The next chapter! I'm sorry that it took me so long to write it, but I still wasn't feeling well in the past weeks. Next to that, my life is keeping me quite busy at the moment. I'll try to write the next chapter faster, I promise! Please let me know what you think of this chapter, it would be awesome! This time, they attend a party and meet someone from Tony's past. Next to that, the riddle who's giving information about everything away is still very present and keeps troubling everyone.

The song Tony and Pepper are dancing to is "Man" by Take That.
When I was writing the scene with Natasha, I had "Sexed Up" by Robbie Williams in mind.

I don't own the characters or places!


Pepper

From the outside, the location of the party looked like any other warehouse. Only the big sign above the entrance told us that this was a place where something happened. And of course the masses of people wanting to get in and waiting impatiently. They were all wearing the finest clothes and now I was glad that Daisy had given me this dress, even if I had my doubts about it before.

"Don't let the outside blind you." Tony whispered next to me and when I glanced at him, I noticed that he was smiling slightly. Again, my heart started to beat faster when I saw how handsome he was and I had to hold myself back, otherwise I would have surely kissed him in front of all those people. No one had recognized us yet, but I knew it wouldn't stay like that for long...

"So you've been here before?" I asked to distract myself.

He nodded and looked around. "But only for work. Far too expensive otherwise." I knew that he wasn't just looking at our surroundings, but also looking for possible threats. Were they expecting another attack this evening and with so many people around?

"What are you looking for?" I tried to let it sound casual.

Tony chuckled. "I think you already know that." He glanced at me and quirked an eyebrow.

I nodded slowly. "But tonight?"

"When they're as good as we think, the risk is there." He whispered. "They know about all our plans. And it has been openly announced that you'll be at this party."

I swallowed. "But they wouldn't try anything with so many people around, right?"

"Better safe than sorry." Tony said simply. "Don't worry, Pepper. Everything will be fine."

Suddenly, Rhodey appeared next to him. "It has three entrances." He explained quietly.

"One more than last time." Tony muttered and ran a hand through his hair. "The others?"

"Loki and I will go in with you. Steve and Bucky will keep their eyes open. Just be careful and have a look at your phone. They'll text us if something happens." Rhodey smiled at me. "Relax, Pepper. You look as if something bad is going to happen."

I breathed in deeply, but it wouldn't really work. "Can you blame me for being worried?"

"Honestly? No." Rhodey shook his head. "But you're running for President and invited to one of the most exclusive parties in New York. Now look excited!"

"He's right." Another voice whispered into my ear and I tensed, but it was just Daisy. "Enjoy yourself, Pepper. This is going to be so much fun!"

"It will be!" Suddenly, Jim and Paul also joined our circle. "This is so cool!"

"Where's Rebecca?" I asked, even if I already knew the answer.

"She wanted to stay behind at the hotel." Daisy explained. "She refused to talk to me, saying that we're all awful. I hope she'll be better again soon. Otherwise, the next months could be very exhausting."

"And Phil?" Tony threw in. Until now, I didn't even notice that he was missing. We'd come with two cars, Phil and my team hadn't been with us on our way here.

"Also stayed at the hotel." Jim explained. "We don't know why, though."

I noticed that Tony frowned at this, but then we'd arrived at the door and I couldn't think of it any longer. Because suddenly, people started to recognize me and got really excited. We all forced smiles on our lips and then we were inside the building. From the corner of my eyes, I saw that Loki had also joined us, but I really couldn't tell when that happened.

Daisy hadn't been exaggerating when she mentioned that this party would be huge. I didn't even try to count how many people were there or how many famous faces I saw. It was overwhelming. Luckily, the others stayed close to me until we found a small table not too far away from the bar and the dancefloor. Jim and Paul excused themselves to go dancing immediately, but all others stayed seated for now.

I knew that Tony, Rhodey and Loki were looking at everything closely and needed some time to decide if everything was alright for now. Tony leaned closer to me. "Whatever happens, stay close to one of us." He said loudly and it was difficult to understand his words with the loud music.

I nodded seriously. Loki stood up and said that he wanted to look around for some time. When he vanished in the crowd, I decided to use the moment to ask Tony something. I wasn't sure how much time we had left before someone would come to talk to me. "You looked surprised when Daisy said that Phil wouldn't come."

"It's nothing." He replied, too fast for my liking. "I'm sure he has more important things to do than to join us here. And he doesn't like parties, does he?"

I shook my head. "That's also why he didn't join us on that charity gala back in LA." I explained. "I just don't understand why he didn't tell me. Just like Rebecca. She's really strange today."

"Didn't you say that it's just the stress?" He repeated the words I'd used earlier.

"Most probably. She wants everything to be perfect." I smiled slightly. "We're crossing her plan."

Tony laughed at this. "Well, such things happen."

I smiled back at him, even if I still couldn't understand why Phil and Rebecca stayed behind. Well, or Phil, to be more exact. Because he'd been dressed for the party and he'd accompanied us downstairs at the hotel. What changed?

Suddenly, a young woman appeared at our table and smiled at me widely. Apparently, she was a singer (not that I knew her) and was a really big fan of mine. It also turned out that she knew quite a lot about politics. We talked for a while. She was nice and I liked her, though I didn't understand her name above all the noise. I glanced at Tony and Rhodey from time to time, but they seemed to be talking about something quietly. Luckily, the women in the room didn't notice Tony yet. With how handsome he looked tonight, it wouldn't be a surprise if many of them wanted to dance with him. I didn't like that thought at all.

When the woman left about ten minutes later, I turned to Tony and Rhodey, just to find them watching something with dark expressions on their faces. "Everything alright?" I asked and raised my eyebrows.

Tony nodded. "Yeah, just saw someone we know. Nothing serious."

I followed their gaze and noticed that they were watching someone at the bar. A very beautiful woman, to be exact. She was tall, with long, curly red hair and green eyes. To that, she was wearing a very tight black dress. From the looks of it, she seemed to work here and handed drinks to people. I couldn't help asking myself how they knew her.

"That's Natasha." Rhodey explained while Tony just stared at the woman darkly. "We've been friends many years ago."

"Friends..." Tony muttered. "If you want to call it that..."

"She's also Tony's ex." Rhodey told me, which explained his strange behaviour. "They didn't part for good."

"Do you have to tell her that?" Tony groaned and looked at me apologetically. "I really didn't know that she would be here today. I didn't see her in ages."

"I think nearly six years." Rhodey threw in.

I glanced at the woman again, now with the information that she was Tony's ex. Six years was a long time and I tried not to feel jealous, but I couldn't help it. She was really beautiful and seemed to know it. It didn't seem like she noticed us yet, but somehow, I knew that it wouldn't stay like that forever.

Under the table, Tony reached for my hand. "Just ignore her. I will do that." He grimaced. "I really don't want to talk to her."

"So you're not happy to see her again?" I asked carefully.

He laughed. "Hell, no! I think she told me that she never wants to see me again back then."

"The other way around. You told her that, Tony." Rhodey smiled slightly. "Not that I blame you after everything she said to you."

"Let's not talk about that." Tony cut in before I could ask more questions. "Would you like to dance, Pepper? Because I would love to. Now come on, let's go." Before I could say anything, he grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the dancefloor, leaving an amused looking Rhodey behind.


Dancing with Tony was surprisingly easy. We moved together in sync effortlessly and I really liked the feeling of his hands on my waist. It was a slow song and all around us, other couples were also moving together slowly. Sometimes, I thought that I could see others pointing at us from the corner of my eyes, but I decided to ignore it. There was nothing wrong with us dancing together. Colleagues did that from time to time. However, there were already rumours about Virginia Potts and Robert Smith...

"Stop worrying." Tony whispered into my ear. "They're not just looking at us. Or didn't you notice Lady Gaga dancing with this actor – what was his name? Bradley something? – close to us?" His eyes were shining and I wasn't sure if he was serious or if it was a joke to cheer me up.

"You know that it's not that easy!" I hissed.

"We're on a party. You should enjoy yourself."

"There's too much going on for that." I replied and tried to keep the smile on my lips. After all, no one should notice that we were having a serious conversation.

"Is this about my ex?" He asked and I could see the concern in his eyes, even if he tried to hide it. "About that -"

"It's not your fault that she's here." I threw in. "It's the situation in general."

"Nothing will happen today. Now let's stop thinking about it." He tightened his grip on my waist and pulled me closer so that I couldn't see his face anymore. Which forced me to concentrate on us dancing together. A nice feeling, to be honest.

After another slow song, the music changed. It was an interesting song and I'd never heard it before. It was different from the usual music they were playing everywhere. I liked it. To my surprise, Tony knew the band. I didn't expect him to listen to this kind of music. We moved to the music and I had to admit that it was fun, dancing with Tony. It made me forget all my worries for now.

But at some point, the song ended and that took me back to reality. We returned to our seats. Loki was also back and I smiled at him, but he didn't return the gesture. Instead, he leaned closer to Tony and said something into his ear. Tony tensed and nodded shortly. "There's something going on outside." He said to me. "We'll have a look at it. Rhodey will stay with you. Don't leave his side, understood?" He was still smiling calmly, but the look in his eyes was deadly serious.

I nodded. "Alright."

"Promise?" This small question made me feel uneasy, but I tried to hide it.

"I promise." Only now did Tony relax again. He exchanged a look with Rhodey before he vanished in the crowd together with Loki.

"What's going on?" I asked and Rhodey smiled soothingly.

"Nothing serious, Steve just thinks that he saw something strange. Most probably, it's nothing."

I wasn't convinced by that, but I nodded anyway. Soon, Daisy, Jim and Paul returned to our table. They'd been dancing together and all looked out of breath. "It's so cool here!" Daisy exclaimed. "I think I saw Lady Gaga!" She began to list all the celebrities she'd seen in the crowd. Sometimes, Paul and Jim also added names to that list. I was surprised. While I'd been dancing with Tony, I didn't notice a single face I should know. Well, maybe because I'd only been looking at him, as always when he was around...

"We'll get us drinks. What do you want?" Jim ripped me out of my thoughts and I told him to get me something without alcohol. Somehow, I had the feeling that I would need all my senses this evening.

As soon as the others left – I thought that it would take them a while to return since there were far too many people waiting at the bar – someone else sat down on the now empty chair next to me. When I saw who it was, I froze and Rhodey's eyes also widened. However, he remained calm.

"I hope this seat isn't occupied at the moment?" Tony's ex, Natasha, asked politely and smiled at me.

"Good to see you again, Nat!" Rhodey greeted her, saving me from an answer. However, the tone of his voice made it obvious that he wasn't thrilled to have her here. "You're working here?"

She nodded. "I've been doing that for a while now." She smiled sweetly. "You would know that if you'd ever have called."

Rhodey sighed. "It's not that easy and you know it."

"Do I?" She raised her eyebrows. "But I'm impolite. Let me introduce myself. I'm Natasha Romanoff. You must be Virginia Potts, it's a pleasure to meet you. I've been following your political career for a while now and I have to say that it's impressing." She held out her hand and after half a second of hesitation, I took it and smiled back at her politely.

"Nice to meet you. So you know Rhodey?" I didn't mention Tony on purpose.

She nodded. "Rhodey, Tony, the whole team. We've been very close once." She smiled widely. "I assume he's gone for work again? That always happens with him. He doesn't know when to stop."

"We're not here for fun." Rhodey threw in. "But I think you already knew that."

"You could have fun anyway. After all, this is the best party in the whole city." She grinned. "I think I also saw Tom? I didn't know that he's also involved in your job." She emphasized the word job and looked directly at me.

"You know that I can't talk about it." Rhodey said simply. "Don't you have to go again?"

"It's my break, so no. I'd like to stay if you don't mind." She raised her eyebrows at me. "So they're keeping you safe? Shouldn't you have other people for that? I mean, you're running for President. I'm sure there are dozens of people looking after you. Why Tony and his team? Why pretending that he's a politician?"

"Natasha." Rhodey muttered warningly.

"I'm sorry, but I think that's none of your business." I said sweetly and smiled. "So I can't answer those questions."

She rolled her eyes. "Always so many secrets." Natasha crossed her arms. "It's always like that with Tony. You should get used to it." When I didn't reply and just frowned at her, Natasha laughed dryly. "Oh come on, don't tell me you didn't notice! Did he ever talk about his past to you? Because I don't know a single fact about it and we've been together for over a year. It was infuriating." I could see the pity in her eyes when she smiled at me. "He's got far too many problems. Let me give you an advice. Once you don't have to work with him anymore, run away as fast and far away as possible."

I stared at her. "What should that mean?" Slowly, I understood why the others weren't thrilled to see her. She was awful!

"Actually, I've been wondering why he isn't drunk yet. Normally, that always happens when he's in a place like this."

"Natasha!" Rhodey hissed sharply. "That's enough!"

She just glanced at him, but ignored his comment. "He can also be incredibly melancholic. I would have loved to know why. He never said a thing." She shrugged, telling me that she didn't really care about it anymore. "He's very handsome, though." Suddenly, she leaned closer and whispered into my ear. "And good in bed. No surprise, though. With that much experience."

I knew that she wanted to provoke me and tried to stay calm. However, it didn't work that well. The way she was talking about Tony made my blood boil. I breathed in deeply and forced myself not to make some kind of comment. She wasn't worth it. How could Tony have ever been with her?! I didn't get it. I tried to calm myself down with the fact that I knew everything about Tony's past. He'd told me all of it. He trusted me.

"That must have been hard for you, not knowing anything about him." I said simply and couldn't stop myself from putting some pity in my voice.

Only the fact that her eyes narrowed slightly showed me that my words affected her in some way. Suddenly, all my senses were on alert and I knew that I'd just made a mistake. I couldn't reveal my relationship with Tony! "Especially when you were this close. You know, we're keeping things professional, Tony and me. So it doesn't really bother me that I don't know anything about him."

When she relaxed again, I knew that my lie had worked – at least for now. I had to be more careful around this woman.

"Oh look, the others are coming back!" Rhodey said in this moment and pointed at Daisy, Jim and Paul who were coming back with our drinks. I felt relief wash over me and really hoped that Natasha would leave.

When the others noticed our new companion, they all frowned, but didn't say anything. Of course my friends could sense the tension between the three of us. Natasha stood up slowly. "It was so nice to meet you." She told me with a wide smile and then she vanished in the crowd without another word.

Daisy stared at us. "Who was that?"

"Tony's ex." I muttered. "I really don't want to talk about it." I glanced at Rhodey. "Do you think she believed it? That there's nothing between Tony and me?"

"I think so." Rhodey muttered. "But it also depends."

I frowned. "On what?"

He sighed. "From what I know, she's off to find Tony now." I tensed at this and Rhodey placed a hand on my arm. "Don't worry, he'll surely just tell her to screw herself." The idea of her close to Tony made me incredibly angry.

However, I didn't get a chance to think of that. Because suddenly, others joined us at our table and to my surprise, I knew some of them. Mostly politicians, of course. We started a conversation and soon, I was able to forget Natasha for now.


Tony returned to our table nearly an hour after he left. He wasn't looking happy, but was able to hide it easily. When the others at the table greeted Robert Smith, he slipped into that role with ease. Soon, he was talking about politics and the campaign as if he was never doing anything else. Luckily, our companions left soon after that and we were alone.

"What happened?" Rhodey asked immediately.

"Two things. However, one is the bigger problem." Tony muttered. "We should leave."

"But it's far too early for that!" Daisy protested quietly. "People will ask questions."

"Then let them talk. Pepper has to get out of here."

"Tony, what happened?"

"Steve got attacked." He said quietly so that only Rhodey and I could hear him. "He's fine, don't worry. But I think they knew exactly who he was when they chose him."

"We have to get out of here." Rhodey agreed without hesitation.

"Where are the others?" I asked.

"Bucky is watching us from a safe distance and Tom is organizing our way out and back home." At this, his lips twitched. "I hope you're not afraid of the dark."

"Tony, what are you planning?" Slowly, I was getting nervous.

"Just trust me, Pep." He whispered and I nodded. Of course I trusted him.

"Oh no, not that again." Rhodey muttered. Apparently, he already knew what Tony was planning. "I hate it when he does that."

"What are you talking about?" Daisy threw in. "You're whispering and don't tell us anything."

"We'll leave." I told them. "They have a plan. Something happened."

"I'll tell you back at the hotel." Rhodey said before the others could ask questions.

"The restrooms are close to the way out." Tony explained to all of us. "Once we're there, the lights will go out for a few moments. That's our cue to leave."

"I understand why you hate that plan." I told Rhodey and followed the others through the crowd when Tony gave us the sign to leave. He didn't mention the second thing that happened while he was gone, but I could easily figure out what it was. So Natasha had found him.

Leaving the building unnoticed was surprisingly easy. Outside, Loki and Steve were already waiting for us in front of a black van. I noticed that Steve's lip was split, but otherwise, he seemed to be fine. "It's nothing." He explained when he noticed my eyes on him and smiled. "I just didn't see the first punch coming."

"Doesn't make it better." I muttered but smiled back at him. I looked at the car sceptically and glanced at our surroundings. Surprisingly, we were the only people out here.

"I couldn't get anything else. Now get in!" Loki muttered and took my hand, pulling me towards the van urgently. I followed him and couldn't help noticing that Tony glanced at our joined hands with a weird expression on his face.

Once we were all inside the car, Loki began to drive through the streets of New York as fast as possible without attracting any attention.

"What was that?" Daisy demanded to know.

"The best way to get out of there." Tony said simply and ran a hand through his hair. I noticed that he looked tired now. "They knew that Pepper was here."

"No surprise, it was announced openly." Jim noted.

"They attacked you?" I asked Steve.

He sighed, looking quite embarrassed. "That was my fault. I wasn't attentive in that moment. Otherwise, this would have never happened." He pointed at his split lip.

"The guy who did this paid for it." Bucky smiled slightly. "Steve made sure of that."

"He escaped anyway, if you might haven't noticed that." Steve muttered unhappily.

"We should have never come here." Daisy looked at us apologetically. "I'm so sorry for accepting that invitation without your consent."

"It's fine." I smiled at my best friend, even if I could have lived without getting to know Tony's ex.

"I wonder what they would have done if they didn't meet Steve and me beforehand." Bucky threw in. "With so many people around, they couldn't have just attacked Pepper."

"Maybe waited until she's alone?" Rhodey asked. "And act then?"

"By now, they should know that we're not letting her alone." Tony muttered. "I don't like all this. They're still far too close to us. They know about all our steps!"

"Tonight was no surprise, though." Steve threw in.

"Not that." Tony agreed. "But everything else!" He didn't try to hide his frustration. "We have to find out where they get all the information!"

"There aren't many people who know about our plans." Loki threw in. "Maybe we should think of it again."

"We're doing nothing else... But alright. Let's get through the facts again tomorrow." Tony agreed.

"There's our shopping trip." Daisy muttered. "I'd understand if you don't want to join us there, Pepper."

"No, you can go." Tony said before I could reply. "We'll discuss this ourselves."

"But don't you all need to be there for the discussion?" I asked. "That's not possible when one of you comes with us."

"I'll come with you." Bucky said simply. "You can tell me about the discussion afterwards." He said to the others and I noticed the look of relief on Tony's face, mixed with gratefulness.

"So that's settled. Now we've just got to collect the doubles and then we'll head to the hotel. Afterwards, I'll let you two out at your place, Tony." Loki announced loudly.

"Thanks, Loki." Tony smiled at his friend. Again, I noticed how tired he looked. To be honest, I could also use some sleep. However, I knew that it wouldn't be possible without knowing what Tony's ex wanted from him.