tumbler.”

“I was saving the world.” Pepper ducks her head, tries to catch Natasha’s eyes. She smiles at Natasha, real and just a bit tired.

“I’m sure you were.” Natasha leans over, pushes Pepper’s knees down and rests her head in her lap. Pepper can’t say anything. She’s had a long day, longer than usual. She knows, and Natasha knows, that long is relative. In Pepper’s life, though, this day had definitely been too long.

She rakes her fingers through Natasha’s loose hair, rubbing her scalp, that spot behind her ear. Natasha only cleans when something goes wrong. Not that she’s messy, not that Pepper could live with that, but she actively changes things, cleans and hides when work doesn’t go to exact Black Widow specifications. Pepper knows better than to ask. Sometimes, missions aren’t confidential, Natasha Romanov isn’t just a persona Natasha slips on and off with an ease that might terrify her if Pepper was someone less than Pepper Potts, wounds aren’t superficial, some won’t heal.

“I’ll make sure the dishes are done tomorrow.” Pepper bends and kisses the top of Natasha’s head. “And the next day.” Another kiss. “And possibly the next day if I’m not in Japan.” Another kiss. This time, Natasha curls over and runs her hand lightly up Pepper’s bare thigh, finds her hand resting there.

“I’m glad the world is safe.” Natasha runs her fingers over each of Pepper’s knuckles. “Safe in such capable hands.”

“And how was your day, darling?” Pepper is practically whispering. She doesn’t know why, doesn’t care. It’s always easy to be quiet with Natasha. Everything slows down and hushes and life starts slotting together, the day, the responsibilities falling away. Pepper doesn’t know if that’s how things work for Natasha. She’s never asked. Not because she doesn’t want to know the answer, but because she doesn’t need Natasha to justify why she chose Pepper. She’s just glad it works so well.

Things in her life rarely go smoothly. She knows Tony Stark.

“My day was not bad.” Natasha sits up. She brushes the hair off Pepper’s face. Pepper watches her telegraph her next moves, feels Natasha’s fingers slide under her hair as it falls. She looks Pepper in the eye, makes sure Pepper’s eyes are open. “Clint saved my life.”

Pepper breathes in deep, smells her shampoo on Natasha’s hair.

“Do not tell him I’m grateful,” Natasha whispers, drops her forehead to Pepper’s chest. “I already owe him a sizable debt.”

“Okay. We’ll tell him I’m grateful.” Pepper rubs her lips along the top of Natasha’s hair. “That way I don’t have to live in this big place all by myself.”

Natasha laughs, small and tired. “You can have all my leather jackets.”

Pepper’s hands make fists and relax slowly. She can’t.

“You know I can’t do that. They don’t fit me. I don’t look nearly as attractive as you in them.”

“Well except that brown zippered one.” Natasha sits up and kisses Pepper with her eyes open.

Pepper pulls back before she can lean into her. “You can’t leave me here alone,” Pepper says smartly. “I’d kill Tony. Or Clint. Or Phil. Maria and I don’t know each other that well.”

“I think if it came to it, you’d probably want to kill Steve.”

Pepper laughs. Natasha puts her open lips on her neck.

“Do we need to cook tonight?” Pepper runs her hands up under Natasha’s too big t-shirt.

“I did wash all the dishes.” Natasha bites curve of her neck into her shoulder. “You decided to work late.”

“I said I was saving the world. Apology not accepted?” Pepper presses her nails harder, drags them slowly down Natasha’s back.

“Let’s have takeout. And then you can apologize for real.”

Pepper pulls back, frames Natasha’s face with her hands. “You always have the best ideas.”

“Remember that, Ms. Potts.” Natasha leans back in. “For later.”