Natasha wasn't a huge fan of the firework spectacle that took place each year. They were pretty enough but they also always sounded like a war was going on nearby and that was the part she wasn't a fan of, that along with the fact that the closer you were, the more they reverberated within your chest. This also wasn't something she normally had to pay any mind to but given Tony's giant party, and that the tower had quite the view of the aforementioned event, she didn't have much of a choice but to deal with it, not unless she went and took refuge somewhere without a view.

That would really only leave Bruce's lab as a safe haven but she wasn't going to intrude on the man simply because she had a pathetic distaste for colorful pyrotechnics combined with the sounds of a war zone, or really, she just wasn't willing to admit it to anyone. So she sat on the railing of one small and empty balcony with a glass of some fruity alcoholic concoction that Stark had shoved into her hands earlier. She imagined this was a prime viewing spot for the fireworks and yet not one person dared to come out with her here, not that she blamed them for that, most people were afraid she might kill them if they let their guard down.

She wouldn't complain about the lack of crowding around her though, because in her case, misery definitely did not love company. When the first bang went off, at least she was free to grimace at the noise since nobody was there to see it. Bang after bang after bang resounded with only a fancy light show to try and balance it out, and she didn't think it was doing that, not very effectively anyways.

It wasn't until a few minutes into the colorful and loud show in the sky when she felt more than heard someone joining her, though it certainly wasn't anyone she would have expected. She shifted her eyes beside her to see Bruce lean his elbows on the railing just beside her. He didn't look at her but obviously he was feeling daring, or at least daring enough to ignore whatever aura of solitude she was giving off, so she didn't say a word to make him think he should go elsewhere.

Natasha found herself watching Bruce more than the fireworks over the next few minutes, if only because he seemed perfectly at ease watching them, which was unusual given his rather flighty nature. Different colors splayed over his face and in his eyes. She knew a lot more about him than he was likely comfortable with because of SHIELD files, not that he ever said anything about it nor did she ever bring his past up. Thankfully he seemed to hold the same belief she did that some things were best left buried, untouched and unspoken of. was nice to see him look a little relaxed for once, nice and also a good distraction from the fact she disliked the fireworks. Then those brown eyes shifted to meet her gaze and he looked a little surprised to realize she was watching him, and if she was being honest with herself, Natasha was surprised she had been watching him too and she had been doing it for several minutes now.

"You're not a fan of fireworks, are you?" came his question.

She quirked an eyebrow up at him and gave the smallest of shrugs as she looked back at the display in the distance rather than at him.

"Well, I mean with you it's sort of hard to tell if you actually like something or not," Bruce mentioned.

From the corner of her eye she saw him look back to the fireworks and again she found herself watching him rather than the show. She figured her silence was enough to have made him give up in his effort to do the 'understand you' chat because over a minute went by without a word from him.

"You're not easy to read, or talk to, or—or even get to know," he told her suddenly without actually looking at her.

Given that Natasha had yet to respond to him verbally, she supposed it was a rather accurate statement and so again she gave the barest semblance of a shrug before she finally commented, "I get that a lot." The twinkle in his eye was either amusement with her or enjoyment of the bright colors being shot into the sky, but either way, it was a nice change of pace nonetheless. So she made her own opinion known, "I wouldn't have thought loud noises would be your particular cup of tea, Doc."

"Weird I know," Bruce admitted, "but honestly I find them calming, I mean—not the noise of course, but the colors."

"I see that. You don't usually look so relaxed," Natasha pointed out as she inclined her head to the side slightly.

Once again that twinkle appeared as he shifted his eyes back to meet her own and it seemed that it actually was amusement with her rather than him liking the fireworks display. "And you don't usually look so—so stiff," came his retort.

One corner of her lips curled upwards at the comment before she looked back to the flares of bright colors. She supposed it was a little serene if you let yourself think of it in that way. Maybe.

"It's the noise, isn't it?" he asked next.

Again she glanced over at Bruce and found he was still looking at her.

"The louder they are, the stiffer you get..." he pointed out, "like you're expecting a gun fight at any moment."

Natasha hadn't even realized she was doing that, and given that there wasn't much that her body did without her express knowledge and consent, she found it to be more than a little frustrating. Sure, she had known she was sitting a bit more on edge than usual, but she hadn't known it was to a noticeable degree.

"Picking up on small details is sort of my thing," Bruce reminded her, "you know, being scientist and all...but I don't think anyone else caught on if you're worried about it, although to be frank you definitely aren't giving off friendly vibes."

That comment actually made her huff out a tiny laugh. "Well, your honesty is refreshing," she assured him, "but I think most people are just afraid of me and my bad vibes are just icing on that particularly murderous cake."

"Well, that makes two of us," Bruce assured her with a chuckle. "And I prefer chocolate by the way," he mentioned.

Natasha quirked an eyebrow up in honest confusion at his comment. "Excuse me?" she finally wondered aloud.

"On murder cakes, I prefer chocolate icing," he stated, as though it were the most obvious answer in the world.

It was small, but she released a real and tiny laugh at his comment, then she gave him an equally small smile before she glanced back at the sky. Neither of them spoke again for several minutes, though the air between them was much less awkward than it had been when he first arrived by her side. He would probably say it was the fireworks, which was probably a part of it, but not too many people could honestly make her laugh and his 'chocolate icing on the murder cake' had indeed amused her. It was a combination of the event, his calm demeanor, and his unexpected humor that made her glad that he had joined her.

Once more Natasha found her eyes drifting to his face; how he looked calm and serene with the colors cascading over his features. It was almost hard to believe that he was the same man who could Hulk out at any given moment if his heart rate elevated too much. Bruce's calmness was somewhat infectious and she actually felt herself start to relax a bit more just by watching him. Shades of blue, red, purple, and even green continuously flashed over his skin and in his eyes. She had never been able to fully relax, not like Bruce was in this moment, and she felt a little envious of him. She just didn't know how to do it after all these years, not completely, not even with Clint and his family. She did relax near them, but not nearly as much as normal people could or would, and she supposed she never really would manage that feat. It just wasn't something she was wired to do and she had accepted that a long time ago. This though, seeing the serenity on Bruce's face mixed with the splay of colors, this actually was calming. She supposed it was sort of like a placebo effect; the fireworks relaxed him and his relaxation helped her to do the same, and it was sort of both stunning and baffling at the same time.

Suddenly the resounding booms and bangs became all mixed together and much faster paced, drawing her back out of that calmed that Bruce had been exuding. It was like he realized without even looking at her that she was overly stiff again because his pinky finger brushed against her own and then rested there. She blinked several times in succession as she stared down at his finger and hers. It was weird and also the most simplistic method of an attempt to help she had ever bore witness to, yet it was one of the most effective ones to ever be used on her.

Natasha shifted her gaze from their barely touching fingers, to the array of colors on his face, then up to the spectacle in the sky. Bruce's technique to relax her, or rather his lack of technique, was flawless. She actually managed to enjoy the very end of the display; the many shapes and colors that spread throughout the night.

By the time the endless show finally came to an end, she realized that Bruce wasn't watching the fireworks, he was watching her with a tiny little smile. She took a sip of the fruity drink in her hand that wasn't resting against Bruce's and still he stayed quiet, not saying another word about her clear issue with the holiday tradition.

"Strawberry," she stated nonchalantly. She saw the completely baffled look cross his face and she smirked as she sipped the drink again before she inclined her head to the side again and expanded on it, "The flavor of icing I prefer on my murder cake."

Bruce let out a ridiculous little laugh that made her smile grow just a little larger. She glanced behind them when she heard her name and saw Clint flagging her down from within the crowd of people flowing inside.

Natasha saw Bruce glance back and look too before he spoke, "Looks like he needs to talk to you."

"Actually, he probably thinks he's rescuing me," she informed him with a chuckle.

"From what—who? From me?" Bruce questioned with both of his eyebrows raised upwards in surprise.

She released another tiny laugh and nodded her head. "It's a thing we do," she informed the scientist beside her, "if we think the other one is in a situation that they might not want to be in then—"

"Then you try to save them from it," Bruce finished as he grinned at her answer.

Natasha slipped off the railing and chuckled as she nodded her head. She moved to step away before she paused and glanced over at him again. "This probably isn't worth much to you, Doc, but I didn't actually need rescuing," she assured him before she moved inside towards Clint without waiting for a response.

And leave it to Clint to 'rescue' her and then abandon her less than a minute later when his wife called his cell phone. She might as well have just stayed on the balcony because once Clint was gone from her side, he was instantly replaced by a man who was tall, handsome, and one of the few people brazen enough to hit on her without fear or death or maiming; or perhaps he was the only idiot who wasn't aware of who she was.

She sipped at her drink, nodding her head to a story he was telling about some trip to Paris he went on. She assumed it was probably supposed to impress her, that maybe it might have impressed most other women, or at least got them interested in him.

Not Natasha.

She couldn't be less thrilled, but she also had nothing better to do besides listen and nod, and also ruin his night when she finally turned him down. That was at least something to look forward to.

The biggest surprise came only two minutes later when a small plate with chocolate cake appeared in between herself and the man. "I finally found that cake you asked for," came Bruce's voice.

And the cake had pink icing.

Natasha quirked both one eyebrow up and one corner of her lips up as she turned to look at Bruce. He had an incredibly dorky and shy smile adorning his face and she took the plate gratefully, barely nodding her head towards whoever her admirer had been before she stepped away with Bruce. She stealthily snatched two forks off a table they passed by with no one, not even Bruce, any the wiser.

"Thank you," she offered up as they made it to a secluded corner with a couch that wasn't occupied.

"Well, I assume you could have removed yourself if you had needed to," Bruce told her with a chuckle.

She smiled but she didn't deny that as she took a seat with the piece of cake. "I could have," she agreed before she gestured to the empty spot beside her, "you're not going to make me eat it alone, are you?"

"I prefer chocolate," Bruce reminded her with a smile.

She offered up one of the two forks before she used her own fork to take a small bite, and then she saw him chuckle again before he accepted the fork, took the seat beside her, and also took a bite of the cake.

"Not bad," he admitted.

Natasha smiled as she took a second bite. "Well it is cake from a Stark party and we all know that man spares no expense with—well with anything really," she pointed out.

Bruce released another laugh at her comment. "That's true enough," he agreed.

They shared the piece of cake in silence, though she did eat a lot more if it than Bruce did. She could see Clint's surprise when he returned to the room and found her once again in Bruce's company and this time sharing cake with him. She saw him about to wave her over again but this time she gave the most microscopic shake of her head before he could. Again he looked surprised but he shrugged it off and wandered off to rescue Steve next who was looking horribly uncomfortable with a harem of women around him. She snickered at the view and Bruce followed her gaze.

The scientist grinned and laughed at Steve's red face before he spoke, "You know, if there's one good thing about turning into a giant green rage monster it's that it makes it impossible for that to happen to me."

"What? You don't want a harem, Doc?" she questioned before she took the final bite of the cake.

Natasha swore he actually grimaced at the thought of it and she laughed. "That's a terrifying thought..." he assured her with a sigh, "Steve doesn't stand a chance in this time, poor guy. No offense, but women now are—"

"Forward? Independent?" she offered up with a chuckle, "Insane?"

Bruce laughed again and shook his head, "All of the above."

Considering that she was all of the above and probably more, she figured she wasn't one to be disagreeing with the statement.

They were silent again, but still it wasn't entirely awkward between them and she was grateful for that. Usually a sudden silence would make things uncomfortable and yet...around Bruce she felt a bit more relaxed than she would around most other people.

So Natasha said the one thing that neither of them expected, "It is the noise." She saw him look to her in surprise and she shrugged. "It sounds like..."

"Gunfire, explosions," Bruce offered up for her.

She gave a half-nod. "And the way you actually feel it in your chest...I don't like that feeling," she explained.

"Then why did you stay? The lab is sound proof..." Bruce reminded her with a baffled expression.

"If I didn't do things just because they made me feel a certain way then I wouldn't exactly be very good at my job," Natasha pointed out with a shrug.

Bruce's brow was wrinkled as he studied her. "This isn't a job,'s a party," he informed her, "you don't have to pretend around the team and you don't have to pretend around your friends."

She blinked a few times at him and tilted her head to the side before one side of her mouth quirked up into a slanted and teasing smile. "Bruce...are you saying we're friends?" she questioned with an equally teasing voice.

Bruce gave her that awkwardly shy smile and he just shrugged, obviously not sure if he should answer that with a yes or a no, probably afraid she might not talk to him again if he called them 'friends'. She felt her phone buzzing as she slipped it from the tiny bag she held. She glanced at it, at Fury across the screen, and then across the room at Clint as he held his phone and was looking back at her. That meant it was important.

"Well, I usually require at least two pieces of cake before I agree to friendship," she joked as she stood up with the phone in hand, "but I suppose I can make an exception just this once."

It worked because he laughed and shook his head before she turned and eased her way through the crowd and out of the party.

Natasha supposed if she had to have friends, the Avengers weren't the worst group she could have wound up with, and they were surprisingly easy to be around. She assumed it was just Clint that made them easier to be around, but as she glanced through the door at Bruce still hiding in the corner, she realized it wasn't just Clint.

Right before she could call Fury back, a voice interrupted her, "Romanoff, did I just see you share cake with Bruce?" Natasha turned to look at Tony behind her and quirked an eyebrow up. "You actually know how to share?" he asked next.

And then there was the part of the team that made her want to gouge out her eyes. Yet Tony Stark and his idiocy and asinine behavior also made things a lot simpler. It gave the entire group something to roll their eyes about. Well, hell...Natasha was pretty sure she actually sort of liked Tony as a person these days.

Then she noticed the piece of cake he was slowly shifting behind his back and he shrugged, "Don't even think about it, Red."

"Yeah—I wouldn't dream of sharing cake with you, Stark," she informed him as she flipped her phone open and walked away. "Be more like a nightmare anyways," she murmured, just loud enough to be sure he heard her.

Natasha heard him laugh as he stepped back into the party.

Just because the man was beginning to grow on her certainly didn't mean she had to admit it to him.

Not sure where the thought came from. I just rolled with it. Hope you liked it!