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She Who Must Be Obeyed

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Like a lot of things in Steve’s life, it’s all Bucky’s fault. Bucky is the one who tells him that his portraits aren’t going to get any better until he draws more interesting people. When Steve protests that old Mrs. Crown down at the post office and the neighbor kids are interesting, Bucky just snorts.

“I mean wholesome, Steve! Seriously, didn’t like, every great artist draw whores at some point? Or take photos, like that, that Bellocq guy?”

Steve rolls his eyes. “You know most of ‘em did that because of a shortage of actual nude models.”

“Not Bellocq.”

“No, but he was a photographer, anyway. He was documenting a disappearing world.”

“You talk so purty when you get goin’ about art.”

Steve sticks his tongue out at Bucky. “The point is, a lot of the societal constraints those guys were working under no longer apply, so there.”

“True, but maybe we’re overlooking another major factor.” He grins at Steve, bright and obnoxious. “Hookers used to be pretty cheap, and they were all broke losers like you.”

“It takes one to know one, pal, and you know ‘em all!” Steve dives for Bucky, tackling him onto the couch and then the floor in one of their wrestling matches, the ones Bucky almost always lets him win.

Steve doesn’t forget the suggestion, though, and It simmers and ferments in his mind, until he finds himself in a totally unfamiliar part of the city on Halloween night, sketchpad in hand. Steve has always liked Halloween, since it presents an opportunity both to create art and to temporarily be someone else. Bucky has to work tonight because his boss is an asshole, but the people-watching on this random pilgrimage is almost worth it.

He even makes a little money doing quick sketches; three drunk sorority girls dressed as sexy nurses, an old gay couple kitted out in full old-school leather daddy gear, and several others. People are passing bottles and other things, and a girl wearing just enough fluffy white feathers not to get arrested grabs him and gives him a kiss that tastes like tequila and makes him blush.

He’s thinking of heading home when he sees her. One of the most beautiful women he has ever seen, dressed as a sexy cop. The costume is much less revealing and more quietly menacing than most interpretations available, and is detailed enough to include a K-9 badge. She’s slight and voluptuous at the same time, her hair bright red under her cap. After the first glance, Steve realizes that her partner is also beautiful, a mesh shirt and leather pants highlighting the kind of muscles that Steve wants to touch. The rest of his costume consists of a dog collar and a leash, as well as dog ears and a matching tail. More than their beauty, Steve is drawn to the way they look together, the woman holding the leash with casual mastery, the man alert and adoring at her side.

Steve runs across the street after them when the light changes, catching up with them on the corner. Running makes him wheeze and he’s afraid of an asthma attack, but he manages to get enough breath to gasp, “Excuse me!” They stop, turning to look at him.

“Yes?” She says.

“I was just wondering,” Steve gasps, “if I could draw you.” He stops, realizing how that sounds, and adds, “Both of you, I mean.”

The man grins. “I dunno, are you any good?”

Steve can't help but bristle at this, but he just opens his folder to show the few finished drawings in it. Most of tonight’s have been sold or given away to their subjects, but there’s a quick, impressionistic rendering of a particularly fabulous drag queen, and a much more detailed one of a group of Star Wars characters who had insisted he keep it after Leia had scanned it with her phone for posterity. The dog man examines both of these, and smiles.

“Damn, these are good. Check it out, Tasha.” He passes them to the woman, who manages the folder easily with one hand, the other still on the leash.

"You're right, they are." She looks at Steve and smiles, and suddenly his breathlessness has a lot less to do with running. “We’re already late for a party, though.”

“We could take him with us,” the man points out.

“I suppose. Would you like to?” She asks Steve.

“Uh, sure? If it wouldn’t be any trouble.”

“No trouble at all, as long as you’re cool.”

“…I don’t do drugs.”

The man laughs, and Tasha smiles. “There will be drinks and a smoking room, but nothing stronger. It is, however, a party full of leatherfolk.”

“Um.” Steve squeaks.

“Not an orgy, man, just a party where we all know each other from orgies,” the man assures him. “Or, y’know. Bondage workshops. Knitting circles. Come on, it’ll be fun!”

Steve has to laugh. “Well, I don’t know much about bondage workshops, but I do know how to knit.”

As they walk, his new companions fill him in. That their hostess loves Halloween and has money to blow on throwing a huge bash every year. It’s mostly for people of a similar sexual bent to Natasha and Clint, but is really just a Halloween party.

“Sure,” Clint says, “sometimes someone will get paddled or there will be some other game, but nothing extreme, nothing crazy. Scout’s honor.”

“It’s a free country,” Steve says, “if I don’t like it I can always leave.”

“That’s the spirit,” Natasha says, sounding amused.

The house is a tall old brownstone, and looks gloomy and gothic and amazing tonight. Steve has to stop for a moment and just appreciate the architecture. Clint grins at him.

“Pretty great, huh?”

“I’ll say.”

“Come on, you two,” Natasha says, and Steve is a little embarrassed at how obediently he falls into step.