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a perception of sweethearts passing through

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Maria touches her forehead to the cool rough sheets, spreads her legs, and closes her eyes tight.

Natasha doesn't hesitate, has never hesitated in all the times they've done this together; she places her palm between Maria's shoulderblades and holds there for a long moment, not pushing down. She might as well be pushing down; Maria's breath catches in her chest.

"Breathe," Natasha says immediately. She doesn't wait to see if Maria complies, just runs her hand slowly down Maria's back to her waist, over her ass. Maria focuses on her breath, on getting air in and out of her lungs in a slow rhythm. Natasha's hand stops and squeezes her ass, then gives her a hard slap, a harder pinch. Maria squirms against the sheets.

"Trying to get more, or trying to get away?" Natasha sounds amused. Maria laughs.

"Both, probably."

Natasha's answering chuckle is warm, but not intimate.

Maria isn't Natasha's boss, or her handler, or her immediate supervisor. They don't work together much, and when they do they have a non-hierarchical relationship with each other. Not that Maria cares that much, particularly; she's fucked subordinates before, fucked superiors.

She's never done this, what they're about to do, with anyone. She hasn't told Natasha this, though she knows she should.

Not fucking superiors or subordinates is Natasha's rule; Maria has worked in the same organization with her for long enough to know that. Natasha would have fucked Coulson, or Fury, or Brand, if she didn't feel strongly about power. The two of them have mutual attraction and sexual chemistry, but for the most part, Maria is simply convenient, and she knows it. Trustworthy and available.

"I love how you look like this," Natasha says, voice flat. Her hand is still squeezing, kneading at Maria's ass. Another little experimental slap, and then her fingers slip down between her legs to fondle her roughly, to feel how wet her cunt is. "I love how ready you are."

Maria reminds herself again to breathe, to keep breathing.

"I want this," she says, because she knows Natasha likes that.

Natasha's voice is a husky murmur, wry and satisfied. "Yeah, I can tell." Her fingers slip around for a second, teasing at her hole, before Natasha withdraws and wipes them on Maria's thigh. "Get your ass in the air for me."

Maria bunches up the blanket beneath her – rough SHIELD issue sheets on a narrow SHIELD issue bed, not enough room here for two but then they don't really need that, at least not tonight.

Now Natasha's hands are gone from her skin, and Maria waits for the blow that doesn't come. She counts her way through the silence, through the absence of touch, as slowly as she can. When she gets to twenty-five, there comes the light, almost imperceptible tickle of cool varnished wood against the back of her knee. She jerks away.

"Aren't you supposed to hit me with that thing?" she asks the sheets, as Natasha runs the tip of the cane up her thigh and then back down. Maria's leg twitches involuntarily, but this time she wills herself to be still, to not flinch at the tickling sensation.

"Aren't you supposed to be shutting up and taking it?"

"So far there's nothing to – " The first blow lands, sweet and sharp and not very hard at all, more of a sting than a blow, against the underside of her left cheek, almost where her ass meets her thigh. It slices first and then blooms, white-hot for only a second before subsiding down into a spreading warmth.

"Huh."

"Like that?"

"Yes." She licks her lips, moves to tilt her hips further, offering up her ass. "Do it again."

Natasha does, striking in precisely the same spot, and this time the sensation is exponentially more intense, pain flaring up so hard and so sudden that it fills Maria's consciousness for an interminable moment before it begins to fade again.

There's a pause, Maria braced for the next blow – in the same spot again? she's not sure she could bear it, but doesn't say so – and then it's not the bite of the cane but Natasha's fingers on her skin instead, running along the line of tender skin where her strikes had landed. Maria hisses in shock – it hurts, but more than that it makes her skin feel exposed, like Natasha is casually touching a place where she's been flayed to the bone. She imagines, briefly, what it would feel like if Natasha did cut into her, pry open her skin with her fingers; what it would feel like if Natasha made a scar that would stay.

"Lovely," is all Natasha says. Maria wishes she could see her face; she's not good enough at reading her voice to know if this is working for her. "Are you ready for a ten count?"

"Not in the same spot," Maria says, choked. Natasha laughs, and it's partially cruel, partially affectionate.

"I'll move it around a bit." She scratches then, fingernails raking over the stinging line on Maria's ass, and Maria's breathing speeds up involuntarily. She tries to make herself slow back down, but it's like her body is going out of her control, lost in anticipation.

When the next strike comes, it's slightly higher up on her ass, on the right side this time, and it's harder, the side of the cane rather than the tip. It's better, so much better than the last blow, and Maria fists the sheets and presses back against the cool thin cane where it lingers against her skin. Her cunt is throbbing, wet, leaking on the sheets, but it's nothing next to the warm dull pleasure that spreads from the point of pain.

There's a pause, and then Natasha says, "Count." Maria bites her cheek; that's how they've done it in the past, with spanking, Maria counting off each stroke.

"I don't – I don't think I can – " Natasha waits again, clearly giving Maria space to safeword.

Their safewords, which they'd mutually agreed upon the first time Natasha had shown up at her door, before she'd beaten the shit out of Maria and then fucked her into the floor, are stop and no.

"Please, again," Maria manages.

"Okay," and Natasha's voice is soft now, like the caress of her fingers on the wounds she's inflicted.

Another stroke then, dull and thudding like the last, and this time Maria hears herself make a noise, expelling air from her lungs as the sensation roars through her.

"One," Natasha says. She lets the cane linger against Maria's ass, stroking over the sore tender places. Maria gets her breathing under control again and at that moment the next stroke comes: this one light and stinging and higher up on her ass, scratching a rough line of pleasure against her skin.

"Two."

Maria braces her forehead against the bed. Sweat is trickling against her hairline. Three and four are the stinging tip of the cane again, five and six hard and thudding, and by the time Natasha gets to seven, to eight, to nine, Maria almost can't differentiate between the kinds of strokes anymore because her whole ass is covered with lines of warm throbbing sensation, and even if Natasha is being careful, she can't avoid hitting the same spots more than once.

Maria knows that Natasha is being careful. But that doesn't mean she doesn't want to cause Maria more pain than she can handle.

"You're so beautiful like this," Natasha says softly, and then the tenth stroke lands: whip-fast and hard too, a thud and a sting and it feels like being flayed alive. Maria groans or screams, her whole body singing along with the flare of pain.

She breathes out then, lets her fists relax and release the sheets. She feels proud and glad, though whether from her usual sense of satisfaction at having taken the pain or from Natasha's words of praise, she doesn't know. Her skin is hot everywhere, blood singing fast under her skin.

"Ten," Natasha says, dropping the cane onto the bed beside them.

Natasha's hands are on her again, greedy, her fingers trailing lightly over the tender spots on her ass. Maria wants to see the marks, see the bruises, but knows that Natasha won't want to let her up.

Natasha likes to admire her work. Later, when she's gone, Maria will have time to look her fill.

The light teasing fingertips against Maria's skin are bad enough, but then Natasha moves to cup Maria's right cheek in her hand, and Maria can't help the resultant hiss of pain.

"You want me to get you off?" Natasha pinches a welt on Maria's ass, fingertips and then fingernails. Her other hand slides between Maria's legs, thumb rubbing over her asshole before her fingers tease at the lips of Maria's cunt again.

Maria takes a slow, shaky breath and tries to respond, but the absence of the cane is almost more intense than its presence, the throbbing of her hot exposed skin almost more overwhelming than the initial blows. She can feel her body floating, crackling like an exposed wire, and by the time she gathers herself back enough to swallow and open her mouth Natasha is already speaking over her.

" . . . or did you want another ten?"

Natasha's fingers on her clit now, rubbing hard and fast and merciless. Natasha's body against hers, Natasha's thigh rubbing rough and brutal against Maria's ass, Natasha's hot breath in her ear.

She's breathing fast. So this is working for her, then.

Maria grits her teeth and groans in frustration, almost a scream, pushing herself up and back against the friction, though she's not sure whether it's the friction on her clit or on her abused ass that she wants.

"Give me more," she manages, then, and gets up on her hands and knees. Her whole body is hot, sweating. "Hit me again."

For what feels like a long time Natasha doesn't hit her, doesn't speak. She takes her hands off of Maria's body and shifts her weight back, leaving Maria's skin cool and painfully open to the air. Maria can feel her body trembling, pain and anticipation and need tangling together inside her. But Natasha wants this from her, she can tell, and Maria wants to give it.

"Will you touch yourself?" The evenness of Natasha's tone betrays nothing, as always, but the request is shocking in itself; Natasha has never asked for such a thing before. Before Maria can answer, Natasha's callused palm is pressing soft, almost tentative, against her hip. "I want you to get yourself off while I hurt you." Offhandedly, lightly, that easygoing tone that has always set Maria's teeth on edge when she's heard it over her headset or in a recorded interrogation session.

Without hesitation, Maria shifts so that she can brace herself with just her left hand, then brings her right hand up, slips her shaking fingers inside and oh, she's wet, aching and clenching and dripping.

Now Natasha's hand slides from her hip back to her ass, palming over her sore places, rougher and rougher by the minute. She scratches, suddenly, and Maria cries out and clenches around her fingers.

"Yes, just like that," Natasha murmurs. "Shove your fingers up inside yourself. You're so wet for this, aren't you? You can't wait for me to hit you again."

"Hit me," Maria pants. She's pressing against the rough spongy spot inside and it's good but it's not what she needs. "Hit me, Natasha, c'mon, make me feel it – "

Natasha spanks her, hard, just once, with the flat of her palm. She doesn't say anything. Maria quiets down, breathes, works herself against her fingers, against the hot handprint of pain where Natasha's blow landed.

"I'm going to take you to ten again. Unless you tell me to stop."

Maria groans at the first stroke. Natasha isn't holding back anymore: now her blows are hard, thorough, with a swing and a follow through like she's looking for a home run. She varies her placement, but this time each and every stroke overlaps the last, driving the pain into her, like a shock of energy that passes through Maria's body, and Natasha isn't pausing between the strokes at all so it's just thud-thud-thud, unrelenting, burning into her.

She starts making a noise, a scream or a groan, and she bows her head, losing track of the feeling in her fingers. She isn't even sure, any longer, of whether she's close to coming: all she can feel, all she knows, is the pain, and the impact, and the sound of Natasha Romanov breathing fast and shallow behind her, as if her control is slipping, as if she is as lost in this as Maria is.

"Six," Natasha says. The blows stop, just stop, and Maria tries to find a breath, blinking back to a consciousness of her body. "Squeeze on your clit," Natasha orders, "two fingers, squeeze the way I do when I take you from behind."

Maria obeys slowly, taking her wet fingers out of her pussy and forking them over her clit, pressing in from either side hard and slippery. She gasps, because now that the pain isn't so immediate she realises that she is about to come, that she's already cresting the first waves of pleasure, and she bites her lip and her left arm trembles with the effort of holding herself up and she makes a noise, maybe a scream, something loud and uncontrolled and distant.

Another hard stinging thudding blow, the pain blossoming through her whole body and then she is coming, orgasm rolling through her –

"Seven," and another blow, this one low, almost on her thigh and Maria swears she can feel the trickle of blood and she loses herself completely, her body shaking and buzzing, her head swimming –

"Eight," and then as she shudders another blow comes, sharp enough to bring her back down into her body –

"Nine," Natasha says, as Maria's arm finally gives out and she collapses forward onto the bed, the tail end of her orgasm still rippling through her, aftershocks like the spiderwebbing thrills of pain from the beating. Both sensations flying along her nerve endings, pain and pleasure binding together, indistinguishable, as she comes back to herself.

Natasha's cool hand rests, suddenly, between her shoulderblades, and though she wouldn't have thought to ask for it Maria is grateful to have it there, grounding her, bringing her back.

She doesn't know how long they rest like that together, but it must be a while, because when it finally occurs to Maria that she can move she's lost feeling in her hand; she's been lying on her arm, she realises. She shifts to get more comfortable, still relishing the feel of Natasha's hand on her skin.

"I owe you one more," Natasha says, and her breathing is calm and steady again. Her control is back, if it was ever gone.

Slowly, Maria rises back onto all fours, back into the position she was in before. "Yes, you do," she agrees.

The last stroke is hard to take, a fresh blooming line of pain reawakening all the sore spots on Maria's ass. It's overwhelming, agonizing, too much to endure, and Maria is grateful to Natasha for not holding back, not even now. The blow lands with every ounce of strength that Natasha can put behind it, kinetic energy transferred from Natasha's body to hers.

"Ten."

They just breathe together for a long time, neither of them moving. It's Natasha who breaks the silence.

"The way you look when I hit you. The way you bear it. You're so beautiful."

"I can't take another ten right now," Maria manages, choking back a laugh.

Natasha's answering laugh is sincere, almost earthy. "Some other time, perhaps. Turn over."

Maria doesn't hesitate, just rolls onto her back, and even though she's braced for it the rough caress of the sheets against her bruised ass makes her whimper involuntarily.

Natasha, above her, is grinning. "Oh, I'm going to enjoy watching you wince for the next week every time you sit down." She's petting Maria's thighs, sliding fingers and palms over her breasts and belly, hungrily, almost absently, and Maria remembers that Natasha probably hasn't gotten off. Remembers Natasha's hard fast breathing as she was giving Maria those last agonizing strokes.

"That's why I don't have a chair on the helicarrier," she drawls.

"Because of all the spankings and beatings you're taking? Do they just pass you around up there?"

"I live in hope."

"Mmmmm." Natasha grins. Maria's eyes flutter closed, just for a second. Natasha gets a hand in Maria's short hair and tugs.

"Come on, get up."

Maria does, lets Natasha guide her until she's kneeling on the floor, Natasha's warm thighs spread on either side of her head.

"You feel it, in that position?" At Maria's nod, Natasha cocks her head. "Sit back more. On your heels. Yeah." As Maria sits back, her heels dig against the hot throbbing skin of her ass, and she whimpers again as the bright flare of pain passes through her. She doesn't move out of the position, though, and Natasha smiles down at her. Then, as if offering a reward, she tightens her fingers in Maria's hair and pulls her forward against her thigh. Maria can feel nothing else but the burn and pull of her bruised skin and Natasha's firm hand guiding her movements. Caught between those two sensations she feels glorious, stretched and used.

"This was a good idea, the caning," Natasha says, looking down at her, almost smiling. "I'm glad you asked for it."

She's just a convenience; there are other people Natasha would fuck if she could. Maria's nothing to her but easy, and willing, and available. Maria's only here for this, to get beaten and get used, to give Natasha what she needs.

She's glad.

"You're going to eat me out until I tell you you're done," Natasha murmurs.

Maria shudders and bends her head to begin.