They were friends, but Natasha rarely called Pepper. Categorical distrust of cell phones. Pepper didn't even have a picture associated with her number; just the anonymous silhouette. She'd had a picture for Natalie Rushman, but that had been a cover identity. Using it for Natasha was like… using a picture of Tina from Accounting before the gender-reassignment surgery.

Pepper waited until she was indoors, out of the muggy Miami night and into the blessedly stark interior of her apartment building, where the AC was set to a permanent 55 like they wanted people to wear furs inside. She answered as she moved for the elevator. "Hello Nat. Business or pleasure?"

"Always a pleasure," Natasha replied, terse for her, "but business. Do you still have superpowers?"

Pepper stepped inside, hit her floor, and leaned heavily against the wall. "If you're asking whether I'm still struggling with a debilitating medical condition, the answer is yes."

"Good. Come down to the Roxxon shipping yards, I need you to beat up a guy in a mechanized rhinoceros suit." Natasha matched her snideness for snideness. "He'll be the one in the mechanized rhinoceros suit."

"Nat, I am not a superhero."

"Well, there aren't any other Avengers in Miami, your boyfriend blew up all his suits, and your crush brought down SHIELD. You're what I've got."

"First of all, I do not have a crush on Steve Rogers. Secondly, that was Tony's idea."

Natasha gave an affronted silence at Tony having ideas of his own. "Are you coming or do I have to drop a crane on this guy?"

The elevator opened on her penthouse. Pepper sighed. Her bed called longingly to her. "I don't want some dumb codename."

"You go by Pepper."

"That's a cute nickname. People have those. Nobody goes by 'Hawkeye' or 'Black Widow'. Not unless they're a G.I. Joe toy."

"Now I'm a G.I. Joe toy. I must really be getting Americanized. Please hurry." Natasha hung up abruptly.

Pepper went to her closet. What did one wear to a superhero fight?


"Bartender, could you turn that up, please?" Natasha asked, flashing an insidious smile, and he turned the volume up on the TV mounted above the bar, loud enough to be heard over as desultory a night as this one.

The bar was not at all what Pepper had imagined when Natasha had invited her out for drinks post-brawl; a country and western place with a population of shitkickers, truckers, and what looked like the Sons of Anarchy playing pool. Pepper guessed Clint had introduced her to the place.

She automatically tallied it in her head. There were no obnoxious fratboy shenanigans—everyone kept their heads down and respected each other's distance, the obvious signs Pepper and Natasha gave of taking the night off. Conversation was muted. Music was Willie Nelson. Beer was reasonably priced and not at all watered down. Natasha had ordered Pepper a bottle of something that smirked of Pennsylvania Dutch. It went down smooth and started a furnace-fire behind her gut. Pepper sipped as she watched the TV.

"As you can see here, dramatic footage of a battle between the Hate-Monger terror cell and Black Widow, foiling an attempt to bring knockoff Iron Man armor into the city of Miami, possibly from Cuba. However, the superhuman you see fighting alongside the Widow is not Iron Patriot or any of the Avengers, but Virginia Potts, the ex-girlfriend of Tony 'Iron Man' Stark…"

Some of the whiskey went down the wrong tube. Pepper hacked. "I run the damn company!"

Natasha shrugged. "At least they're not bringing up your nudes."

"I don't have nudes."

"Neither did I. But releasing SHIELD's secrets means releasing all SHIELD's secrets." Natasha stole Pepper's bottle again, poured into a line of shotglasses.

"And here we can see Ms. Potts—reportedly codenamed 'Rescue'—being hit by that mechanical rhinoceros, actually penetrating through a ship in drydock… I think we have another angle on that… yes, there, you can see her emerging from the other side of the ship, landing there on that car, now she's getting up and obviously, all of us at KLVX News are very pleased that she and Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow—"

"Natasha Romanova," the spy stressed. "How hard is it to get right? I'm a woman. My name ends in an A. How low do I have to pull my zipper?"

"—are both well, we've received word from the Avengers' press liaison that both are not seriously injured, though obviously they're not in a position to be making a statement just yet, we're expecting a press conference to be held in the morning once all the facts are in—that's Virginia Potts, CEO of Stark Enterprises and former girlfriend of Tony Stark…"

A file photo came up. It was seven years old; nowadays her breasts were about an inch lower.

"You look cute," Natasha said.

"Photoshop. See how I don't have any freckles?"

The newsreader went on: "Virginia Potts, of course, experimented on with the Extremis drug late last year during the Mandarin terror campaign, before being rescued by her then-boyfriend, Avenger Tony Stark…"

"How many times are they going to say you two dated?" Natasha needled.

"Wanna make a drinking game of it?"

"No, just wanna drink."

"Cheers."

And on: "We're told her condition is stable, but obviously many of the side effects of the Extremis treatment are still present. Can we roll that footage again? Yes, you can see here her actually breathing fire owing to her hyper-evolved metabolism, basically manipulating her own body heat like some species of beetles… we're going now to Dr. Kapoor at the studio in Atlanta, Dr. Kapoor, what can you tell us about Extremis?"

"You paid for the bottle, right?" Pepper asked Natasha.

"I smiled at a nice man and he paid for it…"

"Then let's take it and go."


Natasha's car drove itself. It was handy.

"Why aren't you and Stark seeing each other anymore?" Natasha asked after a swig from the bottle.

Undercover, Natasha could disseminate with the best of them, words like smoke signals from a cold fire inside her. The same way Pepper coded and placated and managed Tony, managed his messes, Natasha used words like scalpels, performances, cutting away parts of herself to be seen as nonthreatening, as uncompassionate, as whatever she had to be.

Ever since Pepper had found out Natasha was SHIELD, and even more impressively, let her keep her cover to deal with Hammer and Vanko, they'd done each other the respect of dispensing with the bullshit.

"I didn't like him putting his work ahead of me. Then I became his work. It wasn't the best fix for our relationship," Pepper said, laying her hand open on her lap in a subtle gesture for the bottle. Natasha wouldn't relinquish it until she was satisfied. Talks with her could be like poker games when the subject turned to business.

"Extremis?" Natasha asked coyly.

"I don't explode, but I still breathe fire. Call that fixed?"

"I've seen worse. Not that worse can't be useful…"

"I killed someone with it. That's about as 'worse' as it gets."

Natasha handed over the bottle. Pepper took a confrontational swig, knew her throat was glowing as the liquor burned its way down. She did that sometimes.

"It could be a good thing," Natasha theorized out loud, arranging her long legs under her body in the car's spacious interior. "Not having to worry about being kidnapped unless your kidnapper is fireproof. Useful for Iron Man's girlfriend."

Pepper gave her an unamused look. "He wanted to keep… tinkering. There are drawbacks, you see."

"Like what?"

"You don't know?"

Natasha shifted her head. "I try not to spy on people I care about. New Year's resolution. Knowing people's internet search history is a curse, not a blessing."

Pepper drank. Her whole chest burned. "It's embarrassing. Tell me about that time you and Clint had sex, so we're even."

"What makes you think we've had sex?"

Pepper raised an eyebrow.

Natasha gestured for the bottle, in a cocky way, like she would be showing the lightweight American how to drink. "Firstly, it wasn't my idea for him to grow a hot-ass goatee…"


Pepper couldn't actually see the footage on the laptop, standing in the doorway of her office. She just saw Natasha sitting at her desk, face lit up by it. They hadn't turned on the lights. Some things were easier in the dark.

She didn't need to see the footage either. She still remembered. It'd happened once before, so she'd agreed to let Tony wire the place with hidden cameras, scientific instruments, all moderated by JARVIS. It wasn't like she was being watched. It was like—the family dog was watching her undress. Still, she hadn't masturbated until that shower at the end of a long day.

She remembered the feel of cold ivory tiles as she leaned against the wall of the shower, then the hot water hitting her body—bliss. She'd stayed under the steaming water for long minutes before lathering her body with long, caressing strokes. The slippery film of imported soap felt almost as good as the massage from the showerhead.

She'd cupped her breasts as she rinsed them off, remembering with a smile the stunned look on Tony's face the first time he'd seen them, that nude beach in Brazil where he'd given her the day off, sure she wouldn't take off her bikini top.

Her nipples were tingling under the hot jets of water, the same way they had that day she'd taken it off—"Will that be all, Mr. Stark?"—and walked away, into the surf, knowing he'd never had her. Then, years later, the frenzy when he finally had.

Her hand had slid down her belly, slipping over the mixture of water and soap that ran from the shower spray. Her clit had been itching. She'd pinched it. Sat against the little shelf on the opposite side of the shower, full of hygiene products and razors, more of Tony's goop than her own. Her legs had spread. She'd opened her sex, letting the hot water wash over the pink lips, the sensation tantalizing enough before she used both her hands to open up the sensitive area.

"Ooooh," she'd moaned. The camera had picked it up, because Pepper could hear it coming from the laptop now. JARVIS had flagged it sensitive material; an understatement. She'd had to confirm three security checks before he'd let her show it to Nat.

Pepper knew what Natasha was seeing now. Her leaning back against the wall. No need to rub her clit anymore. Just let the steaming water do the job for her. Her mind wandering from the physics of the situation to a very well-versed imagination. Picturing a man kneeling on the floor of the shower. Eating her pussy as the water massaged her clit. Holding his head tight against her, cascading water scattering across her aching breasts before his hands grabbed, hot enough to dry them.

Then her ass moving in little circles against that shelf, Pepper not caring as a few bottles of salon conditioner hit the drain. Her pussy had boiled; her clit stung. Groans filled the shower as much as steam. Sharp skewers of water clawing at her breasts, relieving her stiff nipples even as they tortured them.

Then, the only reason Pepper had agreed to this. The moment Natasha had flashed through her mind. The mutual attraction they'd never acted on; too close to the unspoken desire she'd finally let out with Tony. People called Pepper orderly—she'd even queued up her fantasies. Now, the Tony option explored, she'd replaced the man with Natasha. Natasha, naked, knowing, understanding. Knew what to do with her pussy. Understanding how she wanted it eaten.

The thought of Natasha watching as Pepper masturbated to the thought of her—Pepper watching Natasha see it—it was too kinky to resist. Pepper committed the recursive sight to her photographic memory, the delicious question of whether Natasha realized or didn't… even the spy's famous poker face suddenly ambiguous. Unsure.

Then the rest of it had happened. No orgasm, just a snake's hiss as the shower water was suddenly pounding against red-hot skin, feet melting the metal drain to slag, turning the tile molten, Pepper screaming out of the shower, trying to calm herself down as her footsteps set the shower mat on fire, the towels, the bathroom.

Over and over again, the thought of exploding, even if she knew that was impossible. Tony rushing in, putting her out with a fire extinguisher that had actually helped no matter how undignified it had been, even as his presence made it worse—Pepper worrying that he'd be caught in the explosion, the worry making her emotions run hotter, her emotions making her body burn brighter.

After half-an-hour, Tony had unbuttoned his shirt, smeared with sweat. The bathroom had been burnt down to the bulkheads meant to protect it from attack, like every other room in the house. She'd finally been talked down. But even then, hearing Tony talk about fixing her, the detail of her masturbation an exciting new variable in his problem-solving process, she'd known the relationship was over. She couldn't be with him. She couldn't be with anyone.

Natasha shut the laptop. "Who were you thinking about?"

Pepper's head shot up from where it had hung. "Who…?" She'd been spoiled dealing with Tony. She had to remember he was very non-genius for a genius. Natasha couldn't build an arc reactor, but she was more intuitive. Had to be to survive.

"There's a little vein that throbs in your forehead when you're thinking about Tony. I can see it now. It wasn't there when you were touching yourself." Natasha spoke clinically, but not unsympathetically. It was a good 'low-affect' voice. The kind Pepper would've used to fire someone. "So who?"

"Obadiah Stane."

Natasha nodded.

"You knew?"

"I read up on you. Don't worry, it's not in the file." Natasha stood. "You had no social life to speak of. Your only long-term relationships were with him, Tony, Rhodes, and Hogan. Even on purely sexual terms, that limits your options. You weren't going to be another notch on Tony's bedpost. Rhodes was the best friend; he wouldn't. Hogan isn't your type. Stane's the only logical choice." Natasha tilted her head to the side, somehow conveying an acceptance of Pepper's reasoning, a girlfriendish 'let's dish' that was somehow mature. "Must've been alright if you still thought about it, after all this time. And him trying to kill you."

"Tony stopped being taboo around the time he got me—abstract art of a giant rabbit for Christmas. And you know how redheads are."

Natasha spread her hands. "SHIELD pulled that bunny out of the wreckage. We thought it was a sex thing."

"You guys thought Tony was some sort of furry?"

"We think Tony's some sort of everything. How practiced are you with rough trade?" Natasha asked seamlessly.

"Comfortable," Pepper answered reluctantly. "Don't tell me—"

"Yes."

"But we're—"

"Yes."

"You're—"

"Yes."

Natasha unzipped her catsuit. Underneath, a tanktop and boy-shorts. Pepper had always wondered.

"I still can't believe you wore that to a battle royale."

"If you're going to be on the news, it can't be in a sweatsuit."


Natasha moved fast. Even as Pepper convinced herself to strip down to her underwear—no further—Natasha had unplugged a lamp from the wall, then ripped its power cord out of the unit itself. She looped the cord around her shoulder. Went to Pepper's sock drawer, got out the discreet black box, opened it and took out the indiscreet, hot pink vibrator inside. Pepper didn't ask how Nat had known it was there.

Finally, she looked Pepper over. Apparently, she was adequate. Natasha shoved Pepper onto the bed. Took a pair of Flexicuffs from a thigh holster and did each of Pepper's wrists to the headboard. Pepper obligingly tried to pull herself free, but didn't have an inch of give.

"You know I could burn right out of these," Pepper said as Natasha shucked her underwear off for her.

"Don't," Natasha said warningly. She clicked the vibrator on. "I'm going to use this on you." The steady buzzing sound seemed so loud, Pepper was surprised it didn't drown her voice out.

The humming instrument touched Pepper's thigh. Pepper made a slight, conceding noise. "That feels nice."

"Wait until I get to your clit," Natasha told her, moving the vibrator steadily along Pepper's thigh. "Tell me, how did Stane first fuck you?"

Pepper bit her lip, closing her mouth tightly shut even as her legs opened a bit wider. The vibrator touched her pussy. Pepper felt herself clenching, but there was nothing inside her yet, just the tip of the dildo.

Pepper wiggled her hips, trying to coax the vibrator further in, but Natasha pulled her hand back. She'd rather stop than let Pepper weasel out of answering a question.

"Tell me everything," Natasha reiterated.

Pepper shuddered, no longer sure which she was anticipating more, the vibrator going inside or reliving the memories of her time with Stane, relaying them to Natasha, her dirty little secret smeared all over her.

"In Dubai—business deal—Tony ditched us to go parasailing—" Natasha teased the vibrator in exploratory circles, widening and narrowing it so it approached Pepper's throbbing clit from all sides, almost touching it, never touching it. Pepper hunched her hips up, trying to work her clit against the tormenting vibration. "Come on, you can't just touch my clit?"

"Tell me if you want me to fuck you," Natasha insisted, her voice level but with a bit of husk in it.

"I went to bed… I was wearing this nightie my last boyfriend had gotten me, really comfortable but just… way too slutty. I wasn't even wearing panties, I'd done some drinking with Obi and our host and when I went to bed I tried to masturbate." Pepper felt a smile work its way across her lips. Not the memory. The vibrator was getting closer to where she needed it. "I didn't put them back on… Stane came into my room. We'd flirted a bit at the meeting… he'd looked at me… fuck, Natasha, if you're going to touch that, keep it there!"

Natasha pushed the vibrator a little further into Natasha's cunt, a wet little sound as it was blunted in her dampness. "Then what?"

"Jesus, God, just five seconds—"

Natasha pulled the vibrator away. Left it humming an inch from Pepper's sex. "Then what?"

"He stood over my bed. Stared down at me. I tried to cover myself with my hands, but he got on the bed, took my hands away from my… from my pussy. I didn't say anything. He knew he had me. He just looked at me and I spread my legs and he went down on me. I didn't even realize what he was doing at first. Just… that it felt good… God, Natasha, put it back."

"Not yet. I want to touch you somewhere else first." Natasha lifted the vibrator to one of Pepper's stiff nipples. Pepper felt ripples going into her breast, into her body, down to flicker behind her clit. "You liked it. Him eating your cunt."

Pepper's ears burned, hearing Natasha use that word. Her whole body burned. "It felt so good… and looking down, seeing him licking my pussy so hard… oh God… he'd been waiting so long to do it, I knew, he loved how I tasted…"

Natasha pressed the vibrator to Pepper's other breast. "Then what did he do?"

"He just kept licking my pussy. I didn't want him to stop, but I couldn't get my brain to shut off. I started thinking of Tony, and what I would say to him, felt guilty, and I said… I said I was going to tell him…"

The vibrator wandered down Pepper's stomach, Natasha stopping it just above her cunt. Then she touched its tip to the aching little nub that had been demanding attention since they'd started.

"Oh God!" Pepper cried, feeling rapid tremors pouncing deeper into her body. "That's so good, that's so fucking good!"

"I know, Pepper." Natasha smiled a little condescendingly at her friend before taking the vibrator away. "What'd Stane do after you told him?"

"He slapped me, right across the face. It hurt, but, between my legs… in the pit of my stomach… I felt this heat and this excitement." Pepper closed her eyes as Natasha rewarded her honesty with another touch of the vibrator. "I don't know if he knew I'd like it or if, oh!, he didn't care. I threatened him again… he really slapped me… I was so turned on. He was too. I said I'd do whatever he wanted if he just didn't hit me anymore. But I meant… as long as he didn't stop hitting me…"

Pepper could feel the pleasure making its way through her, starting at her clit, racing through her nerves down to her curling toes, up to the beads of sweat on her forehead. She squeezed her eyes shut, saw her eyelids beginning to glow.

"I don't want you to come yet," Natasha said with that sensual mix of clinical detachment and voyeuristic enjoyment. "I'll put it back on your clit soon enough, but first I'm going to penetrate you with it."

Pepper nodded frantically. "Fuck me with it. Fuck me, Nat!"

Natasha moved the plastic shaft along Pepper's wet folds. "Did he keep hitting you, Pepper?" She stared into Pepper's eyes, coating the vibrator with Pepper's juices using only her sense of hearing. She'd wait until it sounded wet enough. "Did you like it?"

"God, bitch! You know I did. He told me to suck his cock—I didn't really know how, I wasn't some sorority girl… he made me stop sometimes, as I tried… slapped me around… told me to do better… God, I wanted him to fuck me." Pepper looked down at her body. Her fucking belly button was glowing. "Shit, Natasha, you'd better stop."

Natasha slapped her. So hard, her cheek burned hotter than Extremis. "We stop when I say we stop. Tell me what happened after you sucked Obadiah Stane's cock."

Pepper's teeth grinded together. "What do you think happened? He came! God, I almost choked, there was so much—he made me swallow all of it. And lick his cock and—thank him. For giving me all his… semen. I kept licking him until he got hard again—it didn't take long—kept squeezing my tits, ran his hands all over my body… my pussy. Sucked my tits… fuck, Natasha…!"

"No." With the hand that wasn't holding the vibrator, Natasha brought up the lamp cord she'd collected earlier. One-handed, she looped it around Pepper's throat and pulled it tight. "You're not allowed to burn. I'm letting you come, but you don't get to burn. Understand?" She pulled the cord tighter. "Understand me?"

Pepper nodded. For a moment, feeling the tightness around her neck, she'd really been afraid Natasha would hurt her. Kill her. She focused all her willpower on stopping the Extremis, cooling herself down. Then she felt the vibrator against her asshole.

"What are you doing? Fuck! You're going to make me burn up! I'm… I'm fucking burning all over!"

"You can come if you want," Natasha repeated, pulling the cord taut and then loosening it. "You just can't burn." She smiled in thought. "Wouldn't it be nice if we had two vibrators? I could put one in your pussy—another in that tight ass of yours."

Pepper's eyes rolled back in her head. She could just see it, imagine it. She was tingling all over.

Natasha was winding her finger around the cord. Getting a better grip on it. "Don't make me wait, Pepper. What did Stane do once he was hard?"

"He pushed me back on the bed, licked me all over, all over my body. Started at my toes, ended up at my neck, but he saved my pussy for last… after I was all wet for him… I came all over his face, but he didn't stop, he just kept licking until I'd come for him again and again and…"

Pepper tried to moan, tried to groan, but the cord was cutting everything off. Keeping it all inside. Even Extremis. She felt it burning inside her, but she could keep it contained, like a flame inside a lantern. It just burned so hot…

"Somehow he knew when I was ready. He said he was going to fuck me, and I was so turned on. I slapped at him, just enough to get him to hold me down… why don't you fuck me while I tell you how he did? I can show you how he made me come…"

The teasing vibrator moved back up, over Pepper's sex, but it didn't stop this time. Natasha pushed it in slowly, letting her eyes drop to its entry, jerking on the cord around Pepper's neck when her folds began to brighten.

"Please, Nat…" Pepper begged, moving her body forward as best she could to capture the buzzing tormenter. But only when the glow had faded did Natasha smile approvingly, loosen the cord, push more of the vibrator inside. "Yes… thank you…"

She moaned as the vibration sank, almost stilled inside her cunt, undetectable now except for the intense tremors she felt inside her, sending spasms up her stomach, as far as her breasts, where her nipples tightened like they were being crushed.

Pepper continued the story without being prompted. "His cock was so big… he pressed it against my pussy, I could feel how hard he was. I told him I couldn't take it—begged him not to fuck me. He laughed. Said he'd fuck me whenever he pleased. It was his right as my, as my boss…"

Wordlessly, Natasha pulled the vibrator almost all the way out of Pepper's cunt; immediately shoved it back in. Fucking her with it. Pepper cried out shrilly. She'd never felt anything like it before, like a cock, but so different, making her pussy quiver, her clit burn. She closed her eyes and thought only of controlling Extremis, letting her pleasure run rampant.

"He told me I'd better get used to being fucked by him! He was going to do it morning, noon, and night! Said he was going to make me suck him when I wasn't fucking him! Lying on top of me, holding my wrists above my head… told me to wrap my legs around him…"

Pepper was starting to glow again. Natasha pulled hard on the cord, making it bite into Pepper's graceful throat. She gagged and gasped, her nipples still erect, her pussy still wet as the Extremis died down. It turned Natasha on. She reached down to her itching clit, gave it exactly what she knew it needed. Drove the vibrator deeper into Pepper as she rubbed at her own burning clit.

"I said I wouldn't… he slapped me, slapped me so hard…"

Natasha's hand flicked away from her clit, lifting to Pepper's face and crashing hard against her cheek, then going back to her own pussy. The blow seemed to knock the words out of Pepper's throat.

"I put my legs around him! He fucked me! He tore me apart and it felt so good!"

Natasha saw her opening and she took it. She grabbed the cord with her left hand, masturbated herself with that palm, even though it pulled the cord around Pepper as tight as a noose. And she leaned over Pepper's cunt and placed her lips right above the vibrator her right hand was fucking Pepper with.

"Yes! Yes! Suck my clit! Fuck my cunt!" Pepper loved the taste of the dirty words, used her last breath to say them before the cord cut into her throat. She couldn't breathe, couldn't burn. She had control, but it was Natasha's, Natasha was making her come, Natasha wouldn't let her explode. The vibrator was a hard cock pumping wonderful vibration into her whole quivering body, the wet mouth on her clit was soft and still, she wanted to hold all of Natasha tight against her sex but her hands were still bound. The cuffs hadn't burnt. She wasn't burning.

Pepper felt Natasha's sharp little teeth clench on her clit just as she came, throwing fuel on a sudden, flameless fire. A soundless explosion. She let her body dance to the tune Natasha was whispering into her sex, clenching, tightening, flints deep inside her rubbing hard and fast, shooting out liquid sparks, but no flame. No smoke.

Natasha let the cord go inch by inch, letting Pepper only have a little air as she continued to pump the vibrator into her, making her and letting her writhe. Slowly, the glow died down and Pepper was allowed to breathe freely and the wild bucking stopped, Pepper came back down to Earth. She moaned, soft and satisfied, as she slumped down and let Natasha ease the vibrator out at least from her tender sex.

"I came… I can't believe it… you made me come! How can I ever thank you?"

Natasha rose to her full height, stripping off her shirt. Her panties had disappeared at some point. Her pussy was wet and just the right size for Pepper's tongue. "What do you think?"

"Can you uncuff me first?"

Natasha's head tilted to the side. "What do you think?"