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Warning: Use of safeword.

AN: For luuv2shop, written for the "taking care of somebody" square of my hc_bingo.


Maria comes into Pepper's office to tell her she's fired the contractor laying the wiring in the South Korea outpost. Pepper looks up before she can even open her mouth and asks, "Why'd you fire my contractor?"

"Because he asked to speak to my boss three times, and the fourth time said, 'listen, sweetheart, I realize you have the authority to talk with me, but it's really essential that I talk to someone who understands this stuff.' So I exercised my other authority."

Pepper blinks. "That actually explains a lot."

“And for the record, I understand wiring circuitry just fucking dandy.”

Pepper raises an eyebrow. Maria says, “Yeah, sorry, woke up this morning to a call from an old friend who’s gotten himself in some trouble and things pretty much went downhill from there.”

‘An old friend’ is their not-so-hard to crack code term for Nick. He’d needed information she wasn’t keen on giving him, torn between her loyalty to him and to Tony and Pepper which, at this point, is formidable. She gave him over to Skye in the end, content that if Skye could hack the info, she deserved to have it.

The dull weight between her shoulder blades of having been a disappointment to someone important to her is annoying, but she’s a professional at ignoring it.

Pepper asks, “Should we cancel tonight?”

There’s no judgment in the question, no indication that it will be her fault if they don’t get this one evening they’ve managed to carve out for the three of them, the first one in over a month. Maria knows, though, that Pepper and Tony will be disappointed. Hell, Maria will be disappointed. And she can’t be the one to cause that. “No, absolutely not.”

Pepper tilts her head, openly considering Maria for a moment. She nods. “All right. Then I’ll be seeing you in about four hours.”


One of the few times where Pepper’s lists of wants/needs in a scene directly conflicts with Tony’s hard nos is in the area of bondage. Pepper likes her ropes and scarves. Maria has allowed Pepper to bind her once or twice while Pepper dommed Tony into taking care of Maria. It’s nice, relaxing, even if the bondage itself doesn’t do much for Maria one way or the other. It’s not what they’re trying tonight.

Maria looked into ideas that were alternatives to bondage but might at least be fun for all of them. And found that predicament bondage is far more about the predicament than the bondage. In turn, predicament play is all about just how good Tony can be, and when she’d pitched it that way, Tony had fondly called her a conniving superspy assassin lady. She hadn’t taken it seriously, because all of his blood was clearly diverted at the time.

She did mention that she wasn’t an assassin. Being grouped in with Natasha Romanova is hardly an insult.

Maria comes up with the plan, but she lets Pepper carry it out. Maria’s always liked watching, but with these two it’s quickly becoming her number one on the “yes, please,” list.

Tony starts naked. Sometimes Maria will undress him, but Pepper prefers him ready. Maria takes a moment to savor Pepper in her matching panties and bra. Black lace, classic but also somehow fashion-forward. Probably a brand: for Maria, clothes are about what they express to others. She knows brands to the extent that she has to, but Pepper knows them inside and out, for her own pleasure.

Pepper says, “Feet shoulder-width apart.”

Tony stays where he is, smirking at Pepper. She, in turn, looks around him to ask Maria, “Would you like to do this part? Seeing as how I’ll get to play the rest of the evening?”

Maria smiles. She does so love taking Tony down. She undoes the button on the jeans she wore over and steps out of them, stripping her t-shirt over her head. Tony looks at the mildly-vintage apparel she’s gone with, needing a little something for herself, a type of preparation to bring her down into the scene.

Tony says, “Pink? Really?”

Maria steps into his space. “I like pink.”

She has him on his knees in one move, nothing too rough. She’s learned to tell the upticks in his breath, what he likes, what scares the piss out of him. He’s good with this. She’s behind him, her hands cuffs on his wrists. She says, “Word.”


She grins and then bites at the skin where his neck meets his right shoulder. He tenses up and whimpers. She stops just short of breaking the skin and licks over the marks, kissing at them. “You can say ‘mistress’ when you’re ready to be a good little sub for Pepper.”

He swears at the next bite, and Maria lets go of one arm to swat at his dick. “Language.”

He doesn’t move his arm, which tells her he’s closer than he’s admitting. A third and his breath comes out in a high note, but he stays silent. A fourth and he’s muttering under his breath. A fifth and he says, “I’ll be good. I’ll be good, mistress.”

“Mm. You are. You are very good.” She kisses him, sucking softly at all the marks before she lets him go. She stays seated, leaning back onto her arms and crossing her legs in front of her. Pepper throws her an appreciative smile before coming over to press her fingers into a couple of the marks. Tony pants, but stays where he is.

She says, “On your feet, shoulder width apart.”

And sure enough, he glides into position. She hums with pleasure. “Hands behind your head. I expect you to keep them there.”

“Yes, mistress.”

She ties rope around the base of his testicles and lets it drop to the floor, where she adds weights. The weights rest on the floor so long as Tony stays still.

She says, “Inhale,” and when he follows the order to, “Exhale,” she fits one nipple with an alligator clamp, then repeats the process on his other nipple. Once clamped, she adds some weight to those as well. They will pull slightly while he is still. Moving, they will cause considerably more pain.

Pepper stands facing him and tilts his chin up until his eyes meet hers. She says, “Don’t move.”

Tony’s smart; he knows damn well it’s a trap. He says, “Yes, mistress.”


Of course, Tony can’t stay still. Not with Pepper tickling the backs of his knees, applying tiny shocks to his ass, pegging him sweet and slow but deep. Maria watches, heavy-lidded, her hand somewhat distractedly rubbing over the silk of her panties.

Tony goes up on his toes with one particularly intense thrust in and keens as the weights pull at his balls, the ones on his nipples swinging. Pepper laughs quietly. “What’s this? I thought you were going to be my good boy.”

Maria’s breath goes short and she’s saying, “Sword,” before she even realizes she’s speaking. She rolls onto her hands and knees, trying to get oxygen. She hears them rustling around in the background, Pepper saying, “Hang on, Maria, I’m just getting Tony untied.”

It’s fuzzy, though, around the yelling of her father, her drill instructor, even Nick at one point or another, although he was at least adult enough not to call her useless.


Never good enough.

What’s this? And for a moment there, I thought you might actually do something right.

Maria can’t even remember when her father used that last one. No, that’s a lie, she can remember perfectly. She doesn’t want to, though. She’s tired of hearing his voice. She left that house nearly twenty years ago, it’s well past time he shut the hell up.

“Breathe, Maria, c’mon,” that’s Pepper. Fuck, Tony’s probably still in subspace, and if he’s not the drop is going to be--she’s screwed this up, too. Just like she does with everything, just like--

Pepper grabs her face and makes her look at her. “Maria. Breathe in, two, three. That’s right, that’s it. Good, now out, two, three, four, five. In, two, three. Out, two, three, four, five.”

Maria loses track of how long Pepper counts breaths for her. When she finally catches her breath, Tony speaks up, saying, “You’re in Avengers Tower, it’s eleven o’clock at night, or twenty-three hundred, depending on who you ask, it’s a Thursday night. Pepper and I are here, and you’re safe.”

Maria grounds herself in the sensation of Peppers fingers against her skin, the too-soft carpeting beneath her knees. She draws a deep breath in, closing her eyes, and opens them on the exhale. “Sorry. I--sorry.”

“You would kill me if I said sorry for safewording,” Tony tells her, incredulous. “And you might try with Pepper. Maybe.”

Maria feels exhausted in every muscle, joint, and bone in her body. “I wanted tonight.”

She’s semi-aware that’s not a complete thought, but it feels like it should be. Tony tells her, “There’ll be others.”

The relief that rushes through her at that easy response is painful, sickening, and thoroughly embarrassing. If they notice, neither of them mentions it. She tells Pepper, “You need to--he’s gonna drop.”

Pepper shakes her head. “I brought him down while I was getting him free. You were, ah--”

“Freaking out,” Maria fills in for her.

“In the attack,” Pepper corrects, “for longer than I’m comfortable with.”

Maria twists free and runs a hand over her face. “Yeah, sorry. I’m gonna just--”

“She means that she’s not okay with how long it took us to get to you.” Tony looks at Pepper. “I thought we only hired smart people. You told me--”

“Not now, Tony.”

It’s anchoring, though, Tony’s refusal to treat her as fragile. Pepper looks at her and says, “Whoa there, let’s get you in the tub.”

Maria blinks at her a second before realizing she’s shivering, freezing. “Huh.”

Tony stands and saunters into the bathroom and she watches him, checking for signs of sub-drop, but Pepper must have taken enough time because if he’s not as grounded as he usually is after a good session, he’s at least solid-footed. It might have helped that he didn’t climax in the scene. Pepper says, “Up you go,” standing and bringing Maria with her.

She kisses Maria’s forehead. “Go, I’m going to make us some tea.”

Maria follows Tony numbly, glad her feet seem to be taking her of their own accord. The tub, which pours ridiculously fast, is nearly to the right level. Tony says, “Hey there, gorgeous. Can I undress you?”

Maria nods. It’s for the best. She doesn’t trust her coordination right now. It’s terrifying. She doesn’t think she’s ever had a panic attack before, not in combat, not in the actual moments that brought this one on. She’s aware that means something, but she’s not willing to dig too deeply. Tony and Pepper are each others’, and she’s convenient right now. She has to stop opening up as far as she has, letting so much of herself--

“There we go,” Tony says, guiding her into the tub and coming with her. “So much for your vaunted ninja-ness,” he says when she nearly slips, but is infinitely gentle in lowering her down.

“Never said I was a ninja,” she tells him shakily.

“Pish-tosh,” he responds, and normally she’d arch an eyebrow at that, but she closes her eyes.

“Can you” she asks.

“Not the request I usually get.” But he does, he talks about what he’s building and the problems with it, talks until Pepper joins them, making her sip a little of the tea and some water as well.

When they’ve gotten her out of the tub and she’s wrapped in more bath towels the size of Alaska than a normal Bed, Bath and Beyond carries, Pepper says, “I need to know what the trigger was, sweetie.”

Tony speaks up before Maria has to admit that she can’t handle basic childhood memories. “She didn’t like the suggestion that I was disappointing you.”

Maria looks over at Tony who smiles. “I know something about parentally-induced trauma.”

“And you’ve hacked my file,” she says aloud. It’s not the first time she’s thought about it, but now she knows.

“A number of them. And then some other stuff on you.” He shrugs, unapologetic. “You came to work for my company.”

She hears herself say, “He never beat me.”

“No,” Pepper says quietly. “That might have healed more neatly.”


They put her in the middle of the bed, which is a first. Pepper makes her finish the water and the tea. Tony tells her about trying to seduce Captain America to come back and take a break in looking for his brainwashed, probably-completely-crazy-one-time best friend. It’s not going well, which is unfortunate. She’d like to see Steve, see for herself he’s doing all right.

When they turn out the lights she’s tucked over Tony, Pepper at her back, and every logical instinct tells her she should feel trapped. She feels warm. She enough to fill the space, not too much or too little, just enough, just herself.

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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile