After the fourth time Pepper Potts is kidnapped and has to shoot, kick, or gnaw her way free, Maria and Natasha decide to make her part of their regular sparring and weapons training regimes; it's embarrassing for SHIELD agents to keep coming to the rescue of an untrained civilian who's already rescued herself via the application of knees to groins and teeth to fingers.
"You know that I played varsity softball, right?" Pepper smiles, breathing heavy as Natasha comes at her, half-speed, with a baseball bat. Pepper moves smoothly through the defensive motion, just as they've been practicing, evade-block, but when she goes to relieve Natasha of the weapon it doesn't quite work; Natasha's wrist doesn't twist as it should under her hand.
"Step further forward," Maria directs, watching from her position just outside their reach, crouching down in her worn sweats and SHIELD-logo t-shirt, barefoot, focused. "You can't be afraid to close with the attacker." Standing up in a smooth motion, Maria puts her hands on Pepper's hip, guiding her through the step. Maria's hand is firm where it spans Pepper's thigh, professional, but the pressure of her fingers is perhaps a little too tight. Pepper tries not to blush, hopes that her reaction is covered by her sweat-slick skin, the already-hot platonic press of their hardworking bodies.
She wonders whether it fools Natasha, whose smile remains enigmatic but inches up just a little on one side.
"Pepper's not afraid of anything," she says, reproachfully. Pepper huffs out a laugh.
"Again," Maria says. Her arm slides along Pepper's, guiding it. "Twist like this."
Pepper breathes deeply, centres herself, and nods. Maria steps back, drops again into her easy crouch, and lets Natasha come at her again.
Natasha, messy-haired, grinning, sweating a damp circle into the front of her tank top, winks at her. "Get this right, Potts," she says. "And we'll do some wrestling holds next."
Pepper grins back, and this time she executes the move flawlessly.
When Natasha breaks her arm – embarrassingly, not by fighting monsters or mutants or mad scientists but by slipping in the bathroom, not that she's eager to publicize that fact – she finds herself at loose ends, stuck on reduced duty, unable to go out with the Avengers or accept any missions for information extraction. The former often requires her full physical abilities, especially given that she's trying to keep up with various superhuman warriors, and as for the latter, well. People notice women with casts on their arms, especially casts with Clint's rather tasteless cartoons (all tiny chibi versions of the Avengers doing various improbable, if G-rated, things) all over them.
So she asks Maria for additional training in the communications systems; she wants to learn to break into secure messages in ways other than face to face, and downtime is nothing if not an opportunity to expand her skill set. To her surprise, Pepper starts showing up at the training sessions, at first just trailing along after Natasha one day after they finish up at the gun range, but then making a point of it, coming up to SHIELD headquarters specially, just for the lesson. As it turns out, Pepper knows a thing or two about communications as well, having just overseen the development of the new Starkphone, and she, like Natasha, wants to know more. She and Natasha together make a good team of students, Natasha better on the theory and Pepper better on the practical, each of them firing questions at Maria until she rolls her eyes and holds up her hands and almost lets a smile slip through.
When the remaining, uninjured Avengers end up in something of a pickle involving renegade AIM scientists, killer robots, and the hostile takeover of the entire New York subway system, the training suddenly seems like more than an idle self-improvement project for both of them. Maria is desperately searching for the bad guys' hideout and needs all hands on deck to sort through data, to break into network after network, to find out how they're coordinating their robot attacks.
It ends up being Natasha who finds them, who tracks them down and gets on their frequency and directs the other Avengers in taking them down. She's hampered by her arm, so Pepper ends up acting as her hands, taking the keyboard for her, shuttling cords around, cross-referencing data, nodding as she types in the commands, almost ahead of Natasha's direction.
Natasha is surprised to find the work as satisfying as any field work she's done, to find that she works as well with Pepper in their cramped SHIELD office as she ever has with any of the Avengers, even Clint. It's the pure clarity of a problem to solve, the challenge of an enemy to overcome, and Maria's voice in her ear, giving her tense, clipped directions, coordinating their attack. She feels like a part of the same body with the other two, her mind, Pepper's hands, Maria's voice: like they form a seamless whole that works with one purpose, one will. It's as much a rush as any battle Natasha has fought, perhaps because it's as much a battle as any interrogation, any firefight.
After, she and Pepper collapse to the floor of the unassuming little space, amongst crushed manuals and printouts and empty cans of Red Bull, trailing cables and power strips poking into their backs, their arms, their thighs. There's a clock high up on the wall, and Natasha belatedly realises that they worked on this problem for almost thirty hours straight. Natasha breathes in, and when she breathes out it emerges as a laugh.
Pepper laughs too.
When Maria comes in, they're still giggling together, all the adrenaline of the last day starting to ebb, and Maria doesn't say a word: just falls to the floor between them and lets her forehead clunk against the cool steel, eyes closed, exhausted.
Natasha moves without thinking, and on the other side of Maria, Pepper does too, this strange link still living between them, still guiding them to move together. They each rub gently at Maria's back and shoulders, warm press of bodies to bodies, comrades.
Director Fury sometimes . . . leaves. It's often unclear until afterwards whether he's temporarily defecting, off pursuing his own investigations, kidnapped, taken over by the Skrull, or simply on vacation, but regardless of motive he doesn't tend to inform Maria before he goes, and there's never anyone ready to replace him. And so she's left holding all of SHIELD in her hands, trying desperately to do her job and Fury's at the same time. She emails Natasha to cancel their training sessions, and she emails Pepper to cancel theirs, and then it comes as a surprise, though perhaps it shouldn't, when both of them show up to help.
"We've got this," Natasha says calmly, and it's like she infects the space around her with that same stillness, because for the first time in two days Maria feels like she can breathe again.
"It seems to me that you're not making full use of the resources at your disposal," Pepper notes, glancing over the personnel reports that Maria has been working her way through since lunch – or, since the lunch hour, since she's not sure when she last ate. "Let me speak to HR first. And then get me the legal team. Who's the liaison with SWORD?"
Pepper is a concentrated storm of efficiency and competence, and within a day SHIELD – known internationally as a well-oiled machine made up of only the best and brightest – is running more smoothly than it ever has before. Pepper has rearranged projects, created and destroyed whole teams, and delegated ruthlessly, so that all the weight is no longer on Maria's shoulders. The immediate crisis past, Natasha insists that they have a drink together – as she puts it, to "face down the night so that we can do this again tomorrow." Pepper and Maria agree, which is how they end up in Natasha's spartan SHIELD quarters at three in the morning, sitting squished together on the small bed, nicely toasted on very good vodka and still laughing over the look on the IT guy's face when Pepper had taken him down a peg or two.
"But, but that's just not possible!" Pepper imitates in a blustering sputter before losing her hold over her fake frowny face and laughing, head falling back, teeth flashing, throat bare. Maria has never seen her so open, which is odd, because she doesn't think of Pepper as a closed-off person. She had been dressed in her best Killer CEO suit and a truly amazing pair of heels – Maria doesn't know anything about shoes, but she knows what she likes – but now she's barefoot, skirt wrinkling where it rides up her pale thighs, jacket tossed into the corner somewhere, the top buttons of her blouse undone.
Natasha snorts and takes another slow slip from her glass. "I think you had better look out, Potts, or Acting Director Hill here will have you hired away from Stark Enterprises in a heartbeat. Who knew that we needed a good civilian shakedown."
"God, we really did," Maria agrees. "I've never seen anything like it, Pepper, you were gorgeous."
"Thank you," Pepper says, smiling a small, satisfied smile. "Perhaps next time you're berating me in the gym for dropping my left side, you'll remember that I do have compensatory skills."
"Perhaps," Maria says, coming to a decision. Bending her head, she places a soft kiss to Pepper's collarbone, to the freckles that cluster there like constellations.
Pepper breathes a little more quickly, but doesn't say anything; when Maria tilts her head back up, her eyes are dark, unreadable. Maria looks over Pepper's shoulder at Natasha, who's nodding slowly.
"This seems like an excellent idea," she drawls, and leans forward, places a kiss of her own on the back of Pepper's neck. Pepper shivers.
"What do you say?" Maria asks, meeting Pepper's gaze. Pepper grins.
"Please," she answers softly. "I say please."
Maria smiles; it's not what she was going for, but it's answer enough. She takes Pepper's face in her work-roughened hands and kisses her properly, tastes Pepper's lips and tongue against her own.
When they break apart, Pepper leans back against Natasha, lets her head fall to Tasha's shoulder and looks up at her, wanton. Her blouse is pulled to one side, uneven, so that it exposes the lace of her bra, the curve of one small breast. Natasha smiles down at her and then moves quickly, committing herself to the action, and Maria bites her lip at the sight of the two of them together, Natasha's flame-red hair falling in a short waving curtain to touch Pepper's neat orange bangs, to frame their faces as they meet each other again and again, slow soft gentle kisses, learning each others' speeds and rhythms.
Maria cups one of Pepper's knees, rubs her thumbs over the exposed skin of her thighs, back and forth, just grazing the edge of her skirt. Pepper, after a moment, looks up, watches Maria with intense interest while Natasha moves her mouth to Pepper's neck, breathes over the shell of her ear, sucks on the hard tendon at the crook of her shoulder.
"Should we undress you?" Natasha asks softly. Pepper smiles.
"I'll expect repayment in kind," she says, "a return on my investment," somehow making it sound like pillow-talk rather than boardroom-talk. Maybe, for Pepper, the two are related.
Maria chuckles, letting her hands move up under the skirt, letting her fingernails scratch, just a little, the way she wants to. "That can be arranged."
She and Natasha have worked together for a long time, and even though they haven't fucked in a while they still have a rhythm together. They fall into the habits they've built up over years of sharing mission objectives, years of being not-quite-friends but more, so much more, than colleagues: reading each others' body language, tagging in for each other, working towards the same goal.
They hold Pepper in their arms, gradually peeling away layers of clothing, leaving searing kisses on the bared skin in recompense. By the time Maria finally buries herself in Pepper's body, her fingers in Pepper's cunt and mouth eager against her clit, Pepper is already gasping and arching between them, groaning loud and unselfconscious in a way that seems to surprise Natasha.
"Yes, yes, just like that, that's beautiful, fuck," Pepper gasps, her long fingers running through Maria's hair, clearly wanting to grab hold. Maria looks up, and Pepper's head is thrown back but Natasha is watching carefully; Maria gives her a nod.
"You can grab her hair if you want," Natasha says. She's rolling one pink nipple between thumb and forefinger, pinching hard, pressing down and then releasing, pressing and releasing. "She likes that."
Now Pepper's gaze falls on Maria, who keeps up the motion of her mouth and hands, and slowly – agonizingly, perfectly slowly – Pepper's fingers tighten against her scalp, form into a fist, just like Maria taught her.
"God," Pepper says, voice husky. "You're both – oh – amazing, this is amazing – yes, Maria, just like that, I love how you feel inside me."
Maria should've known that a woman who has Tony Stark for a lover would have no hesitation about talking in bed, that a woman who runs a multinational corporation would have no fear and hold nothing back, but it's still surprising, gratifying, to hear her words, to feel her body writhing without reserve or hesitation beneath Maria's mouth, beneath her hands, beneath Natasha's mouth and hands. To feel the way she trusts them to touch her like this.
She knows it must be getting to Natasha, too – Natasha, who's always quiet in bed, who's never lived for any length of time in anything but military or quasi-military quarters, who knows too well what people want to see from her. In the little glances upward that Maria allows herself she sees them kissing, sees their kisses getting wetter and sloppier, more desperate, like even Natasha is losing her control a little, or consciously allowing it to slip.
Maria licks at Pepper's folds, at her clit, rubs her tongue just above her hole, and Pepper's orgasm when it comes is unselfconscious too, loud and hard, her hand gripping Maria's hair painfully, her feet thumping against Maria's back and ass, her back arching as she squirms upward against Natasha's mouth.
A moment later Maria takes her mouth away, though she keeps up the rhythm of her fingers. "You're driving Tasha wild," she says softly, and Pepper blinks at her. "And me too."
"So fucking gorgeous," Natasha agrees. She brushes Pepper's hair away from her face where it was starting to stick with sweat, runs her hands rough and needy over Pepper's shoulders, her breasts, through her hair. "I could watch this all day."
"And not give me a turn?" Pepper asks mildly, not quite covering how out of breath she is. "Quite unfair."
"You'll have your turn," Natasha promises, voice low. "Maria and I are going to ride you all night, I think."
Pepper shudders, clenches down involuntarily against Maria's fingers. Natasha doesn't fail to pick up on the response, and continues: "I want to see what you look like on your knees in front of me." Voice so soft, deadly. Pepper's mouth falls open in a noiseless gasp.
Maria reaches down with her left hand and unbuttons her uniform pants, worms her fingers inside, gives herself a little friction against her clit. She's so wet already, swollen and aching for touch.
"Sounds good to me," Maria grits out. When she takes her fingers from inside Pepper's body, Pepper sits up a little, seeming to get her bearings.
"It's criminal that you're both still fully clothed," she notes. "I frankly wouldn't believe it if I didn't know what kind of hopeless workaholic robot super-spies you both were."
Maria chuckles. "I'm not a spy. I'm a spy-wrangler."
"And who told you I was a spy?" Natasha grins, shifting on the bed to straddle Pepper's naked lap. "Such scurrilous lies being spread about me. You shouldn't believe rumours, Pepper."
Pepper laughs, leans over to take Natasha's mouth in a hot kiss. Her hands work busily at Natasha's clothes, making short work of her belt and zipper, peeling the cloth away from her skin.
"You're going to have to get up if you want these off," Pepper says, obviously amused by the impractical tightness of the clothing.
Natasha stands and shucks her clothes quickly, efficiently, not making a show of it. Which, of course, turns Maria on like she's flipping a switch; she will never get over the sight of Natasha when she's not performing, or even when she's performing like she's not performing.
Pepper is evidently watching Maria watch Natasha. "Do you two do this often?" she asks, casually.
"Maybe not often enough," Natasha says, coming back to the bed and kneeling over Maria, who's still got a hand down her pants. Natasha's naked thighs slide over Maria's lap, incidentally – but surely not accidentally – pinning her down. Natasha's runs her hands slowly down from Maria's shoulders to her wrists, and then grips those too, holding her tight, reducing her range of motion. So she hasn't forgotten.
"Maybe not," Maria replies, licking her lips.
She must get pretty caught up in the bruising kiss that Natasha treats her to next, because she doesn't notice Pepper shifting to kneel up behind her until Pepper's lips are on the back of her neck, Pepper's hands reaching around to divest her of her shirt. Natasha lets go of her hands for that, and Maria misses the pressure for only a moment until Pepper takes over, wraps slow curious fingers around her forearms and bears her down slowly to the mattress.
In the meantime Natasha's worked off Maria's belt and pants and socks, slipped off her underwear, and is climbing back into her lap, straddling her thigh and grinding herself down. She runs a hand over Maria's belly, trailing down to cup her, to give her the sensation of touch without any meaningful pressure.
Maria groans. She would thrash upwards but Pepper's hands are still pinning her to the mattress, still reminding her that she shouldn't move.
"Tense your thigh," Natasha instructs. "Give me something to rub against – oh, yes, just like that, god." Maria looks up, meets Natasha's eyes, presses her thigh up against her as hard as she can, as hard as Natasha likes.
"What do you want, Maria?" Pepper asks. "How do you want us to get you off?"
Natasha raises an eyebrow at Maria – she's never bothered to ask that question, and Maria had always rather enjoyed that. But if she gets to choose –
"I want you both inside me," she says, and feels her face flush just at the idea of having the two of them shoving up into her at once.
"Yeah? You like it up the ass?" Pepper sounds for all the world like she's at a meeting, asking Maria whether she would prefer tea or coffee, and that for some reason just makes it hotter. Maria struggles to catch her breath, and Pepper goes on without waiting for her response. "Of course you do," she says, softly, to herself. "You're a greedy little thing, aren't you?"
"Y-yes," Maria manages, and it's yes to everything, yes to all of it; yes to anything these women want her to do. "Please."
Natasha chuckles and finally, finally, lets her fingers slip inside, first just rubbing in teasing circles against her labia and then pressing further, taunting against Maria's opening while she shudders and clenches around empty air.
"I have some devices that can help with that," Natasha says, conversationally, breaching Maria with her fingers, rubbing up against her from inside. "But as I recall, you tend to prefer – " a stroke, " – warm – " another, " – human – " another, and Maria is gritting her teeth against the pure gorgeous sensation of it, " – skin."
"Lube?" Pepper asks, and Natasha points her chin at the bedside drawer. Pepper goes to get it, leaving Maria's skin cold where she had been pressing against her. But soon she's back again, sliding down Maria's body and slinging a thigh over Maria's leg, claiming her left side as Natasha has claimed her right.
"Oh, you are sweet," Pepper murmurs. "Lift up." Maria does, and Pepper slips a pillow under her hips, tilting her upwards, giving them easy access. She feels exposed, on display.
"Lovely," Natasha agrees.
Methodically, Pepper coats her fingers with lube and slips her hand down under Natasha's, the two of them rubbing up against each other as they each push inside her. They both have strong forearms – Maria herself is responsible for some of that muscle – and Maria imagines what it would be like to have them both fist her at once, how full she'd feel, how good. Pepper doesn't tease like Natasha, just pushes inside and starts slowly stretching her out, pushing forward where Natasha's pushing back, their fingers rubbing on either side of Maria's flesh.
"Maria?" Pepper asks. She still sounds polite but there's a note of steel in her voice, too, demanding a report. Maria heaves a few short breaths and tries to get herself together.
"This is good," she manages. "Great, yes, please keep doing that – " Natasha snorts and Pepper chuckles, and then together they start moving a little faster inside her.
They're both still riding themselves against her, too, thrusting and rubbing quick and slick, and she tries to push back, to give them friction and pressure, to give them what they need. Natasha grins down at her, grinding herself back and forth against the big muscle of Maria's thigh.
"You're so good, Maria, just like that." Maria trembles; it's taking a lot of effort to keep that muscle tensed but she can do it, she can do it, and their fingers inside of her are bumping and stroking and drawing sensations out of her that she didn't know she had, long hot gusts of pleasure shivering through her body.
"You want more, don't you?" Pepper breathes in her ear, and Maria shudders, nods. Pepper leans up over her and bites the side of her breast, rises further to graze her teeth over a nipple, a hot flash of pleasure and pain that shoots through Maria like an electric jolt. Below, Natasha finally slides her thumb up over Maria's clit, and then it only takes a few more strokes, a few more of Pepper's perfect caressing bites, until Maria is spilling over the edge like water, until the heat of it is running through her like flame, until she's overwhelmed by the feeling of the two of them on her, inside her, holding her open, holding her down.
She blinks a few times. Pepper is still running teeth over her nipple, following each bite with soothing little licks, like Maria is a lolipop and Pepper is doing it for her own enjoyment. Maybe she is. They've both taken their fingers out of her body, but they're also both still grinding against her, neither of them finding quite enough friction to get themselves off.
"You just relax there for a moment," Pepper says, a moment later, pulling back. "I believe Agent Romanov wanted me on my knees."
"I did," Natasha says, gasping, obviously getting frustrated with the not-quite-enough-pressure she's getting from fucking herself against Maria's leg. Maria sits up a little and scoots back on the bed, giving Natasha room to roll off and sit down properly. Pepper kneels gracefully on the floor, her whole body bending as if this is her only purpose, and doesn't hesitate, just puts her face to Natasha's cunt and starts licking and sucking, making wet, crude noises and closing her eyes in pleasure.
Maria slips fingers inside her wet cunt, watches avidly as Natasha groans and falls back to lie propped up on her elbows, body glistening with sweat, muscles tensing and relaxing with the rhythm of Pepper's bobbing head.
"Yes," Natasha says, bluntly, her eyes wide and dark and intense as she watches Pepper below her. She doesn't give another word, doesn't stroke Pepper's hair or her face; just lies back and spreads her legs and takes it like it's her due, giving no sign other than her quickening breathing that what Pepper's doing is affecting her.
"Harder," Maria says, shifting her hand to rub two fingers against her clit. Natasha's still too tense, too in-control. "Give her more. She likes it rough."
Pepper does, gets fingers inside Natasha and quickens her pace, and now Maria can see flashes of teeth as she goes harder against Natasha's cunt.
"Why don't you come over here and give me more, Maria," Natasha grunts out. She's trembling, just a little, with the effort of staying propped up on her elbows; Maria slides behind her to hold her up.
"You want it – " Maria begins, looking down at her, and Natasha nods, bites her lip.
"Give me some pain."
Maria runs her hands over Natasha's arms, her shoulders, her breasts, scratching with her short blunt nails, pinching ruthlessly at her nipples, the soft skin at the inside of her arms. Natasha's chest heaves with her breath but she still doesn't make noise, just grinds herself harder against Pepper's mouth. Maria leans down and bites roughly at Natasha's neck, at her shoulder, then sucks at the bite marks as hard as she can, willing them to bruise.
Natasha starts thrusting with her hips against Pepper's mouth and fingers, fucking her hard, and Pepper lets out a groan as she struggles to keep up, to meet Natasha thrust for thrust. Maria scrapes her teeth against Natasha's neck, over the same spot again and again, in time with her quick sharp thrusts, and a moment later Tasha stills, fists gripping the bedsheets, thighs tense and head thrown back as she shakes her way through her silent orgasm. Maria holds her tight, as tight as she can, watching her fingers press into the flesh of Natasha's arms. She wants more, so much more, of both of them; she doesn't know how she's ever going to stop wanting them now that she's started.
Pepper sits back on her heels and wipes her mouth slowly with the back of her arm, her gaze flickering between Natasha's body and Maria's face, like she's having trouble taking it all in.
"God, I want to fuck you," Natasha groans. Pepper blinks slowly.
"Isn't that what you just did?"
"I haven't even started yet," Natasha promises. "How about I slip on something more phallic and take you from behind while you show Maria how truly excellent you are at giving head?"
"In case I haven't mentioned it," Pepper says, scrambling to her feet in an uncharacteristically ungainly motion, "I really love working with you both."
Maria laughs, and settles her hands on Pepper's shoulders, easy and familiar.