the_water_clock: abstract painting (Untitled 1953)
[personal profile] the_water_clock
Author: Clio
Title: Domesticity Is a Cult
Pairing: Avengers: Natasha Romanova/Pepper Potts
Rating: PG-13
Summary: Pepper's daily routine is interrupted when Natasha is off on a mission, so Tony steps in to help her out.
Length: 1400 words
Notes: Cobbled together from a few prompts--thanks SO MUCH to everyone who answered my call for them! Also so many thanks to [personal profile] ali_wildgoose for giving it a once-over!

Pepper misses her most in the mornings.

Natasha is nearly nocturnal, while Pepper is a morning person. So their compromise, their time together preserved from the rest of the world, is 5-7am, early enough that Natasha can convince herself that it's really still the night before. She wakes Pepper up and they have the kind of sex where they can really take their time. After a shower they make breakfast in Pepper's little galley kitchen, usually an egg white and vegetable scramble with toasted brown bread washed down with strong caravan tea. Pepper heads off to Stark Industries, Natasha to SHIELD where she takes an afternoon nap on Phil's couch.

But on this, the fifth day since Natasha left on a mission with Clint and Phil in an undisclosed location, there is no morning sex on offer. Pepper sleeps in a bit, then heads to the office early. The chef makes her egg white omelette and she brews her own tea at her desk. She schedules a working lunch and tries not to think about dinner.

Tony wanders into her office around seven, catching the end of a conference call with the Houston oil people, and plays good cop/bad cop with Pepper over a negotiation of long-term pricing that had been stalled for a few days.

"Thanks," she says as they get off.

"Please," he replies, waving a hand. "Those people are terrified of you. All I did was speed up the process by letting them know that they are absolutely correct to feel that way."

Pepper shook her head. "Do you actually need something or are you just here to annoy me?"

"I am here," Tony said, sitting up in his chair, "to bring you back to the mansion for dinner and a movie."

"I'm perfectly capable of looking after myself," Pepper replied.

"And others," Tony agreed, "and you always have been, but did you consider that we might, I don't know, want to see you?"

"You're seeing me now."

"What about Bruce and Thor? I think Steve loves you more than he loves me."

"Don't be silly," she said. "No one loves anyone more than you love you."

"All right, I resemble that remark," Tony said, "but we do miss you. You're around a lot more when Natasha is in town. Plus Bruce is making tofu chilaquiles verde. You know you don't want to miss that."

She looked up. "Maria's really driving you crazy, isn't she?"

"She's ready to kill us," Tony said, slumping back into his chair. "And JARVIS isn't helping. He keeps telling her more than she needs to know."

"Maybe you shouldn't give him things to tell."

"That never works for long," he said. "Come on, I can't ask my best friend over for dinner?"

Pepper sighed. "Fine, just give me another half hour to finish up some things."

"Nope," Tony said. "I checked and there's nothing that can't wait."

"Your version of 'can't wait' and mine are very different."

"I also know that you worked until ten last night, and you have been getting in every morning at seven, and you never do that when Natasha's home. In fact, you haven't worked this many hours since, well, since we broke up."

She could see out of the corner of her eye that he was staring out the window—he never could maintain eye contact when their "kill the romance to save the friendship" decision came up. "You worry about me," she said.

Tony shrugged. "You're crucial to my lifestyle," he said, meeting her eyes at last.

She finished the paragraph up she'd been working on when Tony came in. "All right, but I get to pick the movie."

"Of course," Tony replied. "Just remember your audience. Oh hey, here's a question."

"Go ahead," she said, shutting down her computer.

"Why is it that you're so calm with Natasha being completely out of contact in some unknown country, but every time I put on the suit you had some kind of freak out?"

"Because Natasha is a highly trained assassin with years of experience, while you went to MIT as a teenager and built robots." She closed her briefcase and walked out of her office, knowing Tony would follow, and he did.

"You know," he said, "there's such a thing as learning on the job!"

Tony was right—Pepper was usually in the mansion when Natasha was in town. Rarely overnight, but she often came for dinner and nearly always sat in on movie night, which Tony characterized as a group mission to get Steve up to speed on the cultural references he'd missed. After, Natasha would see Pepper home, then return to the mansion to bond with her fellow Avengers, most of whom were as nocturnal as she was.

With only four Avengers in residence the mansion was slightly less cacophonous, but that didn't make much difference to Maria, who was sitting at the kitchen counter grasping a mug just a bit too tightly.

"What'd I miss?" Tony asked.

Bruce shrugged. "Thor wanted to build a fire with a spit in the middle of the kitchen," he replied, "but I pointed out that you can only cook meat that way."

"Don't you need a dog to turn it?" Pepper asked, sitting at the counter and reaching for one of the tablets so she could start searching through the movie database.

"No pets!" Maria said.

Tony turned to her. "Maria, if I may—"

"You may not," she said.

"I feel that you live in a world of 'no'," he said. "And my job is to get you to yes."

"Tony, don't start," Pepper said, shaking her head.

"Leave the nice woman alone, Tony," said Steve as he walked in from the other room.

"I didn't say anything!" Tony said.

"Yet," Steve and Pepper said in unison, then laughed.

"I'm glad you could come to dinner," Steve said.

"Thank you," Pepper replied. "I thought you and Maria might need the support."

"Completely outnumbered!" Tony said.

"Friends!" said Thor as he came up the stairs. "Our warrior brothers have returned!"

Pepper looked up and yes, there was Natasha, with Clint and Phil close behind. "Hi," she said.

Natasha walked toward her. "Hello," she said.

"I hope you have made enough dinner for all," Thor said.

Bruce scowled. "Of course I did," he said, sounding offended.

"I'm glad you're here," Natasha said.

"Me too," Pepper said, smiling. She pulled Natasha closer, to stand between her legs.

"Jesus, just kiss her already," Clint said, shaking his head.

"Shut up, Clint," Natasha said, but she did give Pepper a quick kiss. "What are you doing?"

"Tony said I could pick the movie for tonight," she said. "And I'm trying to decide between The Runaways and Whip It."

"Also known as, someone has a thing for Alia Shawkat," Tony said.

"Shut up, Tony," Pepper said.

"Why don't we watch them both?" Phil said. "I'm sure we could all use the break. I hope you're staying for dinner, Maria."

"How can you be so calm?" she asked.

He shrugged. "They respond best to redirection and consistent positive reinforcement," he said. "Such as, I hope that we have enough chairs at the table and places to sit in the living room for all of us."

"On it," Steve said, grabbing some silverware, and pulled Tony out of the room with him. Thor followed with an armful of plates.

"You're like the superhero whisperer," Maria said.

"Hot, isn't it?" Clint said.

Phil flushed, ever so slightly, but he was smiling. Then there was a crash from the dining room. "Oh for the love of—do we need remedial table-setting lessons?" Phil asked as he walked away.

Pepper was pretty sure the "Sorry!" she heard was Thor.

She turned back to Natasha. "Can you believe I actually missed this, while you were gone?"

"Oh I can," Natasha replied. She leaned in a little closer, and whispered, "But I'm mostly looking forward to tomorrow morning."

"Me too," she said, and kissed her again.

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