Pepper tries to avoid helping Tony dress as much as possible. Something about it is too intimate, too far above her pay grade, and she'd just rather not. Today, though, he's got a busted shoulder and a bad case of road rash, compliments of a group of insurgents and a faulty armor plate, and he can only lift his right arm so high. Sometimes she actually does take pity on him. Only sometimes.
She has no sympathy for the fact that he's twenty minutes late for a meeting already. Anyone who knows anything about him knows that Tony has never started a meeting on time in his entire natural life. Most of the people who work with him have just grown to accept this and tell him to show up sometimes hours before they actually need him, but it still bothers Pepper, maybe always will. Unfortunately, this meeting was unexpected, a sudden problem with labor strikes that Pepper saw coming a mile away, and it will necessitate Tony spending a lot of time asking people very pointedly why they are not throwing money at this problem and/or using robots to end it.
She buttons up his shirt as quickly as she can, waiting for him to tuck it into his trousers- there is very definitely a line. "Your schedule is clear for the next three days," Pepper tells him, not mentioning that there are about four angry people waiting to unclear it. "Is there anything else, Mister Stark?"
"Oh," Tony says, snapping his fingers. "I need you to call Mistress Aphrodite. Tell her Anthony's very sorry he can't make it. Maybe grovel a little. I know you're not any good at grovelling, but try for me."
"Very funny," Pepper says dryly.
"Wasn't a joke," he says matter-of-factly. He picks out a tie and hands it to her. "If I don't call in time she'll charge me for the session anyway, and the next session will be-" He shivers. "Well, I'll want to skip that one too."
"You want me to call the most infamous dominatrix in all of California and cancel your appointment," she says, putting the tie around his neck and deftly knotting it. The woman's very name makes her twitch. The thought that Tony could be somehow involved with someone who called themselves something so tacky makes her skin crawl, and Tony almost dated a stripper named Candy last year.
"Oh right, you can't do that," he says. "Jarvis, send Mistress Aphrodite's number to Pepper's cell phone."
"Tony, you can stop playing around-" Pepper's phone chimes, and she pulls it out of her pocket. "What's this going to get me, the Rejection Hotline?"
"No, the Rejection Hotline is 310-469-0269," Tony recites. "That one's Mistress Aphrodite."
"Tony, why do you have an appointment with a dominatrix?" she asks, as she helps him shrug on his jacket.
"Why does anyone have an appointment with a dominatrix?" Tony says, turning to face her. "Now are you calling or not? Because if you're not going to, I have to do it now, and it's going to be your fault when I'm late."
"You're already late," she says, handing him his pocket square.
He tucks it into his pocket. "Yes or no, Pepper?"
She purses her lips, frustrated, but sometimes it's just better to play along when Tony does things like this. "Fine. Happy's waiting."
Tony gives her the kiss on the cheek he gives her sometimes when he knows he's really annoyed her; he still hasn't worked out that it just makes her more annoyed. "I'm on my way."
Pepper lets him get out of the room before she sighs, exasperated. She really doesn't know whether which would be worse: Tony lying, or Tony telling the truth.
Either way, it's a few hours before she manages to call the number. What she's really expecting is to get an earful of AC/DC at top volume and a triumphant message from Tony; she does get that annoying ringback music, some atmospheric trance that's still too loud, but it ends quickly.
"Who is this, please?" a man's polite voice says.
"I'm calling on behalf of Anthony," Pepper says, shutting her eyes and pinching the bridge of her nose.
"Please hold for one moment, ma'am." There's a slight noise of papers moving. "Yes, we know Anthony."
"I'm supposed to tell you that he's not coming to his appointment," she says.
The phone goes silent. "Oh," the man says, in a hushed voice. "Can you be reached at this number? Our proprietor is with a client at the moment, but it should only be a few minutes."
"Fine," Pepper says. This is all a little far to go for a joke, but Tony has gone much, much, much farther.
True to the receptionist's word, a phone call comes in a few minutes later from a blocked number. Pepper takes the chance and answers it. "Hello?" she says, assuming giving her real name in a situation like this is probably suboptimal.
"Yes, you called for Anthony," a woman's voice says. If this is the great and fearsome Mistress Aphrodite, she doesn't sound quite like Pepper expected; Pepper's honestly not quite sure what she expected, but it's just a normal voice, no high-pitched simpering or low, affected huskiness.
"Mister-" Pepper catches herself. "Anthony will unfortunately not be attending your next session."
"Did he leave any further information?" she asks, sounding unfazed.
"He said to grovel," Pepper says, mostly because she's really tired of this game.
She laughs. "Are you going to?"
"No," Pepper says firmly.
"Good," she says. "I don't give it out for free." Pepper has no idea what the hell that's supposed to mean, but she doesn't ask. "Tell him he has to reschedule for himself. He'll receive further instructions then."
"I'll pass that information along," Pepper says. She pauses for a moment. "May I ask a question?"
"Of course, but you may not get an answer," she says.
Pepper tries to find a delicate phrasing and doesn't. "Is this a joke? Anthony gave me this phone number and told me who you supposedly were, but he's been known to bend the truth."
"If you know who I am, then that's who I am," she says cryptically. "We don't give out certain information over the phone, but this is not a joke. If Anthony's told you this much, I can tell you that I see him around twice a month, more or less as his schedule permits."
"I see," Pepper says, pursing her lips.
"I have to go," she says. "You can work this out with Anthony."
"Of course," Pepper says. "Thank you for your time."
They say goodbye and hang up, and Pepper looks at the phone for a while. She feels like she should be startled, shocked; instead she just feels angry, and she doesn't quite know what to do with that.
She takes a few deep breaths and goes back to work. She doesn't get paid for this, she reminds herself. She stopped deluding herself about being Tony Stark's professional babysitter a long, long time ago, but she doesn't get paid for this. Professional is the operative word. If Tony wants to see a professional, that is Tony's business, not Pepper's.
She tells herself this. It doesn't work.
After that first time, Tony's secret relationship stops being a secret. Suddenly his appointments with that woman- Pepper honestly doesn't even like to think her name- end up on his actual schedule, though Pepper doesn't seem to need to remind him nearly as much as usual. Honestly, Pepper has no idea how he's been keeping track of any appointment at all without her telling him a thousand times and then physically collecting him and taking him to it, but now it's just a thing that Tony talks about, as if it's nothing at all, nothing more taboo or salacious than any other date.
It wouldn't be such a problem if Pepper couldn't see it in her head. Pepper has seen Tony in plenty of compromising situations with plenty of people, and it doesn't take all that much extrapolation to picture Tony naked and tied up, some woman in vinyl whipping him. It does things to Pepper's stomach, makes it twist in a way she can't quite fully explain. As many times as she's pictured putting Tony over her knee, this is completely different, not a joke at all, something dark and unsavory.
And no matter what Pepper does, she can't stop picturing it.
Pepper has been able to handle a hell of a lot from Tony. Pepper has made it through strange workout and diet regimens, through obnoxious girls who wouldn't leave the premises on the morning after, through almost being killed by a man in an enormous suit of armor, through several years of just being employed by Tony Stark in general. She has had days where she wanted to scream, and at least one day where she actually did.
She's just about reached that point again when it pops up on his schedule. There are red lines around it, indicating that he's been double-booked, that and a meeting with the board of directors.
She finds Tony, unsurprisingly, sitting on a stool in the workshop. "Potts, do you remember that thing I showed you with the torque wrench?" he says, not looking up. "I need more hands."
"I need to talk to you," she says.
Tony stops, very deliberately putting down his tools and turning slowly around. "I did something."
"You have a double-booking in your schedule that has to be resolved," she tells him, trying to be as calm as possible, but she can tell by the way Tony looks at her that she is far, far from it.
He frowns. "So resolve it."
"I need you to choose between your appointment with-" She has to force herself to say it- "Mistress Aphrodite and the board of directors meeting."
Tony relaxes. "Put the board of directors off," he says. "Their schedule isn't nearly as tight." He sees the look on her face and leans away from her. "Uh, so I just said the wrong thing."
"Yes, you did," Pepper says through her teeth. "You can't put off the board of directors so that you can see a prostitute, Tony."
"She's not a prostitute," Tony says, a little incensed. "What we do isn't illegal. I don't think so, anyway."
"Do you have sex with her?" Pepper demands. She wasn't intending to fight him on this, not today, but now this is a fight, and she's going to fight him.
"I mean, BDSM doesn't have to be sexual," Tony replies.
"That's not what I asked you," Pepper says. "Do you have sex with her?"
"I don't know why you're so upset about the law now," Tony points out. "You bought me weed that one time."
"Happy bought you weed behind my back," she tells him.
"Really?" Tony says, frowning. "Then that was some good shit."
"Stop avoiding my question."
"The legal definition of sex is fuzzy-"
Pepper bends down, staring him in the face. "Do you. Have sex. With her."
"I'm not sure, legally speaking?" Tony says. "She doesn't let- I'm not allowed- I never actually touched her like that. I'm pretty sure consensual voyeurism isn't sex. Ninety-eight percent sure. Maybe ninety-seven. I can get sex from anywhere. I don't go to her for sex."
"What do you do with her, then?" she asks, straightening back up and folding her arms over her chest.
"Look, I don't know how much detail you want me to go into here," Tony says. "She makes me do things. I do those things. Then sometimes I get good things in exchange."
"Does she hurt you?" she asks, and he looks like he doesn't want to answer. "Tony, you don't let her beat you up, do you?"
"She doesn't do anything I don't want her to do," he protests. "I mean, not unless she wants me to do something because- seriously, it gets complicated really quickly." He gives her a frustrated look. "I don't know why you're giving me the third degree here. Not that it isn't hot, but-"
Pepper is still not sure what any of this means, but she has heard enough. "I refuse to be party to this any longer," she says. "It is not in my job description to help you engage in something like this. Even if it weren't dangerous and potentially illegal, it's not right."
"You've stood by and watched me fuck half of Southern California, and you draw the line at BDSM?" Tony asks. He's trying to look unaffected by this conversation, but he's not doing a very good job. He looks pretty much heartbroken, and Pepper doesn't know what to do about that. It's not like she can retreat now.
"Yes," Pepper says. "This isn't something normal people do, Tony."
"Yeah, well, I'm not normal people, and this is not your business," Tony snaps.
"You made it my business," Pepper tells him. She can't believe what she's about to say, but she says it anyway. "She goes or I do."
Tony's eyes go wide. Pepper has never, ever made a threat like that, not even after all the things she's seen. She's even quit, but she's never used herself as a bargaining chip before, not even when she thought he was going to kill himself with the suit. She can tell from the look on Tony's face that he recognizes it for what it is; it is not an exaggeration or a lie. She knows that both of them hate it, for completely different reasons, but here they are anyway.
Tony suddenly looks much older, so tired that Pepper feels her resolve shake. "I'll break it off with her," he says.
"No, you won't," Pepper says, and she doesn't feel at all relieved, not at all like she won, not at all like she thought she would. "I'll break it off with her. There are too many security issues."
"If that's what you want," Tony says quietly.
"I'll talk to her, and we'll put all this behind us," Pepper tells him, trying to be soothing.
"Okay," Tony says, nodding. "Okay, that's fine. Did you need anything else?"
"That was it," Pepper says. He turns away from her, fiddling with something on the table. She looks at him for a moment, the slump of his shoulders. "Are you okay?"
"Couldn't be better," Tony says, turning back and smiling at her, and it says something that he doesn't even make a smartass comment or accuse her of cockblocking him. He just smiles a brittle smile, and her heart hurts.
Tony wasn't actually lying; it is hard to get an appointment with a dominatrix, harder than Pepper expected. She expected the many layers of secrecy and cryptic phrases that she had to know, but there's just no time in the woman's schedule, even for a fifteen minute talk with Pepper. Pepper has far more than fifteen minutes' worth of things to say to this woman, but she's going to at least try to exercise some restraint.
Finally they manage to work something out, and Pepper drives to an unassuming house in an upscale neighborhood. It doesn't look much like a den of iniquity, but Pepper supposes secrecy is a huge part of the point.
She parks, walking up and pressing the buzzer. "Who is it?" a man says through the speaker.
"Bettie Page," Pepper says, and the door unlocks. She opens it and steps through; there's a reception desk set up in the front room, a cheery-looking man sitting behind it. Except for the fact that he's wearing a collar, this could be anywhere, maybe a fancy massage parlor or a spa.
"We've been expecting you," he says happily, standing up. "Please, allow me to show you to the sitting room." He leads her through a door into a well-appointed parlor, all done in blue and black. It of course looks like a bordello, but Pepper guesses that's just how these things are done. "Can I get you anything? Coffee, tea, soda, water?"
"No, thank you," Pepper says, sitting in one of the straight-backed chairs that face the throne-like seat that Pepper has to assume belongs to the proprietor of this establishment.
"Mistress will be along any moment," the man tells her. "If you need anything, anything at all, I'm happy to help."
"Thank you," Pepper says, and he beams at her before he leaves, shutting the door behind him. Pepper shakes her head. He's a weird little man, but if that's the strangest thing that she sees here, then this will honestly be kind of disappointing.
Pepper sits there, waiting to meet this woman that takes up so much of Tony's time. Pepper knows what a dominatrix looks like, because everyone knows what a dominatrix looks like. They're terrifying women in skin-tight leather, and Pepper isn't particularly looking forward to meeting this one.
Finally, the door opens, and a woman walks in who is not a dominatrix. She's wearing a purple tunic and a flowing black skirt, a silver shell on a cord around her neck. She's maybe in her mid-fifties, a little bit of gray in the long, dark brown hair that hangs freely around her shoulders. This isn't a dominatrix. This is a hippie.
Pepper doesn't stand up.
"You're Anthony's friend," the woman says, holding out her hand. "I'm Mistress Aphrodite. A pleasure."
"Aphrodite," she says, shaking it. "Thank you for meeting with me."
"Mistress Aphrodite," she corrects, sitting down across from her. "I'm sorry, but I don't make any allowances in my own house, even for people who are not involved in the lifestyle."
"Mistress Aphrodite," Pepper says, though it tastes bad in her mouth. "I'm here to talk to you about Anthony."
"Of course," she says. "Please go on."
"Anthony will be terminating your professional relationship beginning immediately," Pepper says, like she's rehearsed a dozen times. She doesn't say any of the things that she wants to say, like 'Keep your fucking hands off him' or 'Where do you get off?', but she gets this sense that they're pretty loud anyway.
"We'll miss him, but thank you for letting me know," she says, nodding. "Is something wrong?" she asks, when Pepper just looks at her without responding.
"I just expected a stronger reaction," Pepper says. She was honestly expecting to have to fight this woman, physically if it came down to it.
"I love working with Anthony, but he's been a security risk for years," Mistress Aphrodite says. "To be perfectly frank, I'm sad to see him go, but I could be sadder."
"You've worked with him for years?" Pepper asks tightly.
"It's like therapy," she says. "Some people come in for a few months because they need something. Some people need to stay indefinitely."
"I see," Pepper says, but all she really sees is red. "We're prepared to offer you a severance package in exchange for your confidentiality on this issue."
She waves a hand. "You can pay me as much as you want, but confidentiality comes free. I believe we understand each other on that point." She leans forward. "I want you to know that once my professional relationship with a client is finished, I don't contact them again," she says. "I won't in any way sabotage your relationship with Anthony. I have more respect for my fellow dominants than that, especially when it involves one of my best clients. I want them to be happy and cared for above anything else."
Pepper recoils. "If you're insinuating that my relationship with Anthony is anything but professional-"
Mistress Aphrodite gives her a pitying look, one that says she suddenly understands everything. "Oh, honey," she says, and Pepper wants to punch her in the face. Mistress Aphrodite takes a business card from the holder on the table, writing something down on it. "I don't usually do this, but when you're ready, you come and see me, okay?" she says, holding it out. "No charge."
The card is black-edged, blank except for a shell, an email address, and the phone number she's just written down, a different one than the one Tony gave Pepper. "That won't be necessary," Pepper says. She wants to tear the card up right in front of this woman, but something makes her put it in her pocket.
"If you decide it's necessary, I'll be here," she promises.
Pepper stands up. "Thank you for your time," she says icily, not offering her hand.
"Andrew will see you out," she says, and she doesn't look as insulted as Pepper thinks she should be. It pisses Pepper off.
In the car, Pepper puts her hands on the steering wheel and rests her head on them. She'd really like to unlearn everything she's learned about all of this. It was so much easier when she knew nothing, when Tony's secrets were Tony's secrets.
Tony always mopes when his toys get taken away, but this is different. He sits in the workshop, but he doesn't seem to be making any progress on anything. He doesn't want to talk to anyone, not even Rhodey, and he doesn't go out. He drinks more than usual, but he doesn't seem to get drunk, just gets tense and moody.
The card sits on Pepper's dresser, taken out of her pocket before she sent her suit to the cleaners. She doesn't look at it, doesn't touch it. Her things accumulate around it, forming a sort of barrier between it and her.
Tony goes to Las Vegas for the weekend and doesn't get arrested.
The card sits on Pepper's dresser.
Rhodey sits her down and tells her he's worried, that Tony isn't answering his phone at all now, that when Tony actually calls it's times like 9 AM and not two in the morning.
The card sits on Pepper's dresser.
Tony quits drinking for week.
The card sits on Pepper's dresser.
She wants to think it's stupid, she really does, but Tony's not Tony, and nothing else in his life has changed. She's never actually seen him act like this; maybe this is Tony's breakup behavior, but the grand total of dates that she's seen him go on with one girl is three, so she really wouldn't know. She wants to tell him to suck it up and stop being a baby about not having kinky sex every two weeks, but it's becoming very, very clear that this is not about that, not at all. This is something deeper, something she doesn't understand, but she needs to. Tony is everything to her, her responsibility, the only thing that's a constant in her world, as ridiculously chaotic as he is, and she might be the one who just has to suck it up and understand it, if she's going to put any of this right.
She doesn't know if it's a help or a hindrance that she keeps picturing herself in Mistress Aphrodite's place, having to be the one to do those things to him. It's scarily easy to see herself slip into that role for him. Maybe she was always supposed to do it, and that thought is terrifying.
Pepper picks up the card.
Mysteriously, this time it's much easier for her to see Mistress Aphrodite. In days Pepper is standing in the parlor, feeling just a little too restless to sit down. She doesn't know what she's going to say, doesn't even know what she's doing here, just that she has to have some help.
When Mistress Aphrodite walks in, she's dressed a little bit more like Pepper expected initially, a form-fitting black top and a short leather skirt that shows off incredibly nice legs. "It's good to see you again," she says. She seems to sense Pepper's distress. "Is everything alright?"
"I made a terrible mistake," Pepper says, words just gushing out of her. "I'm not sure how. I took away something Tony needed and I betrayed his trust. I have to make it up to him, and I-" Pepper stops, taking a breath. "I can't send him back to you. I can't. I ruined that for him, and I don't know if I can do it to myself. I was an idiot, and I don't know what to do."
"You look like you want a hug," Mistress Aphrodite says gently. "Do you want a hug?" Pepper didn't realize that she did, but she definitely does. She lets the older woman take her into her arms, squeezing her tight for a long moment before she lets Pepper go. "What do you want me to call you? I don't know your name."
"Pepper," she says.
"Pepper," she repeats. "We're going to set things right, okay? You and me are going to make things okay for you and Anthony. We're going to figure it out."
Pepper nods. Her heart is beating too fast, and she feels like at any moment she's going to start crying like a little kid. It isn't like her at all, and that terrifies her more than anything else in this whole fucked up situation.
"You can call me Mistress," she says soothingly. "That's a title I earned, so that's what's important. I'm aware that the whole name sounds more than a little ridiculous." Despite herself, Pepper laughs, and Mistress smiles. "Hey, people pay top dollar for ridiculous around here. You have to know your audience." She walks over, opening the door. "Come with me."
Pepper follows her, stepping into a dark hallway. It's not very long, just five doors, all of them closed except the one at the end. "I work alone, so the place isn't very big," she says. "The staff is all volunteer, though, so my overhead's not much of a problem."
"Volunteer?" Pepper asks, confused. She's aware Mistress is distracting her with this, and she's glad for it.
"It's called service submission," Mistress says, showing her into the open room. "Some people get their kicks from answering phones or doing the books. Makes them feel useful and satisfied, so it's like they get free sessions. Works out great for everyone."
The unfamiliar surroundings are an odd kind of comfort, familiar and incredibly strange at the same time. She doesn't recognize any of the pieces of equipment in the room except for the cross in the corner and, well, the couch, but the whole room is done in red and gold, one wall taken up by a huge gold-tinted mirror.
"Go on and guess who paid to have this room outfitted," Mistress says dryly. "Works well, though. Surprising number of people out there with Iron Man fantasies."
"Not that surprising," Pepper says. If there were a Hulk room, now that would be a surprise.
Pepper doesn't want to think about what would go on in the Hulk room.
"Why are you showing me this?" Pepper asks.
"Because this is where you can start fixing it," Mistress tells her.
"I don't understand," Pepper says.
"What were you really so angry about?" she says. "Were you angry that Anthony was seeing someone like me? Were you angry it wasn't you?" She fixes Pepper in a stare that she can feel all the way to her toes. "Or were you angry because you thought you might like it?" Pepper wants to protest, but she doesn't have the words. "Sweetheart, it's just you and me here. If anybody's going to judge you for being a little kinky, it's gonna be you, not me."
"What do you want me to do?" Pepper asks, unsure what else to say.
"Anthony needs something," Mistress tells her. "I'm willing to take you under my wing because I think it's something you want to give him, whether you've admitted that to yourself fully yet or not. I think you'll be good at giving it to him in the way he needs to get it. This is about working on you now, not him. He's a grown-ass man. We're not going to do this if you're here to grimly soldier through in order to help him."
"Isn't that what you do?" Pepper challenges.
She shakes her head. "One, I get paid to care. Two, you wouldn't believe the number of people I turn away because we just don't click. Three, I love doing it. If you don't, then you need to go."
"I don't know if I will or not," Pepper finally admits, as much to herself as to Mistress.
"We'll start there," she says. "I'm not going to make you stay if it doesn't work out."
"I don't know what I'm supposed to do," Pepper says.
"That's a big question," she says, "but your focus seems pretty specialized."
"I don't anticipate a further need for this skillset," Pepper says, aware that she sounds a little cold.
"Once you pop, the fun don't stop," Mistress says, but she sighs at Pepper's lack of reaction. "Anthony hates choices. He wants consequences for his actions. Sometimes he's a filthy slut who needs to get knocked down a peg. Sometimes he's a good boy who wants to work hard for a reward. It depends on how he's feeling that day."
Pepper frowns. "That sounds complicated."
"It is complicated," she says. "But it's also incredibly rewarding."
"Should I buy-" Pepper's not even sure how to ask. "Leather?"
"He prefers naked," she says, shrugging. "So I wear as much clothing as possible. Usually a suit." Pepper is neither surprised nor amused by this detail. "If he's good, I take it off."
"And if he's bad?"
"I make him watch me take it off," Mistress says, with a little smirk. "I'll show you what he likes, and you can decide what you'll be comfortable doing for him. It's going to take more than one session, but you'll get a lot out of it. I can already tell."
"How much is this going to cost me?" Pepper asks, even though she knows she's going to do it, no matter what the price is.
"I'm not asking you to become my client," she says. "I'm asking you to become my student, if you'll let me mentor you. I won't charge you, but I need you to know up front that it won't always be easy. I need you to commit to me. Will you?"
Pepper breathes in. "I will."
"Good," Mistress says. "Then let's begin."
Tony's sitting on the couch, watching the TV; he's been watching more TV lately, lots of car shows. By the look of him, he just got out of the shower, though Pepper doesn't think he's planning to go anywhere.
Doesn't matter. He doesn't know it yet, but he's not allowed.
She sits down on the edge of the couch, and Tony raises an eyebrow at her. She dressed for this occasion; she doesn't often wear black suits, but today she's breaking the trend, a red shirt to go with it.
"I spoke to Mistress Aphrodite," she says.
"Oh?" Tony says, but he sounds like he doesn't want to hear what she has to say at all.
"Mute," she says to the television. Before she can lose her nerve, she grabs a handful of his hair, pulling hard. "She explained a lot of things to me."
Tony's eyes widen. "Oh. Um." He looks at her, looking sort of hopeful and sort of scared. "Did she explain that I like my hair pulled, or was it a little more than that?"
"Your schedule is open until tomorrow at noon, and the house is on lockdown," she says. "You can either tell me what you want, or I can decide for myself."
"Let's do that," he says quickly. "Your first time, you pick. It's only fair."
"You can stop me," she assures him.
"I'm not going to," he says.
She pulls his hair again. "Let me rephrase that. You're going to stop me when it's too much."
"Yes, ma'am," he says.
"Sir," she tells him. "Not ma'am." She can't count the number of times the word ma'am has been used against her by men, used to emphasize how weak, useless, second-class they think she is.
She is not any of those things, especially not now.
"Yes, sir," Tony says, not questioning it.
"Go to the bedroom," Pepper orders. "Put on what's on the dresser. When you're done, kneel."
Tony is off in a flash. "Yes, sir."
Pepper rolls her neck. She can do this. It's not scary. She wants to do this. That's scary. She walks calmly to the bedroom, not sure what she's going to find. She left two things on the dresser, and she doesn't know if Tony will object to either of them.
When she arrives, Tony is kneeling, alright, completely naked except the collar and cock ring she left out. "It was a little presumptuous of you to take all your clothes off," she tells him, walking slowly towards him, letting her heels click against the floor.
"I mean, there was the ring and everything, sir," Tony says. "It seemed really uncomfortable to zip back up."
"We'll leave it for now," Pepper says, running her fingers through his hair. He looks good like this, so goddamn good, better than Pepper expected- or maybe Pepper just likes it more than she expected. "I just have one question for you." She looks down at him; he looks so small from this angle, and something about that is really attractive. "Do you want to be good?"
Tony shuts his eyes. "You have no fucking clue how fucking good I want to be, sir."
"Good answer," Pepper says, running her hand through his hair again, letting her nails scratch lightly over his scalp. She pushes his head away. "Get up." He stands up carefully, waiting for further instructions. She unbuttons her jacket, turning her back to him, and he takes it off. When she turns back around, he has his face in her jacket, quite possibly smelling it. It's kind of weirdly endearing. "Go hang it up, bitch," she says, but it's hard to keep the smile off her face.
She watches his ass as he goes- what can she say, she never said she wasn't shallow, and for the next however long she kind of owns it- but he's back quickly, looking eager, bouncing on his feet a little. "What do you want?" she asks, trailing a finger down the center of his chest, her finger bumping over the surface of the reactor.
"I want a lot," Tony says, looking her up and down, and Pepper rolls her eyes.
"Unbutton my shirt," she says.
"On it," he says, carefully undoing her buttons one by one. Pepper knows intellectually that he's going as fast as he possibly can, but it feels like an eternity before he takes his hands away, not daring to do more than she's explicitly instructed. Just for that she grabs him by his hair, holding him still and kissing him hard. Mistress Aphrodite never did this to him, Pepper knows, but Mistress Aphrodite is not here. This is Pepper's scene, and if she wants to kiss him, she'll damn well do it.
He moans into her mouth, and that's her cue to stop, teasing him with one last bite to his lip. Ignoring his begging expression, she unbuttons and unzips her skirt. "Take it off me," she says, and Tony gets to his knees, tugging the expensive material down over her hips, her thighs, her calves, letting her finally step out of it. He takes it away without prompting, hanging it up next to her jacket.
She takes off her shirt herself, laying it aside on the dresser. While Tony's occupied, fumbling with the hanger in his slightly-addled state, she unhooks her bra, putting it on the dresser too.
When Tony turns back around, she's standing there in her panties, her arm over her chest, and it has exactly the effect that she wanted. "I'm dead," Tony says, when he gets done staring. "I'm dead, and this is the afterlife. This is where good hedonists go when they die."
She walks over, grabbing him by the ring on the collar and dragging him back over to the center of the room, pushing him towards the floor. He kneels again, licking his lips absently as he watches her sit down on the bed, arm still covering herself.
"You know," Tony says slyly, "it's not illegal for you to fuck me."
"I don't know what makes you think you deserve it," she says, the thought sending a thrill up her spine.
"I am so happy to convince you," Tony says. "You have no idea how much."
She crooks her finger at him, beckoning him forward. He eagerly moves towards her, sitting back on his heels when she stops him; he'd only have to lean forward to put his face in her cunt. Pepper smiles down at him, and Tony looks so very, very eager.
Then she puts her foot on the middle of the arc reactor and kicks him backwards, sending him sprawling. "It's not going to be that easy," Pepper says. "It's never going to be that easy."
"I am one hundred percent okay with that, sir," Tony says, straightening back up.
"You say that now," Pepper replies. "Turn around and put your hands behind your back."
Tony shuffles around, doing as she says. Pepper finally stops resisting the urge to touch herself, pushing her panties down so she can rub her clit. She doesn't have to exaggerate the moan that escapes her; she's so wet from doing this to him, so turned on by the power of it. She lets her panties slide down further, far enough so she can get her hand between her thighs, push her fingers inside herself.
"Oh, don't," Tony pleads. "Please, sir, don't do this to me, I will be so obnoxiously good if you just let me peek just a little-"
She pulls her panties all the way off, wadding them up and throwing them at the back of his head. He's got better reflexes than she realized; he catches them and runs them through his hands, shamelessly fondling them. She lets him get away with it, because he really has been good. "Shut up," she tells him. "You'll see if I want you to see."
"Yes, sir," he says. She moans as she moves her fingers faster, pushing them in and out of herself, the back of her thumb rubbing against her clit. If she gets any more turned on than this, he's not going to see anything at all, with the exception of her looking satisfied. She can see Tony fidgeting, like he's trying so hard not to beg, not to turn around. But he doesn't, doesn't do anything but sit there, waiting, being so good for her.
"Turn around, Tony," she says, spreading her legs wider, dropping her arm away from her chest. He hurriedly obeys, and it's the look on his face that makes her come, the hunger on it, the worship.
The feeling leaves her slowly; she keeps moving her fingers, drawing it out, but then it's gone. She looks at Tony, who looks completely desperate. He's still not saying anything, but his cock is hard against his stomach, wet at the tip, and he's squirming a little. She smiles lazily. "Come here."
He comes forward, as close as she'll let him. She offers him her hand, and he doesn't even hesitate, licking and sucking her fingers. He's doing it like this is an audition, like if he just does it with enough determination she'll give him somewhere better to put his mouth. She pulls her hand away, taking him by the back of his head and pushing his face against her.
He was, of course, correct in his assumptions.
"You don't stop until I tell you to stop," she says, holding him in place with her thighs.
Tony just moans, moving his tongue, and she grips his hair and holds on tight.
"You can go say goodbye to Mistress Aphrodite if you want," she tells him, a really improbable amount of time later, as they lay in bed together.
"That, uh." Tony coughs, the way he does when he's trying to pretend he's not emotional. "That would mean a lot to me."
"I did the wrong thing," she says, because if she tries to be any more comprehensive than that they'll be here for days.
"You did," Tony says, which Pepper deserves. "I'm pretty sure you're up for making it up to me, though."
"You have no idea," she says, and then they're kissing, slow and sweet.
"You could make it up to me by letting me come," Tony says, rubbing his cock against her thigh hopefully.
"Nice try," she says, and kisses him again.