753/E Pluribus Unum: On Assignment

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E Pluribus Unum: On Assignment
Date of Scene: 25 March 2020
Location: Avengers Mansion - First Floor
Synopsis: Wait, we're what?!
Cast of Characters: Natasha Romanoff, Tony Stark
Tinyplot: E Pluribus Unum

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    It's been over a full day since Tony Stark was almost assassinated in his own car, and life has been... busy for Natasha Romanoff since then. Reports needed to written, deliberations had to be made, and ultimately, tasks had to be given out.
    Natasha got her assignment to help deal with this situation about an hour ago.
    It's a doozy.
    Natasha pulls up to the Mansion in her car, shuts the door and leans back against it for a moment, looking up at the big house she's been more or less living in for the last two years, and heaves a sigh.
    This is professional karma.
    For once, Natasha bothers to speak into a subtle device on her wrist as she approaches the mansion, saying "Jarvis, please let everyone know I've arrived." Normally she specifically overrides that courtesy notification, but under the circumstances, it's probably best if no one is startled by any surprise arrivals that aren't specifically from enemies.
    She keeps one hand stuffed into her jacket pocket as she enters the mansion and peers about, calling out "Tony?"
    This is gonna be weird.

Tony Stark has posed:
Perhaps the strangest thing about the assassination attempt on Tony's life wasn't the fact that it happened but rather his reaction to it. Natasha commanded he put on his suit and stay in the Mansion and he actually ... did it? He's been pacing back and forth relentlessly, making calls and even tinkering around the labs now that Pym is off doing Pym things in parts unknown again. But he has:

    1. Stayed in the Mansion; and

    2. Kept the suit on.

At present he's in the rec room, sitting almost sulkily on one of the sofas in the corner. One of the arcade cabinets (not the beloved Ms. Pacman or Golden Axe, one of the shoot 'em ups that didn't see much play time) has had the wooden box that makes up its body splintered and broken as though something incredibly strong put a foot through it. A puddle of antique 1980s quarters lay scattered across the floor.

When he hears Nat's voice, however, he immediately rises to his feet with the whir of servos and hydraulics. He bounds across the carpeted floor with heavy thuds, moving to the door like he were a puppy excited to see her home from work. It's very un-Tony.

<Hey,> he calls out through the suits voice modulator, sounding more apathetic than he visibly feels, <In here.>

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
Nat knew that, logically, Tony was in one of the safer places on the planet - if not neccessarily as secret as she'd like - but it's a relief to hear his voice, and she follows it to the rec room.
    "Tony, are you-" she looks past Tony and sees the mess on the floor, brow wrinkling with concern, "What happened here, did yoooooouuuuu-" she stalls for a moment as she looks back at Tony and finally processes that he's still Iron Man. "-ooouuuu're still in your armor."

Tony Stark has posed:

There's palpable confusion in Tony's voice when Nat mentions him still being in his armor. He looks down at himself, almost like seeing it for the first time, and then back up at her. The helmet folds away, retracting into the neck to reveal his face. His hair is a mess (a definite case of helmet-head) and the usual precise lines of his goatee have gotten a little fuzzy from the stubble that's grown in.

He turns his head a little, looking at her sidelong with a critical squint: "Should I not be?" A pause. "I shouldn't be, should I?"

The suit hisses and clatters, folding open to allow him to step out of it still in the clothes he worse to the show. Thankfully the hermetically-sealed environment of the suit has left him from suffering the less pleasant rigors of being cooped up in a suit of armor for so long. That or it's designed to give him a spritz of Neroli Portofino Forte every few hours.

"I'm not."

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    "You-" Natasha covers her mouth but you can see the lines of a smile crease her face and her shoulders shake once, "You- I didn't mean... inside the Mansion, no it's safer, uh..." she hangs her head slightly, dropping her hand, briefly revealing a grin before she presses her lips closed to shut it down, "... Someone from SHIELD was supposed to tell you when it's safe."
    There's a beat, and her shoulders shake again with a repressed laugh - partly it's stress, but coming home to this has been a jarring contrast to it. You can hear a laugh shaking in her voice as she says, "Ss-ss-sorry. Ahem. I hope you cheated and got a change of clothes."
    She nods once as he steps out of his armor - surprisingly not foul, that's good - and collects herself. "... Look, Tony, there's something I need to tell you..."

Tony Stark has posed:
Tony looks down at the clothes he's wearing, tugging the bottom of the Black Widow t-shirt he wears to look at it. His mind is already whirring, thinking if he could claim these totally aren't the clothes he was wearing yesterday. God, he'd never hear the end of it if the gossip magazines got a whiff of that one.

Still, he can't help but smile when Natasha does, and his grin only grows when she suppresses the laugh. When she speaks, however, his expression takes on a more serious bent. He takes a step close to her, reaching up to clasp her upper arms in his hands. He closes the space between them, tilting his head to meet her eyes.

"No," he says, talking over her quickly, "No, look, I need to say something, too, and if I don't say it first I'm not sure I'm going to get it out. Yesterday? That's ... what I wanted. I mean, not the getting shot at. I didn't want that. Though I guess if they were going to shoot at me, they should've had the common courtesy to do it in public so I could get a bit of that Teddy Roosevelt push. Are you sure SHIELD won't make it public?"

A pause, and he shakes his head as though shuffling loose errant thoughts.

"At the risk of getting truly high schoolian here: I like you, Nat. We've been dancing around this for a while and I think you feel it, too. I don't think it was adrenaline or relief or any one of a hundred other things you might call it. But you need to know that it's what I want, too, okay? I'm the last guy you'd expect to hear it from, I'll bet, but truth is truth."

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha curteously resists a thousand hardwired instincts to break Tony in half as he moves in fast and touches her, giving a short "Uh!" when he touches her arms, and looks up into his eyes. "Okay?"
    She blinks owlishly once when Tony gets derailed, but a slow smile comes to her face as Tony speaks sincerely. A warm smile. A slow narrowing of her eyes, which close when Tony finishes. There's a moment where she lowers her head slightly, her shoulders rising and falling once with a short breath and a sigh.
    She looks back up at Tony's face and softly says, "Tony..."
    One hand goes to Tony's hand... the other finally leaves her pocket... and produces a silver ring which she slides onto Tony's finger. A matching one is worn on hers.
    "... We're married now."

Tony Stark has posed:
Tony seems at a genuine loss for words. It isn't anything like him, truly, but the situation warrants it even from the perpetually unruffled Stark. He looks dumbly at his hand as Natasha takes it, watching as she slips the ring on it. He doesn't yank it away, though he does stare at it with genuine confusion. It takes several seconds before he regains his composure, eyes turning up to look at her.

"Is this a Russian thing?" he asks, "Because I really think we ought to consider baby steps, Nat. I've only been on three second dates. Total. In my life."

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha looks like she's trying very hard not to laugh, lips pressed together and eyes closed tightly for a moment.
    Aaahhhh, this is hilariously awful timing, and part of her can't get enough. A small part of her. The rest of her wants to fall into the ocean and haunt the sea.
    She gives Tony a look that nearly reads apologetic as she says, "Your security details can't be trusted anymore. If there are sleeper agents, or infiltrators, we can't leave you alone with them. We need someone guarding you who can be trusted."
    She takes a deep breath and softly says, "... So... it turns out a few months ago you reconnected and fell *madly* in love with your old employee, Natalie Rushman. Remember her?" She got *super* fired. "Turns out you married her and were nice enough not to make a big public thing out of it."
    "I'm your security detail going forward. If you're not in the Mansion, I'm by your side, or in the shadows." She lets this hang for a moment before she deflates slightly. "... I'm sorry, Tony, this is..."

Tony Stark has posed:
Tony is silent for another handful of seconds, still digesting the whole thing. He managed to get one quip off, but it seems Natasha really has thrown him for a loop. What's odder is that it doesn't seem as though he necessarily hates the idea. He wanted her around, didn't he? Well, now even if the more commitment-phobe aspects of his personality rise up in revolt he'll be near her anyway.

"I - " A pause, "Okay, I - Ahem. Natalie Rushman? Right."

He takes a deep breath, a hand lifting up to press against her cheek as he looks her in the eyes.

"You know, if you were going to go totally crazy about me you probably should've said so. This is going to be a hell of a thing to announce to the press. Pepper ... "

His eyes widen, as though feeling fear for the first time in a long time (including the part where he had a gun pointed at him): "Oh, Jesus, Pepper. I mean, she's not going to be mad about this," he gestures between them both, "But this," He holds up the ring on his other hand, "She may have words."

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha smiles a bit grimly and corrects him "Natalie Rushman-Stark. And we're very in love." in that same tone a lawyer might correct you that you are not simply *acting* as though you feel remorse, you *do* feel remorse.
    She nods her head, and slowly puts her hand on the back of Tony's as it rests on her cheek, looking mostly at his chin for the moment. She hesitates briefly and says "It's... going to be confusing, yeah." She agrees, not neccessarily just for Pepper. For both of them. "... I'll help make her understand. I don't know if she's my biggest fan these days, but... she wants you safe as much as..." she looks up at Tony's eyes finally, "... as much as I do."

Tony Stark has posed:
There it is. That's all he really wanted or needed to know. Everything else? The smokescreen? The SHIELD intervention? That's all just extra. It's glitter. Dazzling and occasionally distracting but ultimately meaningless. He long ago mastered the art of compartmentalizing, setting aside the things he didn't want to think about in order to focus on the ones he did. He meets her eyes for a long moment, hand still pressed gently against her cheek.

"Okay," he clears his throat, head turning to look over his shoulder at the suit of armor standing a few feet behind him, "Gimme a second."

He lowers his hand, resting it on Nat's shoulder and turning his upper body to face the suit. He whistles through his teeth, turning a finger in the air. Obediently, the suit turns around, so it is standing in the same place but with it's back to them. That done, Tony turns back to Natasha and smiles broadly.


Then he kisses her.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    There's a lot that Natasha figures she really ought to say - would probably be irresponsible not to say - before this goes any further - but the urgency of that seems to vanish for the moment as Tony draws near.
    And then there's a moment of confusion, followed by a charmed smile as the suit turns around. Wait, does it have cameras recording its eyes? ... Of course it has cameras rec-
    Tony kisses her and the train of thought derails as her hand goes to the back of his head and holds him in place for a good long time, nuzzling her lips against his and giving a soft sweet little hum that's broken by a short gasp when the embrace ends.
    She looks up at him warmly, and slowly closes her eyes and and presses her forehead to his collarbone for a long moment as she soaks in the moment and... gathers her thoughts.
    "... I want this." She says softly. "... I want to try it." There's a palpable 'but' coming, and she holds it back for as long as socially feasible before she looks up at him and says, "... But there's... something I need to make clear to you... and it's... not going to be easy for me so... I... need you to not be clever for about two minutes, if that's okay."

Tony Stark has posed:
Tony sinks into the kiss. His hand rests between her shoulder blades, the other still resting against the side of her face. His eyes closed, his head tilts to the side. When it's over, he wraps both arms around her and listens to her speak.

'I'm never not being clever' is what Tony wants to say based on his first instinct. His eyes even flash with the unmistakable light of someone who has thought of the perfect witty retort and is about to lay it out like a Royal Flush. But then he meets her eyes, and that little spark fades. Of all the many rejoinders he could say, of all the thousands of jokes he could make, he just says:

"Tell me." His voice quiet, thoughtful.

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    Natasha visibly braces for the joke, but it never comes. She doesn't smile with relief. If anything she might have liked the opportunity to forget the possibly very stupid move she's making.
    Nat is not an open person. She can speak sincerely with people about *their* problems. She can give them their bare minimum of her... opinion on what's going on as it relates to her feelings. Flat out talking about herself is...
    She doesn't really do it if she can help it.
    So volunteering this is difficult, but after a deep breath she starts to say, "... I've never..." she hesitates as an errant thought puts a question to what she's about to say, but goes ahead regardless adjusting only with the word, "... *sincerely* been close to anyone. ... My whole life. Occupational policy." Meaning she's only ever been able to pretend. "... I made *one* friend four years ago... and I've spent the last two years trying... *really* hard not to make any more."
    Seems you bunch of weirdos have worn her down somewhat. "... I don't know if I really... if I really know how to do this for real. How to mean it. I want to try, but I need you to understand that this might be..." she sighs. "... Really tough. In ways you're... maybe not expecting." She shakes her head slowly and looks up at Tony. "I'll understand otherwise, but... if you're willing to risk that whole... can of worms, then... I really..." she closes her eyes and speaks very softly, "... I really want to try."

Tony Stark has posed:
"You've met me, right?" Tony asks, smiling slightly, "There's a reason in two years of avenging I've never turned up with someone else in tow. Janet was married to Pym, now she and Cap are an item. Wanda and Clint. But not me. Because to tell you the truth I'm not sure how to do it either. Almost certainly for different reasons, but the end results the same."

He leans back a little to meet her eyes again, hands trailing down her arms to clasp her hands again. He's already wiggling his ringer finger, running his thumb against the foreign sensation of the ring Natasha just put there.

"But I want to try, too. I've never really been one to back away from something I want just because it's difficult. I'm also not beyond moving mountains to make things work when I have to. But I've got an important question of my own I've got to ask."

A pause.

"Can we go back to the Tower? Because I desperately need to change."

Natasha Romanoff has posed:
    A warm smile slowly comes to Natasha's face as Tony speaks to her, a certain understanding taking root in her mind that contradicts her perception of Tony as simply an incorrigible playboy, however aware she was of his underlying sincerity streak.
    She gives his hands a bit of a squeeze, vaguely aware of that nostalgic pressure of metal around her finger. "What is it?" She asks softly.
    Tony's question results in a moment of silence, and then Natasha's shoulders begin to shake as she slowly lowers her her head to the point where her body's bending forward until she finally begins to audibly laugh, a soft, pretty sound still muted by her attempts at self control. She straights up and inhales through her nose, steadying herself a bit and saying. "Yes. *Please*. By all means." She seems to think of something. "Just let me get my desert eagle first."
    She's still his bodyguard, now.