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Pepper Potts knows Tony Stark better than anyone, better even than he knows himself, probably. She's not his best employee to date, closest friend, and longest lasting girlfriend for nothing. She worked hard to get here, has honed her talents specifically for this particular position, and she doesn't intend to take up anywhere else. By now she is very secure in herself as a permanent fixture in Tony's life, and languishes daily in the firm confidence that nothing will ever change that.

Almost everything about Tony-the-boyfriend is remarkably sweet and wonderful. Pepper loves all of his various quirks, and living with him is never boring but also not stressful. The one little problem Tony has is that he thinks it is an inevitable fact that he will one day do something that a good boyfriend would never do and he will hurt Pepper and she will leave him. He overcompensates sometimes, but Pepper doesn't mind that so much.

When his insecurities make him tense, Pepper will have him lay on his belly and she will give him a thorough massage and tell him she loves him the way he is until he finally stops trying to apologize or quip or distract her with sex or whichever mode of coping he's decided on that night. After long minutes of comfortable silence, Pepper will lie down next to Tony and sometimes they will make love and sometimes he will just cling to her and breathe deep and sometimes, on bad days, he will hide his face bashfully in her neck and thank her and tell her he loves her too and she will pretend she can't feel how his eyelashes are wet against her collarbone.

Pepper Potts knows Tony Stark better than anyone, this is true, but she is not omnipotent, so when she gets a call on her personal cell while she is out buying some fresh vegetables (she will get Tony to eat healthy and like it if it kills her) she is surprised when her Caller ID informs her that Steve Rogers has something to say to her.

Though the Avengers have been assembled, in a general sense, for almost six months now, and Steve and Tony are now close (the two of them, along with Thor, had helped personally with clean-up and rebuilding efforts) Steve still offered Pepper only pleasantries and stilted small talk when he saw her. Tony had told her not to take it personally, that Cap had an issue about talking to devastatingly beautiful women unless they shot at him or gave him orders. She calmly took this in stride, as she did with most things Tony said about other people, and decided to let Steve grow accustomed to her presence as slowly as he needed. Despite this, she can't help the ever-so-subtle note of hope in her voice when she answers.

"Hello, Captain. What can I do for you?"

"It's about Tony," he says immediately, his soldier's efficiency not allowing for any dallying. "We - the Avengers, that is - have some concerns."

.

According to Steve, Tony had been basing more of his behavior on his perceived short-comings than Pepper had assumed. Over the phone Steve told her in quick, stiff sentences about how, when invited out with the team for food or beer after a mission or meeting Tony would refuse, saying he "had to get home to Pepper," how he had taken to referring to 7:30 as "very late", and how he could never manage to look at any woman placed before him directly (if he ever did it was only straight at her face, and for the barest of seconds possible).

Steve's hesitant but firm suggestion that maybe Pepper is keeping Tony on too tight a leash causes Pepper to realize, with sudden clarity and understanding, that Bruce has been avoiding her. The protective kind of rage is the one that triggers the Hulk the most consistently, and if he thinks Pepper is abusing her power over his lab buddy, Bruce's tight grip on his temper is probably severely compromised in relation to her.

Pepper assures Steve that Tony's reluctance to have a life is not her doing, thanks him for letting her know, and tells him she will talk to Tony about it tonight, come up with a solution, and get back to him. They part on good enough terms, even though Pepper knows Steve will be keeping an eye on her in case she is lying. She doesn't resent that at all, and is glad Tony has friends who will look out for the things he doesn't know (how) to protect himself from.

Tony is already home when Pepper gets there. He greets her energetically at the door like an overexcited puppy, kisses her mouth and then her cheeks and neck, closed-mouthed, as he takes her purchases off her hands and carries them into the kitchen for her. She lets him without protest and asks him, with deceptive nonchalance, how long he's been home.

Because she's looking for it, Pepper notices how Tony's eyes flicker nervously at the clock above the stove.

"Um," he says, and fidgets with the handle of a plastic shopping bag. "A bit?" Pepper raises an unimpressed eyebrow at him over the fridge door as she opens it and starts putting the veggies inside. She's sure, even as she arranges the food to her preference, to keep Tony in her line of vision so she can observe all of his body language. It pays off when she watches him drop both his hands and eyes in guilt.

"Only an hour ago," he admits, as if telling her of some great betrayal he committed. Pepper glances at the clock now, too. 6:42. Both of her eyebrows go up at that, and she thinks that Steve broke it to her gently. She sets aside a green bell pepper and a large bag of baby carrots and closes the fridge to fold her arms and trap Tony firmly in her gaze.

"Why are you doing this, Tony?" she asks, making sure there is no room for denial in her tone. Pepper is shocked, however, when instead of looking reluctant and vaguely embarrassed like he usually does when she calls him out on something silly he does, Tony is instantly panicked and desperate.

"I'm sorry!" he says, and it's louder than they both were expecting. Tony flinches back from his own voice, but then lurches forward and grips Pepper's arms in his rough hands, clingy and none too gentle. "There was this stupid tech glitch, and I don't even know what we pay those nerds for if they can't fix anything, and then the head of the board called me and he wouldn't shut up, and there was traffic -"

"Tony!" Pepper cuts him off harshly, cups his face in her hands, shakes her head. She can feel her eyebrows drawing together in worry at his frantic, almost feverish, eyes. "Tony, stop." His eyes squeeze shut and he looks like he's in pain, and her heart aches for him.

"I know, I know, I'm making excuses, I'm sorry, Pepper, I'm sorry, but they're all true, all of that is true, I promise, I'm not- I haven't- I wouldn't- I'd never-"

"Oh, Tony." She says his name much softer this time, and silences him with the gentle press of her lips. "You don't think I'd think you were cheating, do you?" Tony's eyes open again, and this time they are shining with mortification and the twist of his lips is horrified.

"No, of course you wouldn't- You'd never accuse me of- I know you wouldn't think-" His eyes close again, his expression just as pained as before. His body reflexively tries to turn away from her, his shoulders hunched defensively, but she won't let him go. "I'm so sorry."

"Tony." This time she is gentle but very firm, and she punctuates with another kiss. "Stop apologizing. And look at me." It takes him a second, but he does, and Pepper presses her lips to his again in reward. He kisses her back with a painful kind of sweetness, like he wants her so desperately but knows he doesn't deserve her. Which, frankly, is ridiculous. There is no one in this or any other universe, Pepper thinks, that is too good for Tony Stark. She pulls back from him with a stroke of his cheek, but stays close enough to rub their noses together.

"Eskimo kiss," he mumbles, though he still won't meet her eyes. Pepper lets him have an indulgent chuckle in response.

"Tony, I wouldn't not think you were cheating on me because I'm too amazing to accuse you of it," she finally says after allowing the silence to lull him. Her voice is low and soothing, and she keeps their noses together and her hands on his face, fingers sweeping back and forth beneath his lashes. "It would never even cross my mind that you would cheat, because I know you wouldn't. That's a fact, Tony. It would take some crazy and impossible complete rewrite of the laws of the universe for you to be unfaithful." He laughs weakly and then swallows hard, lets his eyes fall shut again.

"I know." He takes his hands from her arms and puts them around her waist instead, pulling her closer and tucking his face in between her shoulder and her neck. To accommodate his new position, Pepper slides her arms around his neck and laces one hand through the hair on the back of his head, scritching softly. She knows he loves to be petted and the way he sighs and melts further into her body doesn't disappoint. His voice is muffled by her skin when he continues. "I know that. It's just. I don't know. I guess I just... panic. Or something. I'm just an idiot about this relationship thing. I'm sorry."

"I told you to stop apologizing," Pepper repeats. She halts the movement of her fingers but leaves one hand in Tony's hair even as she lifts his head with directing fingers at his jaw. She kisses him long and slow, nibbles at his bottom lip when she pulls back. "How can I help?" Tony just shakes his head helplessly, and Pepper knows him better than anyone so she knows how he feels pathetic. She resolves to figure something out on her own, and takes him to bed instead of harping on it.

.

It takes Pepper three days to find the solution.

She called Steve back the first day, after leaving for work, and apprised him of the situation. She has kept him up to date on her status since then, and even bounced a few ideas off of him. Each one was quickly realized, in his silence, to be impractical and silly. The problem and her inability to solve it has been bugging her all three days (a three days during which Tony tried his best not to neglect his friends and failed), and towards the end of the third she even found it hard to concentrate on her job.

It's as she's leaving work that it comes to her. An advertisement comes on her radio just as she's pulling out of the parking lot, and there it is. She takes the scenic route home, stops for something on the way, and carries Tony's peace-of-mind through the door with her in a discreet brown paper bag.

.

Tony meets Pepper at the door as usual. He kisses her quickly once, and then once more because he can, with a boyish joy she's never seen him regard anything else with but his most impressive free-time inventions, the ones that are fun and unnecessary and don't make him any money but make him feel very good about himself for exactly as long as he lets them live. And even those never make his eyes shine the way Pepper does. This is how she knows he loves her, even when he can't say it out loud.

When Tony sees the brown paper bag he smirks flirtatiously, raises an eyebrow, and asks, "Is that lube and condoms, or moonshine, my dear?" Pepper lets his humor infect her and smirks back even as she rolls her eyes. She guides him backwards with a hand on his chest.

"Neither," she says. "Now come sit with me so I can show you what it is and tell you how I expect you to use it." He raises his eyebrows, but follows her obediently to the couch and waits patiently. It's not the first time she's taken charge, so to speak, and she knows it really gets him going. He almost never asks, mainly because he thinks it makes him less masculine to want it, but Pepper can usually tell when he wants things to go that way, and when she initiates the dynamic he always falls into his role without question.

"It's a present for you," Pepper tells Tony, setting the bag in her lap. He faces her and plays along, affecting surprise.

"For me?"

"Mm-hm." Pepper leans forward and drops a chaste kiss on Tony's lips, and stays there long enough to add, "You've been a good boy," and feel him shiver. The phrase is kind of dichotomous for Tony in that he finds it degrading, but that it also turns him on like nothing else. Judging by other reactions and behaviors, Pepper would guess that's probably because he has a little bit of a humiliation kink, but she'll save calling him out on it for when it'll add to the mood instead of ruining it.

Pepper relaxes back into her original position, her legs together primly, feet flat on the floor, and the bag in her lap. She rolls the edges down slowly, like it's a tease, and Tony smiles. Finally Pepper reaches in and pulls out Tony's present.

It's an open chastity cage made of smooth grey metal. Pepper picked this one because the salesperson told her it was the lightest weight model they had in stock, but it still feels heavy in her palm when she holds it up for Tony to see. He stares at it in shock for several long seconds, and then flicks his eyes back up to meet hers, one eyebrow lifted again.

"Present?" he repeats skeptically. Pepper quickly scoots closer, nervous suddenly that her solution will be a dud. She puts her free hand on Tony's neck and pulls gently at the short hairs at the base of his skull.

"I wouldn't make you wear it at home," she assures. She presses the cage into Tony's hand and watches him stare at it some more. "It's for when you go out, so you never forget that I know you're aren't going to cheat. You can't cheat, with-" Pepper turns back to the bag and digs around until she comes back with a miniature brass lock and its two keys. "-this on that and the keys with me."

Tony's eyes travel slowly between Pepper, the lock and keys in her hand, and the chastity cage in his as he thinks about it. He looks nervous and unsure, which Pepper figures is definitely understandable. Finally, Tony closes his hand around the cage and fully meets Pepper's eyes.

"Let's... see how it feels first?" Excited and relieved Pepper immediately says, "Absolutely!" and takes the cage back from Tony and holds it in her mouth as she slides off the couch and onto her knees in front of Tony, hands going to his fly. Tony grins at her and shakes his head. "That's not going to work." She's confused for a second, but then realizes what he means, and huffs in apologetic mirth.

Pepper gives Tony back his gift and watches happily as he goes into the bathroom to put it on.

Tony comes back out pantsless and holding his dress shirt out of the way so that Pepper can see him in all his glory, now adorned with metal rings all down the length. She gets up from the couch with the small lock and snicks it firmly into place. Then she kisses Tony and asks, "How's it feel?"

"Kinda cold," Tony says, "but it'll warm up. Little heavy." He kisses Pepper back.

"Think you'll get used to it?" she wonders hopefully, and he shrugs.

"Guess we'll see."

.

Tony puts his pants back on and helps Pepper cook dinner. They sit at the bar and eat and talk like they normally do. They snuggle warmly on the couch and watch a movie. Pepper takes the chastity cage off for him before they go to bed, and he hands it back to her before he puts the bottom half of his suit on in the morning.

.

Pepper calls Steve after Tony leaves.

"I found a solution," she says as soon as he picks up. "You just tell me if it works or not and I'll continue or stop accordingly."

"Yes, Ma'am," he says, and she tells him he had better start calling her Pepper already or she'll take Tony's advice and start shooting at him. He laughs in surprise and genuine amusement, and the laughter isn't gone from his voice when he murmurs, "Good bye, Pepper" and hangs up.

.

Pepper kind of forgets about the chastity cage that first day. She put the little lock's keys on the chain with her car and house keys so that there would be virtually no risk of losing them (that would be a truly embarrassing reason to have to call a locksmith), and their golden color adds a brightness to the bunch that she doesn't notice.

She gets home before Tony that day, and snacks happily on a stick of celery while she dives headlong into a fantasy adventure novel. She gets fully absorbed and doesn't notice his absence until he finally arrives. It's 10:30, and Tony is relaxed and happy. He smells like booze, but Pepper can tell from the way he moves that he's not drunk. He collapses, loose-limbed, next to her on the couch and smiles at her with openness and warmth, and she can't help but be drawn to him.

Pepper clips her bookmark in its precise place, sets her book aside, and slides into Tony's lap, kissing him wetly and with deliberate slowness. The movements of their tongues are lazy and sensual, hot and wet and all-encompassing, and Pepper can feel all of the above feelings pooling low in her belly. She moves her body, starting with a slow circular undulation of her hips that travels upwards to her chest, the way she knows Tony likes. He hums happily into her mouth. When she drags her hands down his chest and her thumb tugs on his nipple as it passes, Tony pulls away from her with a hiss and a breathy "ah!" and that's when she remembers the cage he's wearing and that it probably hurts now.

"Oh!" she yelps, twists and grabs her purse from the floor. Her face feels hot with her mistake and with not a little guilt (she promised him she wouldn't keep him in the cage at home, and then she forgot about it), and she lets her hair fall over her shoulder and obscure her as she digs around determinedly in the depths of her bag to find her keychain. But then Tony makes a small ambiguous noise in the back of his throat and lays a warm palm on Pepper's thigh.

Pepper pauses from her search to look closely at her boyfriend. Tony is blushing too, his chin dipped slightly and his eyes cast to the side. Pepper knows Tony Stark better than anyone, and so she knows when he wants something he won't ask for. Pepper narrows her eyes and levels a stern and steady look on Tony, smoothly and authoritatively asks, "Do you want me to make you earn it?" He squirms, blushes harder, and rubs his hand up and down her leg. She takes that for the yes it is and drops her purse on the cushion beside him.

"Safeword when you want it off," Pepper says against Tony's lips, and then presses her hips flush against his. He arches against her and whimpers pathetically into her throat, then pants and nods. They make out for a few more minutes, with Pepper grinding against Tony. She can feel the hardness of the cage through is pants. It's not as physically stimulating as his cock would be, but the knowledge of what it is and what it's doing to him - what he's letting her do to him - sends intense sparks of burning arousal through Pepper's body every time she brings her hips down.

Soon, Pepper grips Tony by the hair and shifts their positions, nudging him gently onto the floor and putting her knees on either side of his head. Tony loves giving head more than he loves getting it, asks her if he can often (like she's going to say no), and can barely wait for permission to get inside her when he's done. Pepper figures if he wants to hurt, she had better make sure he hurts good.

Tony puts his hands on Peppers thighs and she holds them there so that he can't use them. He slips his head under her skirt and presses his face against her wet panties. He takes a deep breath and whimpers again, swallows so hard she can hear him. She lifts her hips without conscious thought when Tony pinches the bridge of her panties between his lips, as much to push herself closer to his mouth as to make it easier for him to pull the garment off. He moans quietly the instant he can see her, when the panties peel away and there is nothing to obscure the sight or scent of her, but keeps pulling back until she has to lift her legs for him to get the panties all the way off. When Tony gets closer again, Pepper slides her legs over his shoulders and leans her head against the back of the couch.

Tony kisses up her thigh, licks at the crease between her leg and her groin, and then finally, slowly and methodically, slides his tongue into her folds. He seals his hot mouth over her and laps eagerly at her entrance, tasting as much of the wetness there as he can. His tongue is rough and wet and flexible when he rubs it back and forth against her clit. Pepper moans and lifts her hips to meet him, her hands pressing his into her thighs harder as she does.

Tony licks here, sucks there, and bites a little bit, pushes his tongue firmly inside her, and breathes cool air over the places his mouth has been, each action interspersed with tiny, helpless moans that drive her pleasure ever higher, until she has to let go of one of his hands and bury her fingers in his hair so she can grind herself on his face. He kisses and mouths at her as she moves and his beard scrapes, sending the white-hot sensation up and down her spine until she is crying out continuously, pressing him hard into her cunt. He fucks his tongue into her again and she rotates her hips on it, can feel it moving irregularly inside of her, and her back arches because god, he is so good at this.

"Yes," she gasps. "Yes, Tony, god. So good - ah! - you are so good. Good boy." At that Tony lets out another painful sounding whimper and begins to lick almost frantically at Pepper's clit, shifting forward on his knees, his fingers digging into her thighs and no doubt leaving bruises she will admire tomorrow and press her fingers into if she gets a little lonely during the day. Tony makes almost as much noise as Pepper does when she comes, and he keeps his face burried between her legs after she quiets down, his breath hitching like he can't even breathe.

"Up," she says, and nudges him with her foot, an air of (faux) impatience around the abruptness of the motion. This gains her yet another whimper, but Tony obeys her without protest or complaint and stands in front of her trying to breathe.

It's very strange to see Tony with her wetness smeared all over his face but lacking the telltale bulge in his pants. Usually, even if he's already come, Tony can get it up again from going down on her. Even now, his eyes are dark and his face is flushed with intense arousal. The sight only serves to reenforce how much that cage has to be hurting now, and Pepper is surprised at the scorching heat that lances from her groin and into the rest of her body at the thought and at the knowledge that he's enjoying it. She slides a hand down her belly and down over her bunched up skirt and rubs at herself. Tony's breath catches in his throat and drags a tiny, tortured sound out with it.

"Sit," Pepper orders, taking her hand away from herself and gesturing at the couch beside her. Tony stumbles and falls into the cushions, but can't stay still for long. He squirms around and looks at her with round, pleading eyes. When Pepper looks closer she thinks they look a little wet, and she wonders with a rush if she's going to make him cry. She touches her wet fingers against Tony's neck and he throws his head back with a broken groan. His hips arch up off the couch, but then he gasps uncomfortably and brings them back down, grits his teeth.

Pepper leans forward, keeping the one hand on Tony's neck to feel him swallow when she pulls her other up his thigh to rest at the join of groin to leg, and puts her mouth right up against Tony's ear. She doesn't say anything at first, letting the wet-hot of her breath on his sensitive lobe do the talking. But then she purrs, "Do you know what I think, Tony?" With apparent difficulty he shakes his head. "I think it's my turn."

"Oh, god," Tony gasps, not moving as Pepper moves gracefully onto the floor before him. She undoes his fly and peels his pants and underwear off, gestures for him to remove his shirt, and when he's done that runs the backs of her fingers over the chastity cage, enjoying the contrast of hard metal and soft skin. "Oh, god, Pepper, please," Tony begs, and she seriously considers giving him some relief. He hardly ever says please, outside of bed or in, so the word holds a great deal of gravity with them. But he hasn't said his safeword, so she just rubs her thumb on the head of his cock and watches as he writhes and cries out with a hoarse voice.

"Please!" When Pepper runs her tongue in between two rings of the cage, Tony nearly shouts. "Please, please, please, Pepper, oh god-" She keeps licking where she can reach, and Tony quickly devolves into wordless whines. His fingers dig into the couch cushions and he pants wetly at the ceiling. Pepper seals her lips over Tony and the cage, wonders without concern if this will even work through the obstruction, and sucks, and this time Tony really does shout.

"PEPPER!" His whole body arches up off of the couch, his knuckles white. "Pepper, Pepper, oh god, please-" He makes a noise Pepper can't even describe, and falls back into the cushions, shaking all over. Pepper takes her mouth away and crawls back up into Tony's lap, letting her slick cunt rest over his cock. His hips jerk against her and he lets out another long whine, and then-

"Slipknot," Tony says desperately, and Pepper immediately grabs her purse and fishes out her keys. She moves off of him so that she can fit one gold key into the lock, twist, and remove the cage. He sobs once in relief, and then surges forward to clutch her face in his hands and fit his mouth over hers in a frantic kiss. Still liplocked and licking into her mouth, Tony brings his hands down to the zip at the side of Pepper's skirt and fumbles with it to get it open, his hips moving helplessly against her thigh, his finally (painfully) hard cock smearing pre-come across her creamy skin.

Pepper takes care of her shirt and bra before Tony manages to get the zipper down and tear her skirt away, and Tony moves to lick and suck at her neck, down further to mouth feverishly at her breasts. He slides to fingers into her, buries his face in her neck as he tries to get his hips to stay still but can't. He's whimpering again, continuously as he tries to be considerate and make sure she's ready for him even though his going mad with need, and Pepper decides spontaneously but with finality that she won't make him get a condom (they have a certain drawer for them in the bedroom because while Pepper has no problem with achieving an orgasm in whatever room of Tony's house he wants to give her one, she draws the line at keeping sexual supplies anywhere else).

"Tony," she murmurs gently, then has to pause when her breath hitches when he scissors his fingers. "I'm ready." He doesn't have to be told twice, removing his fingers quickly and moaning in Pepper's ear as he lines himself up. Pepper moans and arches up into the slow burning stretch of him filling her up, and Tony curls his body tightly around hers and gasps raggedly.

Tony sets a brutal pace without much lead up, which Pepper forgives because it feels so good. Every side of him against her walls has her gasping or crying out against his neck, and he is faring no better. He turns them to the side and grips the arm of the couch with one hand, the other arm around her waist, for better leverage and ruts into her. His strokes are short and fast and rough, desperate and frantic. Pepper squeezes her legs hard around Tony's hips and digs her nails into his back, just under his shoulderblades, breaking the skin. He drops his forehead onto her shoulder, his sweat-damp hair getting moisture on her neck, and cries out like he feels so good he'll die with every little movement either of them makes.

Pepper adjusts her position under Tony so that she can curl one hand into his hair and pull and slide the other one down to finger firmly at her clit. Tony's rhythm falters and his cries become higher pitched, more broken. His entire body is shaking, his muscles straining, and his sweat drips off of him to mix with hers on her skin.

"Pepper, Pepper, Pepper," he whines, and Pepper realizes he's waiting for her and rubs at herself harder, arching up into his thrusts.

"Ah-ah, Tony!" He feels so much bigger, harder, inside her when her orgasm makes her clench even tighter around him. His last few thrusts press her now lax body hard into the couch cushion underneath them, and when he comes with a shout his voice cracks and breaks off and Pepper doesn't think she's ever heard any sound sexier than that.

Tony collapses on top of her and kisses sleepily at her neck as she brushes his sweaty hair out of his eyes, rubs a calming hand up and down his still shaking back.

"You like?" she asks quietly after a while. Tony's face is wet when he looks up at her, but she can't tell if it's because she really did make him cry or if it's sweat.

"For sure," he says. He is hoarse, it sounds bad, and Pepper takes a second to wonder if she also made him lose his voice. She takes a moment to imagine what it will be like to wake up tomorrow to Tony only able to rasp at her because she made him shout so loud last night and decides she definitely likes the idea, before she slides out from under her exhausted boyfriend to go in search of a washcloth.

.

There is a SHIELD meeting the next afternoon to discuss a bunch of stuff none of them actually care about, and Steve curiously observes a tired-looking Tony Stark. Fury asks him a question, and when he responds his voice is barely a whisper, painful sounding and cracked.

"Are you sick?" Steve asks when the meeting is over. Tony smirks, but also blushes, raises his eyebrows, but also ducks his head. He looks stupidly smug, as usual, but also thoroughly embarrassed, and he answers simply, "Nope."

"What ever you did," Steve says when Pepper answers the phone later, "I think it's a success."