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Wardrobe Malfunction, or, Passing the Bok

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Nick Fury's office is soundproof, bulletproof and fireproof. The door is invulnerable to any assault short of a demigod's hammer, a supersoldier's shield or a large, green fist -- and you'd better believe that he has a dedicated R&D team working 24/7 on those. The triple retina/fingerprint/voice recognition lock can withstand anything short of one specific goddamned chemical reagent solvent, or one even more specific goddamned back door loophole virus -- and you'd better believe that whoever designed that lock has been retired with extreme prejudice.

Natasha Romanoff kicked the door open. Behind her, Fury's krav-maga-trained reception guard toppled in and hit the floor face first.

There's Fury, and then there's fury.

She slammed a magazine down on his desk and demanded, "Who authorized this?" in the incongruously soft, dispassionate voice that had caused many a supervillain to piss their pants.

Fury looked down at the folded-back magazine page, took a deep breath and frowned in an equally pants-pissing fashion. Then he met her eyes and they said as one, "Stark."

"I'm going to kill him," said Fury.

"Dibs." She turned on her heel and stepped over the unconscious reception guard as she left. Fury pushed a button on his desk and said, "Code fuschia. And get me a new receptionist."

At this point they were running out of code colors. Not to mention receptionists.


Natasha stalked into the 73rd floor lounge and slammed the magazine on the bar next to a decanter of fifty-year-old scotch.

Tony Stark picked up the magazine and broke into the deranged grin that had caused many a SHIELD agent to piss their pants. "They finished it already? They're better than I expected. I should buy them." His forehead wrinkled in thought. "Have I already bought them?" He picked up his phone and hit speed dial. "Pepper? Have I bought a --" He held the phone away from his ear; the entire population of the room -- many although not all of whom had enhanced hearing -- winced at the voice that had caused many a superhero to piss their pants. Tony quickly hit the "End" button.

Clint Barton looked at the magazine over Tony's shoulder. "Hey! Where are mine? Since when does that skinny little wall-crawler get some and I don't?" Then he took another look and crowed, "You don't get any either, Stark! Boo-ya!" Natasha shot him a look and mouthed boo-ya? Clint shrugged but his smile did not diminish one bit.

In utter surprise, Tony took another look. "I am going to sell them. I don't care if I don't own them. I'll buy them just to sell them."

Bruce Banner took the magazine, peered at it and said, "Huh."

Thor took one look and handed it off to Steve Rogers with a disgusted frown. "How dare they pass by the son of Odin!"

Steve stared at the page and his eyes widened in horror. He shoved the magazine in Tony's face and jabbed a finger at one of the photos. His voice strangled in barely suppressed rage, he said, "They have him."

Everyone glared at Tony. Tony chugged from the decanter and muttered, "They are so very sold."

Natasha took the magazine back and marched into the elevator. As the door swished closed, she turned to face her teammates. "I'm the one they insulted."

Tony's jaw dropped. "I think I just pissed my pants."


An acoustical tile suddenly dropped from the ceiling onto the conference room table, followed by the silent landing of a woman in a black leather catsuit. The men around the table -- and they were all men -- scrambled back from their seats. One fell over his chair. Another stumbled from the office in the direction of the men's room.

The man at the head of the table stood and adjusted his tie. "Ms., ah, Widow. What an honor. How nice of you to, ah, drop in." His nervous little chuckle faded in his throat in the face of her cool gaze. Then he choked and collapsed back into his chair from the impact of a magazine flung like a frisbee into his Adam's apple.

From the high ground atop the conference table, Natasha slowly looked around to appraise each person in turn. "Who is responsible for this?"

One by one they all dropped their eyes. Natasha snorted. "What a bunch of wimps."

Someone pointed a shaking finger at someone else and gulped, "He's the account executive."

"You headed the design team!" the other man yelled back.

"Stark signed off on them all! You signed the contract!"

"Stark said he represented the team!"

From a corner where he was cowering, a third man, practically in tears, wailed, "They're just sneakers!"

Natasha hopped off the table and loomed over the man's personal space. "Iron Man is displeased with your work," she said calmly. "Thor is offended by your disrespect. Captain America is utterly appalled at your choice of subject. And I," she whispered, leaning so close that her breath ghosted over his face, "am very, very cross."

A dark stain spread over the front of the man's trousers. Natasha wrinkled her nose and stood.

The man at the head of the table, presumably the chairman of the meeting, stood, rubbed his throat and coughed. "Please, Ms. Widow," he began in a rough voice. She walked around the table, executives skittering from her path like cockroaches, and faced the chairman with her arms folded across her chest. He coughed again and tried to clear his throat. "Please believe us, we meant no disrespect. We'd be happy -- more than happy," he coughed once more, "to make any changes you see fit."

Natasha picked up the magazine, turned to the relevant page, and pointed at one of the photos of pairs of sneakers. "Mine," she hissed, "glitter."

"They're, you know, for girls?" the designer squeaked.

Natasha raised one eyebrow in his direction.

The designer made a sound suspiciously like, "eep?"

"I'm a girl. Or hadn't you noticed?"

"Oh you bet!" the designer squeaked an octave higher. "Absolutely noticed!"

"Do I glitter?"

The chairman said, "The design of the shoe was based on a previous version of your, ah, uniform, Ms. Widow. We were given to understand that it featured certain golden highlights."

"Were you given to understand that anything about my uniform glittered? Do you think I would be stupid enough to wear anything that reflects light?" For the first time, Natasha allowed a hint of emotion to flicker across her face. The chairman blanched.

"You know," said the account executive, who couldn't see her expression, "it's mostly just the laces. Anyone who buys them can change out the laces."

Natasha spun around toward him, and he scurried back against the wall, all color draining from his face.

"Those shoes, I presume, are meant to represent me. Nothing that glitters could ever accurately represent me The idea that you believe that a shoe designed to fit a girl must glitter is offensive. The notion that a girl who buys those shoes must take it upon herself to buy a new component in order to reflect a less frivolous self-image is reprehensible. And the fact that there is not a single woman in this room..." Her gaze swept around the room in silent accusation.

"Ma'am," said the chairman, "I must stress that the designs were authorized by Mr. Stark as part of a merchandising --"

"I'll take care of Stark, don't worry about that," she growled.

"We'll certainly take your suggestions into consideration for the next series --"

Natasha raised an eyebrow. The chairman continued in a hurry, "Ah, I mean, the current model will be recalled and your design changes will be implemented immediately."

Natasha considered that for a moment, and nodded. "All right. I don't know who signed off on the designs for anyone else besides my team, and I seriously do not care. I don't expect you to stop making the shoes; a contract is a contract. But," she said with cold emphasis, "the changes to the contract regarding my team are as follows: first, there will be a design for each and every member of my team, to be signed off by that member; and second, you will immediately recall and cease production of any shoe representing a villain, especially the Red Skull. I can't believe you made a shoe glorifying the lifelong nemesis of Captain America! What on earth were you thinking?" she exclaimed.

The chairman flinched and angrily turned to face the rest of the room. He pointed at the account executive. "You're fired." Then at the designer. "You're fired. Everyone in this room is fired!"

Somebody said, "Hey! I'm not even on that account!" He quailed at the chairman's glare and said, "Sorry, okay, I'm fired!"

The chairman sought out Natasha with an obsequious smile, and his jaw dropped. "Where did she go? She was just here! Did anyone see her leave?"

A woman rushed into the room. "Sir! Sir! I just got a call from the Board of Directors! The controlling interest in the company was bought by Tony Stark an hour ago. The whole Board has just been removed and Stark is dismantling the company and selling at a loss. We're ruined!"

The window of the conference room exploded inward with a crash. An arrow zipped through, grazing the chairman's ear, and embedded into the wall a millimeter next to him with a dull thok. It had a slip of paper rolled around the shaft.

Slowly, hands shaking, the chairman removed the paper and unrolled it.

You're fired. Boo-ya!

The chairman pissed his pants.