Pairings/Characters: Natasha/Pepper, Phil Coulson
Continuity: The Avengers (2012)
Genre: Angst, Drama, Hurt/Comfort
Warnings: Allusions to psychological manipulation and torture
Summary: Pepper comforts Natasha after a nightmare.
Date Of Completion: August 19, 2013
Date Of Posting: September 17, 2013
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, Marvel and Paramount do, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 761
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
The entire series can be found here.
In the dark,
To be swept away
By the wind.
The stars shine
When Pepper awoke, she knew that something was wrong. The space beside her was empty and she could smell smoke. She opened her eyes and immediately saw the glow by the window.
Natasha was standing there, smoking a cigarette. She was nude, her robe still draped over a chair. Pepper got out of bed and walked over to the window, not bothering to put on her robe. She and Natasha had no secrets from each other.
As soon as Pepper reached her, Natasha said in a flat voice, “The Red Room.”
Pepper lightly rested her hand on her lover’s shoulder. She remained silent, knowing that Natasha didn’t want conversation, just support.
The stars twinkled above Manhattan, dimmed by the city’s lights that shone even at this hour. Pepper wished for the multitude of stars from her childhood when she gazed up at the night sky while camping out as a little girl.
Who knew that someday I would meet someone from beyond the stars? Thor is a wonderful representative of his people.
Natasha’s body was deceptively relaxed, but Pepper could see how rigid her arm was as she crooked it, her other arm across her chest as she stared out the window while cigarette smoke curled up toward the ceiling.
Natasha only smoked after a Red Room nightmare. She kept a pack of awful Russian cigarettes in the nightstand on her side of the bed. Pepper never knew how Natasha got the supply of cigarettes but she didn’t ask.
The damned Red Room.
Natasha had never told her what had happened in the Red Room. Pepper had decided to find out on her own.
“Phil, I need answers.”
Phil looked up from the book that he was reading. He was still incredibly pale.
“I’m sorry to bother you about this, but Fury’s out of town and incommunicado. Maria’s no help and I knew you know everything.”
Phil smiled as he set aside his book. “The colonel will be interested to hear that.”
Pepper smiled as she pulled up a chair close to the hospital bed. She crossed her legs, her fingers entwining on her lap. Her polka-dotted green dress was pleated and her collar was edged in white. She looked very demure and tugged on a lock of hair.
“What answers do you need, Pepper?”
She took a deep breath. “The Red Room.”
His smile faded. “Pepper…”
“Please, Phil, I need to know.”
He laced his fingers together on his lap. “Does Natasha know your interest?”
“She does. But it’s unspoken between us.”
“Then why are you trying to find out?”
“I need to know.”
Phil looked at her sympathetically. “It’s not pretty.”
“I don’t expect it to be.”
Phil sighed. “All right. I’ll have the file sent over.”
Pepper sometimes wished that she had not been able to persuade Phil to grant her request that day. The file had been a horror story. Pepper was nauseous at the memory that she wished she could suppress, but in the end she knew that she had to know.
Pepper stood close to Natasha, keeping her hand on the other woman’s strong shoulder. The embers of Natasha’s cigarette glowed as she took a drag, the smoke exhaling through her nostrils as she stared out at the celestial display. She tapped her cigarette over a small ceramic ashtray on the dresser, the ashes falling like tiny stars.
Pepper forced herself to project an air of calmness. Natasha didn’t need nervousness or panic or any other emotions besides serenity. She didn’t need pity or anything but what Pepper could give her. Years of babysitting Tony Stark had given her practice at handling highly-charged situations.
Pepper remained quiet until Natasha stubbed out her cigarette in the bed of glowing embers. Pepper squeezed her shoulder.
“Go to bed,” Natasha whispered as she covered Pepper’s hand with her own.
Pepper removed her hand and kissed her lover’s bare shoulder and climbed into bed. Natasha disappeared into the bathroom and brushed her teeth. She came back into the bedroom and joined Pepper in bed, curling up against her lover and allowing Pepper to wrap her in her arms.
Neither one slept again but they remained safe in their bed where the Red Room could not touch them as the stars dissolved into the first streaks of rosy-golden dawn.