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Bringing Bucky back had been a monumental task.

There’d been the finding him (the easiest part), the convincing everyone else that he was no longer a Hydra operative (harder), and the deconditioning him from all of his programming (hardest). But for a brief while, just after they’d received clearance to move Buck out of the prison-like lab that he’d been kept in for so long, it had seemed to Steve as if he and Bucky could move on with their lives. Maybe even shape a whole new great part of it together. Bucky moved his things into the Avengers’ tower and Steve expected that they’d grow back to where they’d once been, that Bucky would recover over time.

He was useful on what few missions he was invited out on. When a hostile Angolan encampment turned out to have double the number of perimeter scouts they’d anticipated, Bucky covered their sixes from the trees. When they were tasked with bringing down a Panamanian bioterrorist cell, Bucky infiltrated the target’s lab without tripping any of the complex alarms. When Natasha had been shot (twice) in a scuffle at a Chinese weapons factory and Steve was busy fighting off what remained of the staff, Bucky worked quickly and adeptly enough to remotely disarm a hydrogen bomb before it was too late. Bucky might not have worked for HYDRA anymore, but he was obviously still a soldier, and a very good one at that.

It was at home where the cracks showed. For the most part Bucky seemed appreciative of the living situation given to him. He shared a floor with Steve, and the closeness with someone familiar seemed to help. After a few weeks of solitary meals in his room he started venturing out for meals at the communal table. Not long after that he finally gave in and—quite tolerantly, in Steve’s opinion—allowed Tony to fiddle with his mechanical arm. He even occasionally came down and sat on the periphery of the living room during Wanda’s “Educate Steve on the Most Important Movies of the Last Century” movie nights.

But despite these small improvements there was still a separateness to him. A change. It wasn’t as if Steve had expected Bucky to be all well and good, let alone the same as he’d been seventy years ago. Hell, even Steve had changed. He knew that it was near-unavoidable. But unlike the friend he’d once known so well, this new Bucky was quiet, unsure of himself, and easily unnerved. He didn’t laugh at other people’s jokes and he NEVER turned his back to anyone. Loud noises, whether from the kitchen blender or Tony’s stereo system, seemed to put him on edge. He didn’t flirt with Natasha. He didn’t flirt with anyone. Steve, being the only one who’d known Bucky before, was the only one who really appreciated the extent of the difference in him.

For a while Steve let the matter go. They’d go on another mission, Bucky would prove himself again, and Steve would rationalize the behavior changes as par for the course when recovering from being frozen for so long. And though he’d occasionally been woken up, Bucky had had it worse than Steve (what with the brainwashing and the torture and all). So Bucky was slow coming out of his shell. That didn’t mean Steve had the right to interfere, to insist Bucky try feeling any other way than how he really felt. Steve forced himself to give Bucky space, even though it pained him to do so.

But then one night JARVIS woke Steve up at 3:00am and informed him that Mr. Barnes was in distress in his suite and required attention. It wasn’t until Steve barged in and found Bucky tangled in his sheets and writhing in the middle of a night terror, that he realized he hadn’t been summoned by Bucky himself. JARVIS had acted on his own. Steve knelt over the bed, grabbing Bucky by the shoulders to wake him up before he could use his metal arm to put a hole through anything. Soaked in sweat and embarrassed as all get-out, Bucky had quickly asked him to leave. After that Steve didn’t intervene again, but he did tell JARVIS to record the frequency of Bucky’s nightmares. Turns out Bucky had them most nights.

It was after this that Steve started to notice Bucky leaving the tower. With the exception of missions—during which the team used the helipad, everyone always left the building via elevator. There were stairs for emergencies of course, but no one used them. Steve caught Bucky sneaking out through the stairwell entrance near the kitchen. It was late, Bucky hadn’t seen him, and Steve just went back to bed with the glass of water he’d come out for. But then Steve fell asleep on the couch another night and caught Bucky sneaking out a second time—again late at night.

During one of their irregular sparring sessions in the gym, Natasha was in the mood to kick ass. Out on the mats, she pinned Clint, then she pinned Tony, then she pinned Sam. Then she fought for a while with Bucky (the general rule was that he wasn’t allowed to use his metal arm to its full strength). Natasha wound up pinning Bucky too, and that’s when it went to shit. She’d gotten on top of him, using his own body weight to trap one of his legs and his metal arm underneath him at an awkward angle while she kept steady pressure on his neck. “Give up,” she cajoled, sweaty and confident from already besting three others. “Come on you know you want to.”

Steve and Tony were laughing like they all did when Natasha kicked somebody’s ass during these competitions, but they stopped when Bucky roared, burst from the ground and threw Natasha half way across the room. She landed with a painful-sounding thud near the weights, whipped her head up in surprise, and Bucky just stood there looking shell shocked. Well, for a second or two at least. Breath coming heavy, he glanced around at all of them with a kind of panicked look. Steve must have been frowning or something in confusion, because when Bucky’s eyes landed on him his face crumpled in distress. He immediately turned and fled the room before even Tony could say a thing.

It was clear to Steve that Bucky was struggling. Sam had been the first one to explain PTSD to him, and Steve thought that Bucky probably had it. Hell, Steve probably had it. But the one time that Steve had hesitantly suggested to Bucky that he might want to see a therapist, they’d been browsing in the Apple store at the mall, and it hadn’t gone well. Specifically, Bucky had crushed two thousand dollars’ worth of merchandise before fleeing. Steve hadn’t blamed him. Back in their day mental illness hadn’t exactly been something people talked about, let alone admitted to. Steve had bashfully paid for the ruined laptop and not brought the idea of therapy up to Bucky again.

Bucky kept sneaking out though, and Steve started to worry that he might be doing something dangerous. So he snooped (and felt very guilty about it). There were little pieces of paper with dates in Bucky’s room, papers like the ones you’d pull out from fortune cookies. They had random words and dates scribbled on them: Wielding 3.11, Nickle 4.08 , and Ache 5.13.

Happenstance 6.10 was the most recently-dated one and Steve couldn’t resist pocketing it. If they were some of Bucky’s old trigger words, Steve didn’t know. If anyone else on the team saw those papers, if they found out about Bucky’s sneaking out, they might assume the worst—that Bucky had reverted to his programmed behaviors as HYDRA’s asset. Steve didn’t think this was the case, but he didn’t want to put Bucky through that. It was better if he handled it himself. It was just a matter of when, and how.

One night Steve was out for a jog because of insomnia and saw Bucky emerging from the stairwell’s street-level door. Steve was sweaty and out of breath and in no condition to trail him without getting caught, so he did the next best thing he could think of: he popped one of the magnetic GPS devices off the side of his wristband fitness tracker (last year’s Christmas present from Natasha) and flung it at Bucky’s left arm with a prayer that his aim would be anywhere near as accurate as Natasha’s was. It wasn’t, but the tiny disk did manage to land in the hood of Bucky’s sweatshirt and by some miracle Bucky didn’t notice it. Good enough. Steve ran upstairs to shower and change.

Steve didn’t know exactly where he’d be going as he followed Bucky’s trail, so he dressed similarly to what he’d seen Bucky wearing: dark jeans and a hoodie, sneakers. Nondescript. He considered bringing a weapon or two in case whatever Bucky had gotten involved with was dangerous, but in the end refrained. Out on the street, Steve pulled out his phone and took a look at where the GPS said Bucky had gone. Assuming that Bucky hadn’t discovered the tracker yet, the little red dot on Steve’s phone put him somewhere in Hell’s Kitchen. Steve frowned as he caught a cab. Avengers Tower was in midtown. Why would Bucky be going so far?

The cab left him off a couple of blocks from where Bucky’s tracker was. Steve walked quickly and silently. This wasn’t the best neighborhood and at this hour the few people who were around weren’t the people you wanted to engage with. When he finally arrived to where the GPS said Bucky should be, he was facing an old brick building that looked like it had once been a factory—maybe back in Steve’s time. There didn’t appear to be any lights on inside the building, but Steve could hear the faint sound of music coming from somewhere. He walked up the front steps and tried the door. Locked. He peered through one of the windows. Dark, no movement. Stepping back to the sidewalk, Steve double checked his phone to make sure he had the right place. He did. The little red dot that was the tracker indicated that Steve was within a few dozen meters of the target. Well, he thought, that was if Bucky hadn’t found the tracker and just dumped it there. Steve was beginning to believe that was the case, as it really didn’t seem like anyone was nearby.

Still, there was a faint hum of music. It could be felt more than heard. Steve wasn’t sure if a non-enhanced person would have noticed it as well as he. Maybe. He looked down the block in each direction. Most of the buildings nearby were either boarded up or else businesses that had closed for the night. Turning to head around the side of the building, Steve looked for another entrance. He didn’t find anything until he reached the alley behind. There were concrete stairs descending to a basement-level entrance. The door down there was heavily-reinforced steel. No doorknob. No window except for an eye-level slot that was firmly closed. Steve took the steps down and pressed his ear to the door. Sure enough, the base of the music was more noticeable now. Well, he supposed he’d found it. Whatever it was. Taking a breath, Steve knocked hard on the door. He only had to wait a few seconds before the slot was sliding open and a pair of heavily made up eyes peeked out at him. It was a woman’s eyes and they were narrowed with suspicion. “Password?” the woman asked. For a second, Steve was reminded of the time when he and Bucky had been teenagers and tried to sneak into a speakeasy. Now, Steve got the distinct feeling that he had stumbled upon something illicit. The woman asked for the password again.

Steve couldn’t help it, he laughed. “What is this?” The woman wasn’t amused. She began to slide the slot closed again, but before she could Steve said, “Wait! Sorry. I uh,” he shoved his hands in his pockets, trying to think quickly. Just when he thought he’d come up with nothing, his fingers brushed against something in his pocket. He pulled the piece of paper out and glanced down at it. It was one of the unexplained slips of paper from Bucky’s room. He’d forgotten that he’d pocketed it. “I…” he trailed off, wondering if it could really be so simple.

Happenstance 6.10.

That night was June tenth.

Steve didn’t waste time thinking about it. He read the word off of the paper and hoped. If he was wrong he’d know soon.

The eyes stared at him a second longer, then the iron slot slammed shut. Steve’s body buzzed with adrenaline, sure that he had just destroyed any chance he had at getting in. But then a metallic groan could be heard from the other side of the door, and the door was opening. Right away, the all-encompassing thrum of music burst through. On the other side of the entryway was the woman to whom the eyes belonged. She was short, especially compared to Steve. Her hair was brown and pulled up in a rather severe bun. She wore a crisply tailored suit. Expensive looking, but the jacket dipped low and didn’t appear to have a shirt beneath. There was a man next to her in a nice suit as well, and he was built like a brick wall (again, especially compared to Steve). Steve swallowed, then took a step inside.

The iron door was shut behind him without ceremony. They were in a small room. Black walls, black floor. There was another door leading somewhere else, and Steve itched to get through it. The suspicious woman instructed Steve to hold still while he was patted down by her counterpart. Steve allowed it, glad that he’d decided not to bring any weapons with him. The guard waved what appeared to be a metal detector over his body, and Steve had to wonder that if Bucky was here, how he could have gotten in with his metal arm. “Your phone please,” the woman demanded.

Steve tensed. “Why do you need my phone?” The guard was taking it from his back pocket before Steve even had a chance to hand it over.

“No recording devices allowed,” she said, looking even more unhappy that he’d had to ask. “What’s that on your wrist?”

“My fitness tracker,” Steve threw out as blithely as he could manage. It wouldn’t really be too big of a deal if they took it from him, except that it did have a few micro explosives in it. When the woman indicated that he should hand it over for inspection, Steve didn’t refuse. “It doesn’t take pictures,” Steve volunteered, hoping he’d be allowed to keep it. The guard grunted, apparently in Steve’s favor because he handed it back after a quick inspection. Steve wondered if he should say thank you, but in the end didn’t. Finally cleared by the huge bodyguard, Steve tried to relax. The woman asked him for the cover fee and Steve gulped. “Uh…” He reached back for his wallet. He didn’t usually carry too much cash around anymore (credit cards were one of the best inventions). “How much?”

“Two hundred.”

Jesus that was steep. It made Steve even more nervous about what the heck was going on beyond the next door. And of course he didn’t have that kind of money on him. Steve’s heart sped up as he tried to think of collateral. In a flash, he remembered that he was also wearing last year’s birthday gift from Tony. Removing it, he shoved it at the girl and said, “It’s a Rolex. Keep it.” Steve didn’t have any particular attachment to the thing, and he knew that if Tony had really known what he was sacrificing it for, he’d have understood.

The woman looked him up and down appraisingly. “Are you going in like that?” she asked. “If you want to take anything off we can hold it here.” She looked him up and down again and Steve felt judged, very judged. He glanced self-consciously down to what he was wearing.

“Um, no?”

Her eyebrows rose, but she didn’t say anything. She nodded at the guard and he stepped away, then she waved Steve forward towards the next door, the one through which the music could be heard. The one through which Steve was increasingly nervous that he’d find Bucky. “Thanks,” he couldn’t help saying. The woman ignored him and simply informed, “This is the only exit. You’ll be searched again before leaving.” Steve pushed through the door. It closed with a heavy weight behind him, but Steve never noticed because his attention was elsewhere.

The music, no longer dimmed through the walls, assaulted his ears. It was dark. The room smelled like liquor and sex. Steve felt frozen where he stood as he took it all in. There might have been a hundred people there or there might have been twice that. It was hard to tell. People were dressed in assortments of shiny, dangerous-looking outfits that either covered little or else nothing at all. There were bowls of condoms laying around and hand sanitizer dispensers on the walls. There were people tied up, chained up, to those same walls. Steve swallowed heavily at the sight of a woman being led around on a leash. He realized that he knew what this was.

Steve had discovered internet porn not long after Natasha had taught him about the internet. He’d been horrified for the split second before his brain had decided that it was exciting. No longer was sex or anything that went along with it so illicit as it had been before. Now it was everywhere, easily attainable and with more variety than Steve ever could’ve imagined. It hadn’t taken too long before he’d caught glimpses of the more… fringe sorts of porn. It hadn’t agreed with some of Steve’s more ingrained hesitancies, and mostly he managed to keep himself away. Mostly. Something in Steve though, something secret and shameful, really liked the dark rooms, the bossy dominant partners and the pliant, submissive partners of those certain types of porn.

What was going on before him now was like that, and more. Steve barely had the vocabulary for some of it, but he knew enough to figure out that what he had stumbled upon was some sort of fetish sex club.

The darkness was cut with flashes of lights coming from the ceiling in vivid blues and greens. They’d pulled rugs and chandeliers and new furniture in for people to lounge on but the room was still the brick and cement of an old factory’s basement. Pipes along the ceiling ran far back, indicating that the room was large but Steve couldn’t see how far back it went due to all of the people. Steve swallowed heavily. The music was very clear now. It was low and electronic, with a heavy pulse underneath indecipherable lyrics. It felt filthy.

A guy in short shorts and little else came up to Steve with a platter of drinks. There were several other servers just like him peppered throughout the room. “Shot Sir?” he offered. He didn’t make eye contact and Steve was taken aback by how young he looked.

“How old are you?” He couldn’t help it. It came out sounding like someone’s disapproving parent.

The guy—kid, Steve’s mind supplied—finally met his eye to give him a rueful look. He picked up one of the shots and pressed it into Steve’s chest and Steve kind of had to grasp it before the thing fell. “You must be new,” he said. “Drink it.” He walked away with his platter to serve other people, and Steve was left to blink down at the glass. In the end he downed it. Not because it would do anything for him, but because the familiar burn of the liquor going down felt nice.

He walked through a few groups of people, keeping his eyes peeled for any sign of Bucky. Everyone was either engaging in sex acts or else watching them. It was obvious that nobody was going to be judged for staring in this place, but Steve still knew he must be blushing. Under his sweatshirt he felt uncomfortably warm. Old-fashioned sensibilities aside, Steve was smart enough to know that openly performing sex acts in a place of business wasn’t legal. He supposed that was why he’d faced such scrutiny at the door.

A few people pushed past Steve—not rudely, it was just very crowded—when with very little warning, a woman sidled up alongside Steve and strung her arm through his. Steve glanced down, prepared to give as polite of a “No thank you” as he could manage, but he didn’t get there. Instead his jaw dropped in recognition. “Natasha?”

She smiled without looking at him. “Surprised to find you here Cap.”

She rarely called him that anymore outside of missions or teasing. Steve stopped walking, grabbing her shoulders and moving them to the nearest wall. Natasha leaned back against it like she’d been expecting this. “Nat what are you—” he’d been going to say “doing here,” but he eyed her up and down and what came out instead was, “…wearing?”

Natasha’s lips split then in a real grin. It wasn’t like Steve had really had to ask. It was plain as day what she was wearing: a shiny black and red, skin tight, rubbery version of what everyone else seemed to be wearing. She had a corset on, and that was the only piece of clothing that Steve knew the name for. “Do you like it?” she asked, and Steve made a sound of indignation.

“I’m not here for fun,” he said.

“Neither am I,” Natasha replied, all trace of teasing gone from her voice. “But you could’ve tried harder to blend in.” She eyed his outfit critically.

Steve let go of her shoulders with a huff. “I didn’t know…” Didn’t know. There was so much that he didn’t know. Still didn’t. “I didn’t know where I’d end up.”

That seemed to be answer enough for Natasha. “If you were suspicious of where he was slipping off to every night you should have done more reconnaissance.”

“Reconnaissance?” Oh.

Steve steeled his jaw. But of course Natasha would have figured it out before Steve himself did. For all he knew, she’d been following Bucky to this sex club for weeks, watching him tie people up and dominate them. Watching him use them as objects on which to vent his frustration and pain. Steve hated to assume that but it made immediate sense. He’d even been thinking it himself when he’d realized the sort of place he’d stumbled into. Bucky had been imprisoned, tortured and turned into a weapon. Steve had no idea if he’d ever been raped, but it was a distinct possibility. Regardless, it wasn’t exactly shocking that Bucky would be desperate for control; control that’d been robbed from him for so many years. And now it seemed that he’d found a way to get it back.

Steve eyed Natasha stiffly. “You haven’t told anyone else?” If Natasha had noticed Bucky’s activities, he wasn’t sure if she would have kept it to herself.

“No need. He kept coming here and all I had to do was watch the other people going in to know it wasn’t exactly a Hydra reunion. I knew it wasn’t serious.”

“NOT…!” Steve fought to keep his voice down. “Not serious?” He gestured around. “How can you say that? Look at this place.”

Natasha twisted her lips at him. “It’s a sex club.”

Steve made an abortive sound in his throat. “It can’t be legal.”

“Well it’s not safe. With all the liquor they’re serving they’re certainly not playing sane.”

“Sane?”

Natasha shook her head. “Never mind. What are you planning to do?”

Steve frowned. “Do?”

“When you see him.” She peered knowingly at him. “Are you planning on dragging him out of here?”

“I…” Steve faltered. He hadn’t thought of that. Hadn’t thought that far ahead. He’d halfway been expecting to find Bucky doing something dangerous, something covert, something different than… this. Natasha’s words suddenly hit him though, and his attention snapped back to her with new realization. “You’ve seen him.” It wasn’t a question and Natasha knew it. “Where is he?”

For the first time she looked hesitant. After a beat she tilted her head in indication. “All the way back. There’s a sort of… whipping post around the corner. It’s drawing a crowd. You can’t miss it.” Steve immediately made to move, but her hand caught his wrist and she warned him, “He might not want to know you’re here.”

“This place isn’t safe,” Steve replied stiffly. “You said so yourself.”

“He also came here willingly. Remember that,” she warned. But she let him pull away and didn’t follow after him.

Steve didn’t look back to see if she’d stay or leave. He suspected she’d leave now that she knew Bucky hadn’t defected back to Hydra, but it didn’t really matter. Steve only had one objective on his mind, and that was to retrieve Bucky. He weaved between the people in his way, doing his best not to draw attention to himself. In the very back of the basement there was a crowd of people that’d circled around to watch something. Steve pushed his way through until he had a spot in the circle.

He felt his breath catch, shock draining the blood from his head in one quick rush.

There was a thick pipe of some sort that went from floor to ceiling, and a man facing it. It was Bucky, Steve knew right away from his metal arm, his messy hair, the shape of his back, and the scars. There were different types of scars all over his back. Steve had seen them before, knew they were old. A holdover from Bucky’s days with HYDRA. It was surprising to Steve that Bucky would willingly bare them in a public place like this. The two of them shared a living space and Bucky had always turned away quickly if Steve caught him sleepy in the morning, making coffee in his pajama pants; or sweaty and having shed his tee in the gym. Steve had thought the scars were something Bucky preferred not to display.

But now all Bucky wore were his jeans. His top and sweatshirt and even his shoes had been taken from him. Steve’s mind automatically supplied the little detail of ‘taken’ because, based on present circumstances, there was no way that Bucky had come to this place to dominate anyone. He’d come here to be dominated.

He was kneeling on the floor facing the pipe. His arms were stretched overhead, making the muscles in his arms and back stand out. His wrists were held to the pipe by intricately-tied ropes. They definitely looked like something from which an enhanced person like Bucky could pull free if he wanted to, but he wasn’t struggling.

He wasn’t struggling at all actually.

From what Steve could see, Bucky was staring down in front of himself, perhaps at the floor. His breathing seemed to be measured and even, if the gentle movement of his back was anything to go by. But there was the faintest trace of a shine along the tops of his shoulders, sweat beginning to bead there. Steve didn’t like that he couldn’t see Bucky’s face from his angle, so he moved around the circle that’d gathered until he had a better vantage. From there, he could see that Bucky’s eyes were open.

Strange. He had expected them to be closed. Maybe squeezed shut. Steve remembered what Natasha had said, about Bucky having come there willingly.

Steve’s eyes flashed to the side where a number of implements designed for hurting another person hung from the wall. He swallowed nervously, not sure what was going to happen next but quite certain that he wouldn’t like it. There were knives on that wall.

A woman walked up to Bucky’s side and stroked a hand down the length of his flesh arm. She had curls pinned in her hair and painted lips and was actually very attractive. Her outfit was even a little more decent than most of the others around. She wore a high-waisted pencil skirt and ruffled top. Aside from Steve himself, she might have been the most thoroughly-dressed person in the room. And though her clothes were made of latex, something about the style of them, along with the way she wore her hair and her red lips, reminded Steve of the girls that used to fill the dance halls on Friday nights way back when.

She looked younger than Bucky, and even standing behind him while he was kneeling, she looked so much smaller than him—dainty next to his broad back, his stretched arms. But Bucky was the one tied up and she seemed very, very sure of herself. Steve didn’t get the feeling that this was the first time she’d done something like this. Her first touch to Bucky’s arm hadn’t seemed to elicit too much of a reaction from him, but when she brought a flogger down from the wall and trailed the ends of it softly over his back and shoulders, all the muscles in him corded a little tighter in anticipation. He shivered.

“Relax,” she told him, and Bucky obeyed, an unheard sigh parting his lips.

“Yes Mistress.”

Steve felt something hot and awful sweep through him at hearing Bucky call the woman that. He felt himself react, cock filling a little in his pants. He could see that Bucky was already hard within the confines of his own jeans, which rode low on his hips. Steve had to wonder if Bucky knew the woman. He wondered if she’d tied him up like this before, made him kneel in this same spot until he was hard with anticipation.

She looked out at the circle of people that’d gathered and gave them a saucy smile. “Hello lovelies. I’m Mistress Leda, to those of you who might somehow not already know.” A chorus of familiar murmurs and giggles went around the circle, with one or two people making catcalls. “Shhh. Oh stop it!” Leda laughed (and God, Steve hated how pretty she was when she laughed). She turned back to Bucky. “And this beautiful specimen I have right here, is my absolute favorite play thing.” She reached down to run her fingers through Bucky’s hair.

Steve’s eyes widened when he noticed that Bucky seemed to lean into the touch. Like a dog, eager for whatever its owner would give it. It did strange things to Steve’s stomach, seeing Bucky behave like that. Normally he was so closed off, so defensive. To see him making himself vulnerable like this… It wasn’t what Steve was used to.

Leda was still addressing them all. “Now I’m going to be doing a lot of things to him this evening. A lot of fun things. And you are all very welcome to watch and enjoy yourselves. That’s what we’re all here for, after all. I only have one rule for you.” Flogger slung over her shoulder, she slipped a hair tie off of her wrist. She took the elastic and drew Bucky’s hair back, securing it into a low bun. “And that one rule is that nobody gets to touch this man except for me.” She turned suddenly sharp eyes to them all. Steve swallowed at the threat in them. “We don’t use safewords here. You know that.” Leda said. “I am his safeword. So follow the damn rule and don’t. Touch. Him.” She stopped talking to them as if that was explanation enough. Maybe it was. The way she’d issued that last command to everyone—as if she would hurt them in ways that they wouldn’t like if they crossed her—reminded Steve a little bit of Natasha and how she could be at her most ruthless. Steve wished that Nat was still there so that he could ask her what a safeword was. It sounded important.

Leda had turned her attention back to Bucky. “You’ve been so patient for me James,” she praised him, and Steve was shocked to hear his real name coming from her lips. He hated it instantly, as if she shouldn’t be allowed to know it. Bucky however thanked her quietly and remained still. “Are you ready to show these people what it is that’s got you kneeling here like a needy whore?” she asked him, though the question sounded rhetorical. Bucky shivered again but didn’t answer. Leda went and knelt behind him, reaching around perfunctorily to undo his belt and pull open his pants. “Look at you,” she murmured at finding him already hard and straining against her hand. “Eager boy.” She shimmied the pants down along with his underwear until they rested on the thick swell of his thighs. Bucky showed absolutely no sign of resisting, and when Leda stood back up and kicked lazily to get him to spread his knees further apart, he did so obediently. She stood back up behind him and began tracing the planes of his back again with the soft tails of the flogger.

Steve felt mesmerized. The muscles near the side of Bucky’s butt clenched with the strain of holding still, of not thrusting his hips forward when he was this aroused. And being exposed the way he was, well... There was no way Steve could not look. Bucky’s cock was hard—harder than it should have been with so little stimulation. He was circumcised. Steve had known this of course, but the last time he’d seen Bucky exposed had been in 1944 when they’d been a few meters off from the rest of the Commandos, taking a piss in the freezing Austrian woods. It hadn’t exactly been in a sexual context, and Steve had never seen him hard.

Bucky’s cock stood out proudly from his belly, smooth and pink along the length of it. The tip—god—the tip was fat and flushed and wet. Steve watched the way Bucky’s breath made his lower stomach heave, and there was nothing Steve wanted more than to kiss him there, to run calming hands over Bucky’s stomach and to put his mouth on that beautiful, straining cockhead. The thought probably should have shocked him more than it did, but it was the next one that really caught Steve off guard.

Bucky was beautiful like this, he thought. Kneeling, aroused and bound. Submitting. The sight got Steve off. And god help him, Steve wanted to be the one standing behind Bucky with that flogger.

His eyes trailed back to between Bucky’s legs. It was all bare and smooth down there. Steve had seen this in porn of course, but the idea was still a newer concept to him. It did, however, afford him a clear view. There was some kind of ring around the base of Bucky, and Steve thought that whatever it was, it looked painful. Bucky didn’t seem to be in pain at all though.

His eyes had shifted from the ground a bit by now. He was staring ahead of where he knelt. Steve might have worried that Bucky would glance over and spot him, but Bucky didn’t seem to be seeing any of the people who had gathered round to watch. His gaze was a thousand yards long, his eyes already hazy with…

What was it? Steve wondered. Compliance? Need? Want?

Want. It was definitely want. Bucky was completely and undeniably undone by this, Steve realized like a punch to the gut. Not just that; he was entranced by it. Bucky’s prick was hard between his legs and his gaze a million miles away just because somebody had gone and tied him up and talked down to him. Hadn’t even done anything yet. Just the promise of being treated like a thing had Bucky slipping away.

Steve swallowed, not sure how to process that let alone understand it.

Leda went to the wall of instruments. Resting the flogger over her shoulder once more, she reached for the hand sanitizer dispenser, pumping some of its viscous liquid into her palm and holding it there. Addressing the crowd again, she said, “I don’t know how many of you all have met James before, but he has a reputation for being a very well-behaved little pain slut.”

The crowd of people murmured excitedly, pleased at that. Steve winced. Bucky had a reputation here?

“Oh yes,” she drawled. “James is very popular. The other Masters and Mistresses adore him. He’s become the new dungeon favorite. But,” she added, “he’s a little bit different from my other playthings. And I’m not talking about that arm of his. He doesn’t like being touched. Do you baby?” When no reply came she glanced sharply over her shoulder at Bucky. “I asked you a question James. You had better answer if you know what’s good for you.”

“No mistress. I don’t.”

“That’s right you don’t.” Leda smirked at him, though Bucky couldn’t see it. “Thought I wouldn’t figure that out, did you?”

Bucky’s fingers wrapped themselves a little bit tighter around the ropes, his lips quivering, but he kept quiet.

“You see folks, he only comes here for punishment. He doesn’t ever ask to have his cock touched, or sucked, or to be fucked. Doesn’t want to give that part of himself to us, I suppose. He holds back, tries not to come. Every time it’s the same. You see that cock ring he’s wearing? He put that there before he even arrived. I didn’t give him permission for that.” Leda pouted visibly. “It’s like he doesn’t want to surrender his pleasure to me. To anyone really. It’s as if he has the nerve to believe that his orgasms actually belong to him.” She sneered. “And I bet you anything he’s off jerking it in the first alleyway he finds on the way home. Now I don’t think that’s very acceptable behavior. Do you all?”

“No,” the crowd answered.

“I agree.” She was still perusing the wall of instruments. “So tonight I think we should switch things up on him. I think it’s high time this slave learns that he gets NO say here. Not in anything.” She turned her head minutely to the side. “What do you all think?”

“Yes!” It wasn’t just one person who said it. The word went around the circle in a staccato of agreement. There was a man directly to Steve’s right that laughed his response as if he was watching some grand comedy, as if Bucky was an animal instead of a person and they were all just assembled there to watch him be baited. Steve wanted to hit him.

“Good. Good,” Leda said. She was still facing the wall, considering her choices. After a moment she grabbed a condom from a bowl and something else that Steve couldn’t see but which made a few people who could see, chuckle. “This ought to make him squeal,” Leda murmured. “Little bitch is going to give it up tonight.”

Steve tensed. Bucky did too, though it was minute and Steve was sure that no one else noticed. Steve knew that no one else had been able to hear Leda speaking so quietly. She’d murmured that last part privately to herself, not knowing that both Steve and Bucky had enhanced hearing and could make it out over the music. Steve glanced back at Bucky’s face. He didn’t look upset. He looked resolute. And the woman—Leda—spared a moment to smirk back at Bucky as if to gauge a reaction from him. …Maybe this woman did know about Bucky, Steve thought with disappointment. Maybe she was in on how much he could do. How much he could take. Steve hoped not because if so, then whatever she was about to unleash on him was probably going to be so much worse.

It was only when she turned back around with that cupped hand of liquid, the condom, and a black sex toy that Steve realized his mistake in assuming that the dispensers on the walls contained hand sanitizer.

She walked back over to Bucky and got behind him once more, this time crouching. Her high heels looked sharp and mean where they rested next to the exposed bottoms of Bucky’s bare feet. Her lips held right next to Bucky’s ear, she asked him—again in a whisper meant for no one but him to hear, “So James, you think you can still hold your load in once I’ve stuffed something real buzzy and good up your ass?” Bucky looked tense at hearing those words simpered so sweetly to him. Steve didn’t miss the way his nostrils flared, his lips thinned. “Because that’s what you’re going to get,” she said, moving her hand—the one with the lube—to his backside.

Steve couldn’t see everything from his position, but he knew from watching Bucky’s face exactly when she’d penetrated him. It mustn’t have hurt too bad, or at all, because Bucky held still as she worked him open, little pants beginning to leave his lips once she got more than two fingers inside of his body and really pumped them.

Steve was flabbergasted. He couldn’t imagine what it must feel like to have someone degrade you and stick their fingers in your ass in front of a crowd of people. Even if he could’ve imagined it, he was sure that whatever he came up with, the experience was something else entirely for Bucky. Bucky didn’t fight it. He stayed still for her as she worked his body over. He looked aroused but extremely defiant, as if, had he been allowed to speak, he would’ve said, “Try your damned hardest but you won’t get that from me. Not that.”

Behind him, Leda ripped open the condom she’d grabbed and slid it over the toy. She ran her lubed hand down the length of it and held it to his entrance with a chuckle. “What do you think this is James?”

“I don’t know Mistress.” Bucky’s voice was still pitched low, aroused. He still had that far away stare. Apparently being threatened with something he didn’t want done to him wasn’t enough to break him out of whatever headspace he’d been enjoying.

“It’s a special vibrator that’s going to sit right on your prostate. Stimulate it from the inside and out. Think you can hold back from that?”

For the first time, Steve saw Bucky’s eyes slip shut. It was only for a second, but in that second Bucky looked crestfallen. The woman behind him couldn’t see. “I don’t know,” he said. “I… don’t think so.” He sounded almost sad at admitting it.

Leda seemed content to ignore Bucky’s slip in addressing her by her title, instead bumping the toy against Bucky’s hole. “Ready?”

She wasn’t really asking in consideration. She’d pushed the toy against and into Bucky before he ever would have had a real chance to say no. On his face, Bucky’s expression morphed from shock, to fear, to pleasure, to a very stubborn look of determination in the span of a few seconds. Leda used a remote to turn the vibrations of the toy on. Steve could see the immediate change in Bucky—how his muscles tightened, how his brow pinched and his lips parted. Leda reached down to the part of the toy that curved outside Bucky’s body and she pressed it firmly up against his perineum, and wiggled it.

A fast huff of breath left Bucky’s mouth, as if he’d only barely managed to hold back a louder moan. He was obviously struggling against the pleasure. It made Steve’s heart clench and his cock throb to see that just yards away poor Bucky was gritting his teeth as if he was already being whipped, as if this was the painful part. It was backwards.

Bucky whined unhappily, pulling his body away from Leda as if he could escape the vibrations inside of him. Of course it didn’t work, but it made Steve frown. With what was happening, Steve had to wonder if Bucky had known exactly what was going to be done to him before he’d let them tie him up that night. Steve hoped so, otherwise this was fucked already.

“There,” Leda crooned sweetly, small hands guiding Bucky’s hips back into his kneeling position. “See? You took that so well. Knew you would.” She patted the toy up against Bucky’s sensitive areas again, eliciting a grunt from him. This made her laugh as she stood back up and set the remote control aside. “Now we can get down to business,” she told him, wiping her hands off and pulling the flogger from her shoulder. It was a plain leather flogger. Long, thin strips with a handle. Steve had seen them used in porn—the fringe porn that he mostly kept himself away from.

She took the flogger and held it in both hands, her eyes on the ground and then Bucky’s back, the ground and then Bucky’s back, minutely adjusting where her feet were placed. Steve realized that she was taking time to properly space herself. She needed to be the proper distance from Bucky to hit him just right. Steve swallowed.

Without any more preamble, Leda held the flogger in front of herself, pulling the many loose ends back in her opposite hand until they were taut. She held perfectly still for the smallest moment, her eyes keen on the rise and fall of Bucky’s back as he took in breaths. Then she released her hold, allowing the many leather tails to swing forward and hit Bucky’s skin with a resounding thud.

For the second time that night, Bucky’s eyes closed. And when they opened again they looked totally blown. If his gaze had been far away before, it was in the stratosphere now. Steve’s gut clenched horribly at that first strike, and not for the reasons he would have wanted to admit to. Bucky’s face looked pleasured and Steve’s cock thickened further at the sight of it. For the first time, Steve really wanted to touch himself. For the first time, Steve hoped that Natasha had not stayed in the building.

The flogger came down again rapidly. And again, and again, and again with no break. They didn’t seem to be brutally hard hits, but Steve couldn’t imagine that it didn’t hurt somewhat. Leda hit Bucky in waves, with perhaps a half dozen swings at a time before pausing, stepping thoughtfully somewhere else, and raining down another series of blows in a new location. The heavy ‘thwak thwak’ sounds of the flogger filled Steve’s ears, making him nearly forget that there was music playing in the room at all. All Steve could focus on was the sound of the leather hitting Bucky’s back, the way that Bucky’s face bloomed in pinched ecstasy and his skin turned pink. The soft moans that, after the first five minutes or so, started easing past his lips in a low, continuous hum. The muscles in Bucky’s arms had relaxed somewhat. He’d allowed himself to let go of some of the rigid tension that had been locked in his body before. Steve realized with a drop in his stomach that this… this punishment, this pain, was giving Bucky some sort of release. Bucky’s face held an almost relieved expression on it and, God help him, Steve thought that it was beautiful.

For a second Steve forgot to be worried for his friend.

But then the vibrator that’d been inside of Bucky fell to the floor.

The flogging stopped almost immediately. Bucky was panting a little, but he didn’t seem aware of what he’d done. The woman behind him however, did. Leda was staring at Bucky as if he’d done something very disobedient. Tossing the flogger aside, she stalked angrily to where Bucky knelt, reaching down between his legs to where the vibrator buzzed quietly against the floor. She didn’t say anything to him, simply got up and retrieved another condom and more lube from the dispenser. Back behind Bucky, she prepped the toy and said roughly in Bucky’s ear, “You’re such a goddamn whore for it you can’t even follow simple directions, hmm? Is that it?”

Bucky froze, apparently just now realizing that this wasn’t a breather. He’d let the toy fall out of his body and to the ground. He’d disobeyed. With no prompting, he said, “I’m sorry Mistress.”

“No, you’re not sorry James. Not for that. You’re just sorry that you’re in trouble.” She reached around and slapped him on the face. Bucky made no sound. “You’re pathetic. Do you honestly think that you deserve anything stinging your backside if you can’t even follow your Mistress’s ONE direction?”

Bucky hung his head further. He looked pained, though she couldn’t see it. “Please Mistress. Let me try again. I can be good for you. I…” he swallowed, “I can keep it in.”

She leaned so close to him that Steve thought Bucky could probably feel her breath against the skin of his neck. “You’d fucking better,” she snapped, “or else I’m going to find some other slut who’s more appreciative of my attentions, tie you up against the fucking wall and make you watch them get what you’re aching for.” She shoved the toy back into him with no warning, eliciting a surprised grunt from Bucky. “Now as it stands,” Leda said, standing back up and brushing her hands over her skirt as if she’d dirtied it by being so close behind Bucky. “All of these nice people have been waiting for a show, so I’ll still work you over just the way you like. But only if you don’t push that thing out of your ass again.”

Bucky nodded desperately at the floor. “Yes, yes Mistress I won’t. I won’t I promise.”

She chuckled, but it was a mean chuckle. “We’ll see. But first…” She sauntered around in front of Bucky and crouched before him. Bucky had to lean back a bit from the pipe his arms were tied to so that she could fit in, but there was enough room. It was the first time that Steve had seen Bucky look at the woman, and the expression of pure lust and even neediness and familiarity that he saw there made Steve’s stomach curl in jealousy. They had definitely done this together before. Many times, if Steve had to guess. “First you’re losing this.” She reached for his prick unceremoniously, still-slick hand tugging at the cock ring he wore to get it to roll up and off of Bucky’s erection. Bucky’s hips jerked. He made a sound of protest; a panicked whine that was anything but dignified. It didn’t really make it past his throat, but Leda scolded him all the same. “None of that James. There’re consequences for bad behavior, and this is yours.” She smirked. “Well, one of them anyway.” She slapped lightly at his balls just to watch his face crumple. Standing, she tossed the cock ring aside as if she had no intention of ever returning it to Bucky. Without it, he’d have a much harder time holding himself back from orgasm. Steve hadn’t come into this knowing that, but based off of firsthand experience with his own anatomy, and the distressed look on Bucky’s face at his “consequence,” Steve could guess as much.

“Why don’t we make this a little more of a challenge for you, hmm?” Leda went over and retrieved the remote to the toy she’d put back inside of Bucky. She must have pressed the button on it to up the level of vibration, because Steve could instantly see the tension zip back through Bucky’s body. Now he was back to looking pained, like he was fighting something he really didn’t want.

Steve felt guilty that he was still hard in his pants. Harder even than he had been before. He knew he was out of his depth here. He didn’t understand all of what was going on, either physically or psychologically, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew that this was wrong—so wrong—and that he should do something, should be putting a stop to it now. Before it could go any farther, get any worse. But something held him back. Whether it was the ache in his cock or the fact that Bucky had yet to utter a single word or gesture of protest to what was being done to him, Steve couldn’t tell. Maybe it was a mixture of both.

Leda went back to the wall of items, touching some of them and moving on when she decided against one implement or another. Seemingly dissatisfied by the selection (Steve didn’t see how she could be; there seemed to be one of everything) she instead moved away and looked around the crowd of assembled viewers, surveying them. “Does anyone have a belt they’d like to donate?” she asked cheerfully. Poor Steve, naive as he was, had one blissful moment where he didn’t understand why on earth the woman would want someone’s belt.

But then of course it dawned on him. He physically felt the blush spread over his face and neck. And really, it was a bit hilarious that out of everything that’d happened thus far, that was what was bringing color to his face.

Leda was scanning the circle, eyes sharp. A few men who had actual pants on had already raised their hands like eager school children, ready to volunteer their own belts, but she passed them over as her eyes moved further down the circle. Steve didn’t feel the lump of apprehension lodge in his throat until her eyes settled on him. And held.

Shit.

Steve felt panic prickle along the edge of his hairline as she smiled sweetly and started walking towards him. Natasha was right, you idiot! he told himself. You stick out like a sore thumb! Leda was in front of him now, giving him her presumptive lipstick smile. Steve’s eyes shot over to Bucky, terrified that he’d be looking over. That he’d see him.

But Bucky wasn’t looking. His eyes were aimed straight ahead at the pipe in front of him, looking but not seeing. His gaze was far away again, his features tense from fighting the arousal that’d been forced on him. For a heartbeat Steve was distracted by that one, severe crease between Bucky’s brows. He thought of going over there, of dropping to his knees in front of Bucky and kissing that furrow away. Of holding Bucky’s cock in his hand and pulling on it. Of putting his lips to Bucky’s forehead and telling him sweet things. Telling him that he didn’t need all of that pain, that he could come from something that felt good, that it was okay, that Steve had him and he could just let go…

“Hello there.”

Steve blinked, pulled back from his thoughts. The woman, Leda, was right in front of him. She was looking up at him with a degree of amusement.

“He’s beautiful isn’t he?”

Steve frowned. She must have noticed him staring at Bucky. And so she thought that he was a just another drooling voyeur, like all the other people in the circle. Steve’s ego rallied against that thought, incensed. He knew Bucky. He wasn’t some pervert. He was there to protect his friend. He wasn’t like any of these people! But another part of Steve’s mind reminded that he was half hard underneath his clothes, that he was fantasizing about Bucky, and—perhaps worst of all—that he did like seeing him tied up and begging with his pants around his knees. Steve swallowed, his mouth feeling dry. He didn’t like that thought one bit.

“Is this your first time?” she asked him, not unkindly.

Steve’s jaw clenched. He didn’t want to answer her. Not verbally anyways. And not because he cared about being some sort of BDSM virgin, but because… He glanced nervously again to Bucky (who still wasn’t looking at them, thank god). …Because if Buck heard his voice (would he even hear it in the state he was in?) Steve would give himself away. And he didn’t know how Bucky would react to that. Negatively, he assumed. Because Bucky had been sneaking out. Sneaking. He obviously hadn’t wanted anyone to know where he was going or what he was getting up to. Natasha’s words from earlier came playing back to Steve, as if she were really there still whispering them in his ear.

He might not want to know you’re here.

Steve blinked, sealing his lips together to prevent anything verbal from coming out. Instead he nodded his head yes, figuring that enough of an answer for the woman.

It must have been because she smiled sweetly (and Steve hated it because her prim red lips reminded him of Peggy and Dear Jesus God Steve hoped Peggy couldn’t look down from heaven and see where he was right now) and she said, “Always exciting to see new faces.” Her hands moved forward, touching lightly at the waist of his jeans. Steve was too shocked at the forwardness of it to do anything about it. “You know… you’re wearing a belt,” she pointed out unnecessarily. Her fingertips lingered right by Steve’s belt buckle, and suddenly Steve was acutely aware of exactly how hard he was. He tried to fight the urge to glance down to his crotch to check to see how obvious his erection was, but when Leda began undoing the buckle, he lost that battle.

Steve saw the front of his pants. It was pretty obvious.

But she made no comment on that. Perhaps because she expected everyone in the room to be aroused to some degree. Feeling too stupid to do anything else, Steve could only watch as her dainty hands made quick work of his belt, unbuckling it and pulling it swiftly from the loops. She ran it through her hands as if testing the weight of it. A pleased hum came from her lips. “Wow. Good quality leather. Nice width. Nice weight. And well worn-in too. Supple.” She grinned at him conspiratorially. “It’s ideal for a good strapping. Do you mind if I use this on James?”

His Name Is BUCKY, flew through Steve’s head, and it was an angry thought. Probably because No, he didn’t want her to use it on him. He didn’t want this woman to hit Bucky with anything. Steve wanted to go up to that pipe that ran from floor to ceiling, remove the ropes binding Bucky’s arms, and march them both straight out of there.

The fact that the idea of Bucky being hit with Steve’s very own belt did things to him was beside the point.

But Leda already had it in her hands, Steve had resolved not to speak lest he alert Bucky to his presence, and instead of uttering or doing any of the myriad of things that occurred to him, Steve just nodded again. She smiled at him once more as she slowly walked backwards to where Bucky was. “Don’t worry,” she assured Steve, somehow realizing that he needed assurance. “I promise you he’ll love it.”

Steve had absolutely nothing to say to that. He just watched as she went up to Bucky and, just like she had with the flogger, ran the belt gently over the skin of his back and buttocks so that he could feel it. Steve felt his heart jump at the sight of his own belt resting against the swell of Bucky’s ass and he knew, he just knew, that he would have to draw that image. With pencils, or maybe charcoal. Something simple. He’d capture it on paper and probably jerk off to it a thousand times. Steve didn’t mean to think it so much, but he couldn’t help coming back to the same conclusion over and over again: that Bucky was beautiful like this.

“Tell me pet,” Leda was saying, addressing Bucky again. “How are you doing with that toy buzzing away against your private parts, hmm?” In the crowd, someone giggled, but Bucky answered as if he hadn’t heard.

“It’s difficult Mistress.”

“Aw. Poor baby. Is it?” She doubled Steve’s belt in her hand, winding the excess length around her fist. She went around to stand so that Bucky could see her from where he knelt. Reaching down, she stroked the side of his face with the belt. It was almost tender, the way that she touched him. Bucky’s eyes lit up at the sight of the impromptu strap and he practically purred as it slid along his cheek like a caress. “You have an admirer,” she told Bucky. “Isn’t that nice? And he’s so generous to offer his own belt so that I can make your ass all pretty and red. You want to be pretty and red for me, don’t you James?”

“Yes. Yes! Please Mistress. I want that, please,” Bucky said. Steve felt his stomach swirl at the breathless way that Bucky begged to be hurt.

“Aww. You do? You want that?” she cooed. She tapped the belt under Bucky’s chin to get him to look up at her. “Well you’re going to be the happiest little pain slut in the room baby, because I’m going to work you over so good you won’t remember your own name.” Bucky sunk his head down, looking so relieved to hear that. “But first we’re going to add a liiittle bit of extra… stimulation,” she added, going for the remote.

And that had Bucky’s gaze snapping right back up to her in apprehension. “Please,” he said weakly. “Please don’t. I can’t…”

“Because you ARE going to come for all of these nice people.”

“Mistress,” Bucky all but sobbed. “I don’t want to.”

“Hush,” she chided. “Really. I don’t know what I could’ve done to make you think I care about what you want. This isn’t about what you want, James. It’s about what you need. Mm, but a desperate thing like you can’t be expected to know the difference.” She took the remote that controlled the vibrations of the toy, held it right in front of Bucky’s face, and pushed the button on it.

Bucky’s body gave a pronounced jerk, and this time he couldn’t hold back the cry that emanated from his lips. “OH fuuck,” he whined, squeezing his eyes shut tight and panting for a moment. The woman chuckled at the display she’d gotten from him and pushed the button again. Bucky wasn’t expecting it this time and he choked on a sound. A rush of precum oozed out of his cock, shining on the head for a moment before falling, creating a lazy line to the floor. It broke when Bucky started mindlessly fucking his hips forward. “Mistress, pleeease.”

“Please what, James?” she asked. “Do you want more?”

“No.” It came out little more than a whisper, so Steve doubted that anyone but he and she heard it.

“Want me to stroke you? Or maybe smear my lipstick all over your desperate cock while I fuck that toy into your ass? Do you want to come so good for me?”

Bucky’s eyes stayed screwed shut. He’d had them shut for nearly a full minute now—the longest since this whole thing had started. “Please no,” he whispered (and it sounded to Steve like he really meant it). “Please no.”

Leda laughed, and it was a deep-throated, truly amused roll of laughter. And very clearly at Bucky’s expense. “Oh James. You know I don’t think I’ll ever fully wrap my head around you.” She reached to gently tuck a stray hair away from his sweaty forehead. “You are so fucked up baby.”

Bucky whimpered. He wet his lips, meeting her eyes and begging, “Leda, please.”

She physically jerked at his use of her name. Apparently he didn’t have permission to use it. “You stupid thing,” she said. “You don’t even know what you want. Look at you: you’re drooling.” She reached down far enough to catch the string of precum dripping from Bucky’s cock, then held it up in front of his face as if it were some sort of damning evidence. She smeared it roughly across his cheek. “You’re making a mess all over the floor—a mess that you WILL be cleaning up later mind you—and nobody’s even touched your cock yet.”

Steve felt a stinging pain in his hands, too busy being ready to jump in and STOP all of this to realize that the pain was coming from him digging his own nails into his palms. Bucky didn’t look like he was enjoying this anymore (not in the way that counted the most at least). Steve had to physically keep hurting himself to keep from stepping forward and doing something rash.

Bucky was still struggling with the onslaught of sensation that’d been forced on him when Leda went back to stand behind him. Steve didn’t think Bucky even noticed that she’d moved, so much was his struggle to keep his breathing even. So when Leda brought the belt down for the first time he yelped louder than he probably would have otherwise. He panted afterwards, not looking pained so much as surprised. Steve watched the way that Bucky’s hands—both flesh and metal—grappled at the ropes that bound them, grabbing on tighter. It made all of the muscles in his arms and shoulders stand out in beautiful relief.

“What do you say, James?” Leda asked him.

“Thank you Mistress,” Bucky said immediately, and he sounded like he really meant it. “Thank you so much.”

Leda hummed in approval and—perhaps as a reward—pressed the button on the remote control to decrease the level of the toy’s vibration. Bucky seemed relieved. She drew back and struck him again. The crack of the belt against Bucky’s skin sounded louder than Steve would have expected. Just as Steve caught sight of the red welt blooming across Bucky’s ass, Bucky let loose a low moan. “Yes,” he said, sounding like he’d just come (he hadn’t). “Thank you Mistress. Please, more.”

Leda laughed. “What good manners.” She looked out at the people watching, her gaze catching on Steve “You see?” she said, and Steve had the feeling that she was speaking directly to him. “He loves it, the pain. Gets off on it. He’s a slut for it actually. Aren’t you baby?” Leda tickled her fingers over the tender skin of Bucky’s ass, scraping lightly over the welts with her nails. Bucky hissed but didn’t move away from the touch. If anything, he relaxed into his enforced posture, presenting his body for whatever she wanted to do to it. “Good boy,” Leda murmured approvingly. “You want more? Want to go a little harder?”

Bucky sighed like more was everything he’d ever wanted. He nodded and pressed his forehead against the metal pipe in front of where he knelt, saying “Please,” so quietly that Steve didn’t even think Leda heard it. His knees shifted in impatience where he knelt, his toes curling up towards the naked bottoms of his feet. “Please,” he croaked a bit louder, sounding like he could use a drink of water.

She obliged him, starting right back up with hard, evenly-timed strikes. She wasn’t trying to surprise him with when the next blow would come. They’d moved past that. Now she was just hitting him, over and over like he’d begged her to. She was working him up to something, though Steve could only guess as to what that was.

Bucky didn’t moan every time that the leather kissed his skin, but he wasn’t exactly quiet either. He made enough pleasured noises, enough gasps and groans and stuttered “Oh f-fuucks” that nobody in the crowd could be left guessing whether he was enjoying himself now. Clearly, he was. And he wasn’t being hit gently. The way Leda lay into him was meant to hurt, but it was also deliberate. Careful. None of the horribly red lines that she struck into Bucky’s skin touched each other. Not until she’d simply run out of new skin to hit, at least. And it wasn’t until then—when the strikes started overlapping because there simply wasn’t anywhere else on his ass to put them—that Bucky started crying.

Steve felt his gut twist with too much emotion when he noticed the first few tears leaking out of Bucky’s eyes. At first Steve thought it was just sweat that’d fallen down from where it was beading along his hairline, but then Bucky cried out—really cried out—when the belt hit his skin again, and his shoulders slumped and his arms went completely lax in their bindings. Bucky was still on his knees, but now he’d lost his perfect posture and instead of moaning he was moaning and crying, the tears leaking steadily down his face as he continued to allow Leda to beat him.

This was enough to have Steve taking a nervous step forward, ready to do… something.

Maybe it was that one step forward, or maybe Leda noticed the change in Bucky, but either way she stopped swinging the belt. Slinging it over her shoulder much as she had done with the flogger, she went around to Bucky’s front again. Steve watched as she reached out almost tenderly and lifted Bucky’s face to look at her. “James?” she asked. Bucky just blinked at her, eyes red-rimmed and dazed. He didn’t say a thing, but whatever Leda had been looking for she must have found, because her mouth split in a proud smile. “You got there, didn’t you baby? Feeling high?”

Bucky’s face was still wet from his tears, but his lips turned up in a fatigued smile. Much like his backside, his lips looked red and wrecked. “Mm-hmm,” he told her. Steve didn’t know where Bucky was supposed to have “gotten” to, but he did look like he was floating on some sort of high.

Leda stroked his cheek tenderly before slapping it. Bucky moaned and smiled stupidly. She went back behind him and was soon back to work with the belt, this time venturing to land strikes on the backs of his thighs. Bucky didn’t seem to mind—like, at all—but Steve on the other hand… Seeing the strikes come so close to Bucky’s balls had Steve’s stomach tightening in an apprehensive knot. He wanted to yell out at the woman to fucking be careful. But she never missed, her strikes perfectly placed.

Steve had the bizarre thought that Clint could probably do this sort of thing with great accuracy.

After a while even Bucky’s thighs didn’t seem to have much to offer in the way of unabused skin, and once again the strikes doubled up with brutal efficiency. Steve’s thoughts drifted to the long quinjet rides home after missions. The team would patch up as best they could during flight, but Tony always had a med team standing ready to handle the more serious wounds when they landed. Bucky was the only one who consistently refused help. So Steve didn’t have too intimate a knowledge of exactly how much of a beating Bucky could take, or how fast certain types of wounds healed with his version of the serum, but when Leda gave up on the thighs and moved back to hitting him across the butt—harder than before, Steve had to imagine that Bucky would bruise something fierce.

It might have continued for one more minute or ten, there was no way to tell. At some point Leda just stopped. She went and got a water bottle and held it to Bucky’s mouth, ignoring his tear-stained face. He drank greedily until she drew the bottle back. “Ready to move on?” she asked. It sounded like an actual question that time, and when Bucky nodded silently, still with that fucking dazed, happy look in his eyes, Steve forced himself to stand still and not intervene. Seeing Bucky break down like that, seeing him cry like that, had torn at Steve’s heart. But now Bucky was smiling with tear stains on his face and telling the woman who’d been beating him to keep going, and Steve knew that he didn’t have the right to step in just yet.

He wondered when he would.

The woman left Bucky and brought Steve his belt back. “Thank you,” she told him quietly, placing it in his hand. “I hope you enjoyed that.”

Steve didn’t say anything, didn’t want to talk to her at all. He felt glad when she turned away. He held the belt as if it was something foreign to him, the weight of it suddenly unfamiliar in his hand. He didn’t really want to put it back on. Steve looked at it, imagining that he could still feel the heat from Bucky’s body in the leather. He glanced at Bucky, to where hot pink stripes now littered the backs of his thighs and absolutely covered his ass. The belt’s edges dug into Steve’s skin where he made a fist around it. He could not believe that it was his belt—and therefore by some illogical extension, him—that did that to Bucky.

And he was very conflicted, because while seeing his best friend be beaten like that had been jarring, upsetting even; seeing the resultant marks and knowing that without his belt, without him, they wouldn’t be there, well… there was some sort of proprietary satisfaction that came with that. And that was a feeling which Steve didn’t feel at all comfortable dwelling on.

By the time Steve was paying attention again to what was going on in front of him, Leda had already selected a long, thin stick from the wall of implements. Steve was surprised. After the belt he would’ve expected Leda’s version of “moving on” to consist of something even more brutal. But the stick thing she’d retrieved didn’t look so bad.

He didn’t realize how wrong he was until he she hit Bucky with it.

It was just one strike—again, deliberate and precisely-aimed. It got Bucky in the middle of his butt, both sides. The sound it made was sharp and vicious and loud, and Bucky immediately cried out. Steve could hear the tears in it but he could hear something that sounded like pleasure in it too, and he didn’t understand that, not one bit. Because when Leda pulled back the stick and Steve could actually see what was left behind, he nearly made a noise himself.

There was a long, angry red welt across Bucky’s ass. If Steve had thought the belt left bad marks, well… This thing had left an imprint and Steve half-expected blood to prick to the surface soon. Taken aback by the severity of what he thought had been a fairly light-looking instrument, Steve stared first at Leda, and then at Bucky. Bucky still had tears on his face and he was still crying new ones. His mouth was agape as he gasped breaths and tried to compose himself from the first blow of the stick-thing. He was trembling, just a little, and while Steve’s first instinct was to assume that it was from pain, he caught sight of Bucky’s erection and found himself having to second-guess that.

Because Bucky was still hard as a fucking rock.

His erection looked angry, the tip of it leaking and nearly dark enough to match Bucky’s ass in color. Steve felt the warmth of his arousal flare again at the sight. He didn’t enjoy seeing Bucky hurt, but he did enjoy seeing him feel pleasure. And as fucked up as this was definitely turning out to be, Bucky somehow seemed to be finding pleasure in everything that was going on. Masochist, Steve’s mind supplied. He knew what the word meant. Bucky must be a masochist.

Behind Bucky, Leda was thumbing the remote again, looking thoughtful. “Tell you what James,” she said, tapping the stick lightly against the bottoms of his feet. “We’re going to play a little game. I want to see if you can come in twenty strokes of this cane. If you can, then you win. I won’t force you to play the way I like. I won’t suck you, fuck you, I won’t touch you at all. I’ll just hurt you the way you like until you shoot all over the floor. But if you can’t come in twenty strokes, then I win.” Bending over at the waist, she spoke very near to Bucky’s ear. “Do you know what happens if I win?”

Bucky obviously had an idea, because he shuddered visibly before saying, “What?”

“I’ll touch you all I like,” she said. “I’ll put this cane right back where I got it from and I’ll pleasure you and make you come so good and sweet that it’ll be burned into all of these people’s memories the next dozen times they touch themselves.”

Bucky whimpered, shaking his head minutely as if trying to keep the idea from entering his mind. “No,” he said. “Please. No.”

Leda ignored him. Standing with the cane, she turned off the toy’s vibrations completely (“Just to make this fair,” she pointed out). Bucky looked like he didn’t know whether to be relieved or worried over that. “Keep it in,” she warned. She drew the cane back and told him, “You’re going to count them James. You miss more than one, or you drop that toy, and I win by default.”

Steve watched Bucky nod in understanding. “Yes Mistress.” His features were tense, resolute. Eyes a hardened grey. And if Steve knew anything, he knew what Bucky Barnes looked like when he was gearing up to win a fight.

After an almost intolerable wait, the cane came down with a sickening crack. Steve flinched at the sound of it. “One,” Bucky called out only seconds after the hit. Leda drew back and decided where her next strike would go. It landed on Bucky’s ass, just below the previous one. “Two,” Bucky said after catching his breath. A third strike met the meat of Bucky’s middle back, and Bucky groaned loudly at that one before he could offer, “Three.”

Steve was so tense at watching what was going on that it took him a minute to notice that several of the spectators had started touching themselves. Women had hands at the fronts of their skirts (or whatever scraps of fabric they were wearing). More than a few men had exposed themselves and were jerking off to the sight of Bucky being beaten. There was even a couple that’d taken a chair and started fucking in it while they watched. Steve felt disgust and contempt curl in his stomach at them.

But Steve was still hard in his pants, and he found that the contempt he felt had to extend to himself as well.

…“Seven!” Bucky cried out the count to a particularly vicious hit to his shoulder blades. Steve stopped paying attention to the people in the circle and refocused his attention on Bucky’s face, on his still-hard cock. The latter was the only reason why Steve hadn’t done something hasty by now. Bucky was aroused, Steve kept reminding himself, holding onto that fact like a lifeline. In his head, Natasha’s words from earlier were playing back to him on a loop:

He came here willingly. He wants this. He might not want to know you’re here. He came here willingly.

Steve had to keep repeating those things to himself as he stood there with gritted teeth and an aching cock. The man next to him was jerking off quite hastily, completely unabashed, though in a place like this Steve supposed that wasn’t unusual. Steve refused to palm his own erection through his jeans, however. Bucky’s body, sweaty and on full display, was hot as hell and his moans were delicious but Steve refused to allow himself to get off to it because it was so, so wrong.

The second Bucky’s erection started to lag, Steve was putting an end to this.

Eight through eleven were all on Bucky’s back. He called them out with near-shouts, but somewhere between his cries and heaving breaths he did manage to call them. Leda hummed in approval, moving back to Bucky’s thighs. The next three strikes came there in quick succession. Bucky jerked hard against his restraints. To everyone else watching it probably seemed as if Bucky—or James, as they knew him—was struggling against the ropes. In reality Steve knew that Bucky must’ve been exercising extreme self control as he hadn’t yet ripped straight through them. Steve knew that he could have.

“Twelve, Thirteen…” Bucky panted, licking his lips. “Fourteen.”

Steve’s heart was hammering. As incomprehensible as he found the possibility, he found himself actually hoping that Bucky would orgasm from the caning alone, that he’d come by twenty strikes. Steve didn’t want Bucky to have to face a consequence he didn’t want, didn’t want that woman’s hands and mouth on Bucky if it wasn’t what Bucky himself wanted. And Steve realized with a start that he was rooting for Bucky to get off on the pain. He was curious to see if it was even possible. Steve felt his guts roll, the disgust and arousal now warring in equal measure. Steve felt like he didn’t know up from down anymore.

Fifteen was on his ass again, and Bucky called it out as soon as the crack sounded. Sixteen and seventeen fell just below. Bucky had started moving his hips in the air again, little thrusts that he definitely wasn’t aware he was making. His cock was so big and red it looked painful, and even though Steve had never seen him like this he knew, he just knew that Bucky was close. “S’fifteen, sixteen,” Bucky slurred, messing up the count.

Leda sucked her teeth loudly in disapproval. “Wrong James. That’s seventeen. Pay attention.” She brought the cane down across his shoulder blades and Bucky made the neediest, most abjectly debased sound that Steve had ever heard.

“Eighteen,” he cried, sounding wrecked. “Oh please. Please.”

Leda repositioned herself and then hit him at the spot where his ass met his thighs. Bucky made a choking sound, unable to call the count before she hit him again. It was just as hard if not harder and in the exact same spot, and Bucky was done for. A massive sob left his throat and his hips jerked forward far enough that the tip of his cock touched the cool metal of the pipe in front of him. He came, body shaking uncontrollably where he knelt, his release shooting thickly onto the pipe and the floor below. Bucky sobbed in wordless relief. “Nineteen, twenty,” he said, gasping both numbers as if they’d been punches to his gut. Behind him, Leda looked proud.

Shudders continued to pass through Bucky’s body for a long time, even after he’d spent himself. He sagged in his bonds, sucking in huge, overwhelmed gulps of air. His face was a mess of tears but he didn’t seem to be aware of that. He just kept trying to catch his breath while Leda pulled the vibrator out of him. She went to put it and the cane away.

Steve vaguely noted that the spectator standing beside him was grunting, likely orgasming into his own fist, but Steve’s attention was taken up by Bucky. Bucky, who was now looking completely pliant in his bonds. He still panted, muscles gone lax from sheer exhaustion, forehead resting against the metal pipe in front of him. His reddened lips were moving the tiniest bit, opening and closing. It took Steve a moment to realize that he was repeating two words over and over again in the tiniest of voices:

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

Bucky just kept repeating it, eyes closed, mind far away. Steve wasn’t sure if Bucky knew who he was thanking or even what for. Buck looked like he was ready to pass out. Steve felt sort of glad for a heartbeat. Glad that Bucky had come. Glad that he’d gotten the release he’d wanted, how he’d wanted it. But that feeling of gladness, however small it had been to begin with, went away once Steve took another look at Bucky’s backside.

There were bruises forming already. Some of the welts were still pink or red but many of them—ones from the cane, Steve figured—were purple now. And a few, God, a few of them had blood pricked along the edges. The dread and anger returned full-force, causing Steve to grit his teeth. How could Bucky possibly get off on this? he wondered. After all he’d been through? It didn’t make any kind of sense. Steve had expected to find Bucky the one back here, picking torture instruments off the wall to use on someone else. Not the other way around.

Why? Steve wanted to ask his friend. Why was he allowing these things to be done to him? Still, a horrible thought wormed its way in, somehow finding space enough to exist in Steve’s brain amidst his dissipating arousal.

Bucky didn’t like any of this because it somehow felt good. This hadn’t been about mixing pleasure with pain or finding euphoria on new levels or anything like that. That’s not why Bucky had come to this place. No, Steve thought, heart sinking worse than it had at any other point that evening.

He liked it because it felt bad.

Bucky just wanted to hurt.