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A Study in Losing Your Security Deposit

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Pepper is a very busy woman. She is the CEO of Stark Industries, after all. And she’s the self-appointed babysitter of Tony Stark. (She wishes she could say that being a CEO took up most of her time, but no. No, sadly, taking care of Tony takes up the majority of her time.) She also consults with SHIELD, and she’s dating the world’s deadliest assassin.

(Clint likes to think that he’s the world’s deadliest assassin, but he’s mistaken.)

All of those things add up, in the end, so when her and Natasha’s plumbing breaks, she gives it to Natasha to handle. After all, Natasha is lethal and competent. She’s lethally competent. She isn’t Tony. Pepper trusts her to handle calling their landlord and getting it fixed.

Pepper leaves work with ten messages on her phone from Natasha.

Hey, Pepper. Tony stopped by this morning, so he’s going to take care of the plumbing issue. He promises not to upgrade it.

Pepper, Tony is a fucking liar, and do not be surprised if you never hear from him again.

It’s Natasha. Again. Steve is here, he’s going to handle it.

All right, so I am thinking we need to teach Steve about the wonder of power tools. Because apparently that is a modern marvel. Just… it’s all right. I’ll fix this. I hope your day is going better than mine.

Pepper, I ask you, how is it that geniuses cannot handle fixing a simple pipe?

It turns out that the Hulk smash is just as effective on pipes as it is on supervillains. I am… less than pleased to discover this. I apologize. In advance. Though I point out, this began with your ex-boyfriend.

I love you. Please know that.

This just needs to be said. I DID NOT CALL THOR.

Hi, Pepper. So, it might be best if you work late tonight. Or perhaps find a hotel. I’m just saying.

Or maybe another country. Find another country, Pepper, because I’m not going to be allowed in this one anymore after what I do to this godforsaken team.

Pepper closes her phone with a sense of finality, and forces a smile on her face. “Happy? Step on it.”

******
Natasha has her own floor at Avengers Tower, and Pepper is of course welcome on all levels, but they keep their own small, tidy apartment as well, a place just for the two of them. Whenever Natasha is at the Tower, she is the Black Widow, deadly assassin, superspy, not Natasha, she-who-leaves-wet-towels-on-wood, not Natasha, never-buys-milk. Pepper likes Black Widow, but she loves Natasha, and they need space to be themselves.

She is impressed that their apartment building is still standing when Happy pulls up. She was expecting a crater, the way Natasha’s messages were going. Of course, Natasha is very subtle, overall, so perhaps Pepper will just find corpses littered about once she steps inside. (Natasha is less subtle when she’s really angry.)

She goes in and takes the elevator up to the top floor. There are no bodies on the way in. Perhaps, Pepper muses, she already disposed of the bodies. She wouldn’t be surprised. Her girlfriend is very resourceful that way.

She and Natasha own the entire top floor (just because they choose to live away from Avengers Tower doesn’t mean they don’t value their privacy), and the elevator doors open to surprising peacefulness. The lights are off, and candles are everywhere, casting beautiful shadows across the walls. It’s shockingly romantic. Pepper steps out cautiously, ready to duck and cover at any moment.

The carpet squelches beneath her feet.

Ah.

“Natasha?” she calls out, feeling nervous. There is no one around. It is very, very quiet. Pepper learned, after years of working for Tony, that silence is never a good thing. People speak of the quiet after a battle, and Pepper has always felt envious of them. In her life, quiet means the battle is just beginning.

Natasha appears in the doorway that leads to their kitchen, face grim. Her hair is wet, and the hem of her sweatpants is damp, but she looks otherwise all right.

“Pepper,” she says solemnly. “I thought I told you stay elsewhere tonight.”

“Yes, well,” Pepper says, smiling crookedly. “Considering I thought the building might be burning down, or you might kill the world’s only force against bad guys, I thought it best to stop by. You know how it is.”

“There’s always the X-Men,” Natasha says.

Pepper kicks off her heels and walks barefoot over to Natasha. She kisses her, swift and sudden, and pulls back, grinning. “Natasha, I’ve heard your assessment of the X-Men. Don’t even pretend. Now what happened?”

For a brief moment, Natasha looks embarrassed, and slightly annoyed. But then she slips into parade rest, her face going blank, and Pepper can’t help but sigh as Natasha becomes Black Widow. It is hazard, dating superheroes; you’re always dating at least two people at once.

“Stark came by this morning to sign some paperwork-”

“I will point out that I told him I’d be at the office,” Pepper interjects, remembering the arguments they’ve had about Tony stopping by in the past. Mostly, it’s been along the lines of I have to see him every day, do we really need him in our HOME. Sadly, the argument has come from both of them.

“Yes, but it’s Stark,” Natasha says, which really, explains everything. “I mentioned that the pipes were leaking. Stark said he’d fix it, and- well. He is an engineer.”

“You clearly haven’t seen him testing new Iron Man suits,” Pepper says.

“I made him promise not to upgrade anything. But-”

“But it’s Tony.”

“Precisely. He wanted to make the pipes self-repairing.”

“Is that even possible?”

“It’s Stark.”

Which means that it is, but only after repeated swearing, failing, and alcoholic beverages. Pepper sighs.

“He broke a pipe, and the bathroom began to flood.”

Pepper frowns. They’re in the living room, and the bathroom is the furthest room in the entire apartment. And yet, the carpet is soaked.

“I called the first person on my speed dial,” Natasha continues. “Which was Steve.”

“Steve?” Pepper asks, a bit confused. “Wouldn’t Bruce…?”

“It was my Avengers phone. He’s listed as Captain America.”

“Right, yeah, okay.”

“Steve said he could fix the pipes. He said that he fixed quite a few when he was a kid, because they were always leaking, and he knew just what to do.”

Natasha is looking a little shifty at this point, and Pepper frowns. A shifty Natasha is a Natasha you don’t trust. “What happened?”

“He tried tape. And then Tony told him about drills, and he was interested. He wanted to see how they worked. He accidentally drilled through the walls. He’s very sorry, by the way. He promises to pay for the damage.” Natasha says all of this in a flat monotone, as though repeating what Steve said verbatim. Pepper wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case.

“Tony is paying for the damage,” Pepper says, just as grim as Natasha was when they began the conversation.

“Agreed. Anyway, after he taped the pipes and drilled holes in the wall, the boys agreed to give Bruce a call.”

“Because Bruce…?”

“Because Bruce, as Stark says, deals with the softer hard sciences and might know something about plumbing. He insists that plumbing is for smaller minds.”

Pepper sighs. She’s pretty sure she knows where this is going. “Oh, Tony.”

“In his defense, Bruce was pretty irritated about the pipes already. Tony was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

“So Bruce became the Hulk…”

“And pummeled through the walls, yes. And the pipes.”

“Which led to a geyser, I’m guessing,” Pepper says, looking around the apartment. She’s suddenly thankful that she and Natasha have never been able to agree on art, because otherwise her favourite pieces would be ruined. As it is, she suspects they’ll just have to go buy a new apartment. She has a feeling that the living room being squelchy is the least of her concerns.

“Well. Yes. And then Steve called Clint, and Clint called Thor…”

Pepper stares at Natasha in disbelief. “Why did Clint call Thor?”

Natasha rubs a hand over her face. “Why does Clint do anything, really?”

“I contend that your ex is just as bad as my ex,” Pepper says, shaking her head.

“Hey, Clint didn’t start this mess,” Natasha says.

“Sounds like he may have ended it, though.”

Natasha says nothing for a long moment, not shifting or looking anywhere but Pepper’s face which is, in Pepper’s mind, as good as a yes.

“Anyway,” Natasha says finally. “Clint called Thor, and they came over…”

“Let me guess where this is going,” Pepper interrupts, walking over to the sofa and sitting down. She’s spent the entire day dealing with industry moguls and a Board of Directors that still doesn’t think she can handle Stark Industries, even though she’s been doing it for over a year now. “Thor came over and tried to fix the pipes with his mighty hammer, which of course summons lightening, which introduces electricity to water. The electricity shorts out. Hence the candles.”

“Hence the candles,” Natasha repeats dutifully, coming to sit next to her.

Pepper sighs, but can’t hold back the smile that is tugging at her lips. Natasha looks somewhat miserable, but mostly she looks furious, and she is fun when she’s pissed. “Did you reserve a hotel room?” she asks finally.

“I thought we could just stay at the Avengers Tower for the night.”

Pepper gives her an incredulous look. “A night? Nat, this is going to take longer than night to fix.”

Natasha raises a cool, superior eyebrow, as though she hadn’t gotten them in this mess to begin with (although at least fifty percent of the blame goes to Tony. Maybe sixty.). “I didn’t say I couldn’t fix this, did I?”

“Can you?” Pepper asks, intrigued despite herself. She should, logically, be furious. She should be yelling and frustrated. But years with Tony have taught her that this is just a minor incident, one that they’ll laugh at in a few years time. Their home is ruined, but, well, she’s just thankful that the state is still intact.

“I already did,” Natasha says smugly. And she is Natasha again, smiling and lovely, and Pepper leans over and kisses her, because she can, and she wants to. Natasha smiles into the kiss, finally relaxed, as if Pepper interrogating her was the worst thing she’s ever handled, when Pepper knows otherwise.

“How’d you fix it?” she whispers into Natasha’s mouth, sliding her hands down Natasha’s arms and onto her hips, resting there.

Natasha pulls back, suddenly cagey again. “I, um. I called the most competent person in my phone.”

Pepper frowns slightly. She can’t imagine who Natasha would have called that would make her that nervous. Pepper isn’t scared of Fury, and she and Maria Hill go out for drinks every Friday night. Jane has been too absorbed in her research these past few weeks to really leave her lab, and really, that rules out everyone that Pepper views as competent.

It’s almost as if he were cued. Agent Coulson steps out from the hallway, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, holding a wrench and a blowtorch. “I think I fixed the pipes. Give this place a day or two and- oh, hello Ms. Potts. It’s a pleasure to see you again. Sorry about your pipes, but it’s all taken care of now.”

(Later that night, after Pepper gives Natasha an earful about keeping secrets that concern people she cares about, she’ll ask Natasha about the rest of the Avengers, and what she did with them.

Natasha will smile into Pepper’s collarbone and say, “Fury might not appreciate the early birthday present.)

(It will be three months before she learns what really happened to them; they all avoid her eyes for weeks, and Tony runs away whenever Natasha comes near him. Even then, she has to get Clint really, really drunk before he’ll tell her.)

(She really hopes Natasha took pictures.)