“Honestly I think he'd cry.”
Sabo blinked, slowly drawing his fingers out of the mess of den den mushi security wires and add-ons, etc., that he'd been absentmindedly working on throughout the conversation.
“In a good way?” he asked, dropping the glibness he tended to favor in discussions about Marco. For that, Ace was grateful. Not that he's ever bought Sabo's preferred facade of cool and crass, but it was still nice to see it fully falling away when it mattered.
“I don't know,” Ace replied earnestly. He too turned his full attention to Sabo, sensing the potential for seriousness simmering in the words between them. Whatever they decided today would have major impact on what happened with Marco, next time they were all together. “I mean, does he even like this stuff?”
“'Course he does.” Sabo sounded certain in the way he sounded when he wasn't. “It's been like, six months.”
“Well yeah, I know we're not forcing him or anything like that.” The words stuck uncomfortably to his throat, but Ace knew he had to get them out. He hadn't been sitting on this, at least not consciously—but he was only now beginning to realize, on this deceptively easy-going afternoon, catching up with Sabo, how much this had been unconsciously bothering him. “But going along with whatever we want? That's kind of his thing isn't it?”
“So you're saying,” Sabo's tone was like gathering storm clouds, while his body language went completely still and precise, like the alignment of a blade-edge, “that his ancient, crusty ass has been wanting vanilla fucking sex this entire time—”
“Okay, he's not a total pushover, I wouldn't go that far—”
“—but that he's probably been holding back and not telling us what he actually wants, out of some misguided idea of letting us explore ourselves or whatever? That sounds possible?”
Ace sat in confirming silence, frowning and letting his palms sink deeper into the bed. Sabo scowled, vicious and protective.
“Ace, your boyfriend's a bastard.”
“What, have you dumped him already?”
“I'll have killed him already. Next time you see him he'll be a decomposing corpse. Ace. Ace. If that's what he's really doing I can't be held responsible for what I'll do to his idiot ass—”
“You know how sometimes,” Ace said loudly, interrupting the tirade, “insecurities get the better of us?”
It was, in fact, something they've talked at length about. Ace could see Sabo visibly retrace his steps to anger, struggling to deflate.
“I mean, how did we even get here?” Ace was retracing the steps himself, trying to process all the sparking under his skin that's making him want to jump headfirst into the nearest bar fight. “We were only talking about the possibility of tying Marco up.”
“You had to get real with the crying thing,” Sabo grumbled. Ace idly kicked at him, boots thumping against his shins and leaving dust marks on his trouser legs. “Fine. Are we being irrational?”
Seriously considering the question, Ace could tell that Sabo read the answer on his face before he even had to say it.
“No,” Ace announced warily anyways. “I don't think we are.”
“We have to talk about it.” With him? Sabo wrinkled his nose. “I'd much rather just beat him up. You hold him, I punch.”
“Well hey,” Ace said, brightening up, “there's an idea.”
“You want to—” Marco was so surprised, he actually pushed Ace away to arm's length. That was probably a good sign, Ace thought. “Really?”
Sabo, draping himself over Ace from behind the way he knew got Marco all kinds of riled up, grabbed hold of Marco's forearm. Hard. All three of them eyed the point of contact and its obvious part in the play.
“Is it so surprising?” Sabo asked, voice giving none of his underlying anxiety away. It made Ace more uncomfortable than he'd expected, keeping something from Marco (particularly something as sensitive as this), but they had agreed this was the only way to truly see what Marco was doing. Besides, it didn't have to go too far. All Marco had to do was say no.
“From you? No yoi. But from you?” Marco turned back to Ace, not incredulous but still generally puzzled. Ace swallowed. “Ace? You really want this too?”
This wasn't a fight. This wasn't a battle with the billowing dust and contentious kinetics, so Ace wasn't feeling cornered about making a choice between yes and no. He wasn't.
(Fine, so maybe he was. The first time he ate his fruit, Ace had been quite terrified by the sight of flames erupting from his skin. It's been a long time since he's last been scared of his own fire, but now, he had coaxed to life that first ember and was facing down the climbing flames with his heart pounding double-time.)
The thing was, if Ace took the question at face value, the answer wouldn't be no. If Marco had asked, before this whole mess of insecurities cropped up, the answer still wouldn't have been no. Ace was curious, after all. Wasn't that the point of this whole endeavor, to explore and satisfy curiosities with trusted lovers?
(Wasn't that the shatterpoint of this issue, to be able to trust Marco in their exploration together? Instead, Marco had, unexpectedly, left them unmoored in quicksand, untethered on the high seas with their doubts about the nature of Marco's constant agreement to their requests.)
(No, Ace would go through with this. Anything, really, to get to the heart of this.)
“Yes,” Ace answered, and even Sabo reeled, just a bit, clearly having thought Ace would call the whole thing off. Marco wasn't quite frowning, but that wasn't the expression he typically reserved for Ace either. “I do. But if it's not something you want, Marco, we don't have to do it.”
Marco, clearly deliberating, looked between Sabo and Ace, searching for something that Ace couldn't figure out. Looked down at Sabo's hand.
Sabo shrugged, insouciance a total feint. “Why not?”
Say no. We know you don't want this. Just say no.
“Okay,” Marco answered with a shrug of his own, though one of the more wide-eyed variety. “If it's what you really want, that's fine by me yoi.”
Both Ace and Sabo must've done—something with their faces, because at once Marco's expression shifted, and he held out both hands in a placating gesture to pause. Sabo's fell away, leaving a red-rimmed white handprint behind.
“Or,” Marco said slowly, “you can tell me what this is really about, before we break out all the chains and whips yoi.”
“Marco—” When Ace started speaking in a rush of breath, Sabo straightened from his calculated drape, but left a squeeze the back of Ace's neck in clear support. Marco saw the gesture for what it was, and frowned. “We need to ask you something.”
Anything, yoi. That was what Marco's eyes said, but somehow, with great intuition, he said instead, “go ahead.”
“Why would you say yes?” The frustration manifested like a dive straight into fire—Ace's patented move. Ace's hand moved in a gesture of corresponding feeling, and to his dismay, when he accidentally brushed against Marco, Marco pulled away. “We know you don't want this. How can you just agree to whatever we want to do?”
“Was this a test?” For a moment, Ace thought he saw a flash of anger in Marco's eyes, before they went blank. Maybe the squeeze to Ace's neck that time was a gesture of warning from Sabo, but Ace could hardly deflect now.
Ah, it hadn't been anger, it had been hurt. Marco had never been overly invested in hiding away these sorts of feelings, and the hurt came across clearly now, as he drew his arms up to cross over his chest. Sabo insinuated a gesture like he wanted to reach out, but a quick warning glance from Marco left it unmanifested. It left Marco closed off, completely apart from them, and Ace instantly felt a wave of regret for not stopping this when he could've.
“And what exactly were you testing for?”
“We thought you might be agreeing to everything we want without actual thought to what you want,” Sabo stated bluntly. It was the bluntness born out of guilt though, the tone of confession before the guillotine came dropping down.
“And what,” Marco asked through gritted teeth, “gave you that idea?”
“Are you kidding?” Ace replied faintly. “It's all you do.”
The silence sat like dust motes in the air, present, but unmanageable. Left to float and irritate with no chance that Ace could catch it in a nervous palm. Sabo's hand too floated away, leaving the three of them islands unto themselves, distinct and disparate bodies occupying the same breathing space. Marco's breathing space, Marco's bedroom. Ace wondered if he and Sabo should get out, got more and more ready to bolt with each passing second.
Which made Ace's flinch all the more jarring when Marco suddenly dropped his arms with a sigh. He still looked guarded when he gestured with open palms at his bed.
“Look, can we sit?”
Quite thoroughly inflamed with guilt at this point, Ace nodded, then folded up his legs and sat down on the floor right where he stood. The intention was to gesture his willingness to listen and his desire to learn; he expected Marco to take the seat higher up on the bed.
Sabo sat down on the floor a split second after Ace, and a few moments later, Marco also folded himself onto the floor. Marco's room was by no means big, but still, none of them were touching.
“I'm sorry, okay?” Ace began, when the silence dragged on and Marco looked more troubled. “This was my idea, but I just don't see how we could possibly get you to admit it.”
“Admit—?” was all Marco managed to get out through gritted teeth.
“Your total lack of boundaries?”
It wasn't that Marco shrunk further away at Sabo's succinct diagnosis. It was just that, for a man usually as physically suffused as Marco, his current rigid frame that seemed to lack even breath (did phoenixes need to breathe?) was... diminishing. Neither Ace nor Sabo had ever seen Marco like this, really. Even Sabo looked a bit uncomfortable at his own characteristic sharpness.
“We just don't want to end up hurting you,” were Ace's final words, the real heart of the matter. That was the absolute truth and Ace was glad he said it—but he had no idea how it would be taken. It could certainly be heard as patronizing, and Ace imagined Marco coldly sneering and dismissing them, two childish idiots who didn't get this kind of relationship, who were too sensitive and damaged with their stupid insecurities. Or worse, Ace thought, it could be heard as cruel. A fundamental rejection of Marco's desires, his character, his behavior. You are not what we want, they seemed to be saying. You've made it your mission to give us everything and still somehow, you managed to miss the one thing you should've given us all along.
Oh, Ace was terrified. He really should've left this well alone, shouldn't he? Now, this was going to be the thing that broke them beyond repair, that took them down a road from which there's no turning back. Ace had struck the match—but dammit, if he had known they were such a goddamn oil spill—
Marco's face, when he looked up, made Ace realize that he was just as terrified. Of losing this. And, Ace thought, losing breath, he'll believe it's his fault.
“I don't know,” Marco said, devastatingly, “how to fix this.”
“What do you—” It's this precise moment that revealed to Ace how much he was used to relying on Marco. Marco's steadfastness, Marco's experience, Marco's judgment. There was so much going on that he didn't understand, but—he forcibly centered himself with a deliberate breath—the question was simply how to move forward. “Okay. Well, you've never asked to be on the masochist side of things, so we just want to hear you admit that you don't want it—”
“But how can I not want it?”
The words, the implications, plus the sheer amount of frustration in Marco's voice sent Ace reeling. He stared, but Marco had clammed up again, lips gone bloodless and fingers wrought so tightly that every hollow bone must be strained on the verge of cracking. Ace could hardly press with Marco in such a state.
(Ace couldn't. But Sabo, happily, would.)
“Well. You are either completely and frustratingly missing the point,” Sabo began, incurring an agitated glare from Ace. Of all the times to pick on Marco. But Sabo was staring straight at the top of Marco's hung head, the meanness in his tone somehow not mean-spirited. Something, Ace thought, was shifting into decision. “Or—” There was that thing they all did on the battlefield, where a man becomes more by projecting his presence all big and predatory. Sabo did, and Marco, to Ace's surprise, glanced up, looking more compelled than cornered. “—you're about to give us the explanation for how this will work.”
(Sabo, for all his previous silence, was of course just as invested. No matter how much he may pretend, there wasn't a drop of indifference running through Sabo's bloodstream.)
Ace—well, he didn't get it, per se, the precise frequencies of the reverberation between Sabo and Marco. But he could still pick up on it, and trust it, and ride it. So he too pulled straight his spine, settling his elbows on his knees until Marco looked over, pupils at an indeterminable width.
“Explain what you meant,” he commanded, and Marco's lips parted on an inhale.
“I,” Marco's voice came out rusty, straining to capture all the right words at such a crucial juncture, “understand yoi, why you would doubt me.”
The first waves of a storm pummeling the ship hull; the words hurt, and begged for absolution. But Ace and Sabo held their ground. It wasn't that they were holding off Marco, but the perfect opposite—they were holding firm the walls, keeping space for Marco to speak.
“But please—” A word that cracked in the air. A word with splinters, catching skin. “—believe that when it comes to you two? When it's something you genuinely want?” Ace sudden remembered the thought, when asked if he genuinely wanted too to take a crop to Marco's flesh, the answer wouldn't be no. The thought caught, like a match has been shoved deep into Ace's guts and then kindling was piled around it. “Whatever you need, whatever you ask for yoi, there is nothing I don't want.”
Sabo hopped to his feet.
“Interesting!” There was a bite to Sabo's flash of grinning teeth as he reached down and pulled Marco up standing. Ace rose as well, hyperaware of every motion as he watched the decisive points of contact between Sabo's hands and Marco's arms. “So you're saying, whatever we demand, no matter how uncomfortable it is for you, you'll not just be fine with it, but love it? Crave it? Get off on it?”
Marco looked wary, as if he thought it might be a trick question. But when Sabo hummed, “well?” with an expectant lift of an eyebrow, he gave a nod.
Then Sabo was turning to Ace, conspiracy in every coy bat of eyelashes.
“Do you believe him?”
Ace watched Marco. Asked himself, how should I?
“No.” Marco's sharp breath punctuated his reply, and Sabo seemed pleased. Before the rejection could sting too long though, Ace stepped up. He took hold of both sides of Marco's open shirt collar (Sabo graciously stepping out of the way) and tugged Marco forward, until they were better centered in the room. Then, he told Marco, “guess you'll just have to convince us.”
A lone hardwood beam ran the length of the bedroom ceiling, mounted in perfect bisection of the cabin. Marco, sometimes, hung damp laundry from it.
Clink! In one deadly motion, Sabo had yanked his undone belt loose from his trousers, doubled it over, and pulled the length of leather across the back of his neck, a hand cheerfully dangling on either end.
“The game is pretty simple,” Sabo declared, before interrupting himself with a critical tsk. Ace got the view from the front as Sabo's booted leg stuck out and kicked Marco's bare feet wider apart. Marco's eyes in turn got wider, but he held the stance. “That's more like it. Oh, the rules. We hurt you until you beg us to stop.”
“You want—” were out of Marco's mouth before he bit down the rest. It was clear what he was asking though, and clearer still that he was asking Ace. That Sabo could happily hurt Marco was never part of the sequence of doubts.
How should I believe him? That question sat, Ace realized, in both his own mind and Marco's. Faith had to start somewhere. So Ace reached deep down into himself, right into the heart of the fire.
“Take the sash off your waist,” he ordered softly. “Tie one end to your wrist.”
Rooted around until he found the flint piece sitting there, superheated and sharp enough to slice open his palm.
“Throw the other end over the ceiling beam.”
Let the blood pour out, red as the flames. A sacrifice. A summoning.
“Grab it. Don't lose your grip now, unless we tell you to.”
He summoned forth a primal memory—a night, not too long ago all things considered. A night that had been so perfect that it sent Ace into hysterical panic when he was finally by himself again. He summoned the Ace who feared, and wondered if smashing the precious things on purpose would be better than inevitably losing his hold on them. He summoned that Ace forward, and answered yes.
Marco, who met that Ace's eyes, seemed more and more the doe-eyed prey. But what sort of prey tested the serrated edges of teeth like he was testing the waters? What sort of prey followed every order in grateful, obedient gestures and let all his veins hang bare?
“Say,” Ace bid, voice crackling with smoke, “mercy.”
“Won't mean anything now, obviously,” Sabo drawled. The only thing giving away his facade of nonchalance was the way the leather creaked in his ever-tightening grip. “But go on. Gotta make sure you know how.”
Despite Marco's whole body indicating his aversion to the task, Ace didn't back down.
“Or can't you follow this very first order?” Sabo's fucking voice. He must be the temptation of every creation myth.
“Mercy.” The word darted from between Marco's lips like a rabbit from a beaten bush. What a strange, almost ridiculous vision he made: one of the strongest men Ace has ever known, standing barefoot and bare-chested, one hand raised high above his head with the sky blue wrap of cloth around that wrist like the thread of a balloon kept from flying away.
Ace flexed his hand, and slapped Marco across the face.
“Say mercy again,” he demanded. Marco, fingers white around the cloth, shook his rapidly reddening cheek no. Knuckle to Marco's chin, Ace righted Marco's head, before backhanding him with the same hand. “Say mercy.”
“No,” Marco gasped. “Thank you.”
The sharp indrawn breath this time was Sabo's.
“Oh,” he said, tracing the outline of muscle along Marco's hanging forearm with the loop of his belt. “We're gonna have too much fun with you.”
A light application of haki over Sabo's crushing grip meant Marco's shirt was torn off his back in a an instant. Both sleeves ripped off, but only one stayed, a maroon badge sitting ragged on his right bicep, which had flexed in instantaneous response to the sudden pressure of the shirt.
Ace, absolutely smoldering, looked over Marco's shoulder at Sabo.
“Says you.” Far from censure, Sabo's tone was filled to the brim with heated admiration. God, he loved it when Ace got like this, when the saber teeth dropped. Sabo, inspiration coursing through him, tapped the belt against the flesh of Marco's back. “I want to hit you too.”
Smoothing his palms against Marco's cheeks (how red they must be), Ace dragged his hands down—cupped Marco's jaw before scraping down Marco's neck, clawing as they descended down defined pectorals (Sabo wondered what expression Marco wore—could possibly wear, in the face of all that delicious, aching attention).
“Big surprise there, huh?” Ace smirked at Marco, a beautiful balance of teasing pity for Marco and appreciative delight for Sabo.
“It is—” At the first strike of the belt, Sabo cut himself off with a grunt. He had applied a perfectly medium amount of power, which, for him, meant quite the loud crack! when the leather found its mark. The welt came almost immediately as well, tiny perforations sketching out a blood red ridge, skin broken but liquid surface tension holding underneath the break. Sabo paused, allowing Ace time to check Marco's reaction from the front. But the moment he saw that Marco had barely even flinched, in fact even dropped a bit of the stiffness in his shoulders, he knew he was in the clear. “It is for you.”
“Hm?” It took Ace a moment to process that, before he lifted his head and met Sabo's gaze, looking slightly caught out. “Oh, I...” When he turned slightly inward into the side of Marco's neck, Ace visibly reconstructed the coolly ruthless expression he was wearing just seconds ago. Sabo fucking loved him. “I want to give him what he wants, I guess, which is the worst of what I want.”
“And what is that worst?” Sabo felt like a devil inculcating sin, or perhaps a piteous believer with prayer pouring from between the lips. “What are you thinking when you get that look in your eyes?”
“I'm thinking...” Only one of Ace's hands was visible to Sabo, wrapped possessively around the small of Marco's back. When a little hiss unwittingly escaped Marco though, Sabo could garner a guess at what the other hand was doing at Marco's chest. “I'm thinking that you're always so damn careful, aren't you?” Sabo, more than anything, wanted to see the actions of the hand that matched Ace's cruel stare, burning into the side of Marco's head, which had bowed forward in agony. “No matter what I've done, how careless I get with you.”
Hearing a cue, Sabo brought the belt whipping down again. The welt this time cut across the meat of Marco's left ribs.
“Mercy?” Ace asked, voice like an arrow loosed on a hunt.
“No.” Marco already sounded ruined, and they were barely a moment in. “Thank you.”
“So perfectly lovely.” Sabo's never heard those words sound more unkind, leaving Ace's lips. “How do you believe a man like that?” His eyes met Sabo's, and Sabo bit down on his own inner lip. Bit 'til it tasted of iron to match what Ace's teeth were surely stained with. “Makes me want to bite him until he bites back.”
“You are,” Sabo said helplessly, “crazy fucking hot.”
Then, digging desperate fingers into one of the welts on Marco's back, he leaned in to murmur to Marco, “you're a lucky bastard, aren't you?”
“Yes,” came sobbing out of Marco, before he doubled over again on a choked-off keen, right arm straining high above him. Ace wore an incredibly self-satisfied expression.
“Do you think a needle would hurst worse?” he mused, letting both hands trail and fall away from Marco's body. He stood back for just a moment, watching Marco with the unabashed obsession typically reserved for pirates cracking open a treasure chest. Sabo, breath catching at the implication of those words, pressed a thumb hard into a knot of muscle at the side of Marco's spine just to hear Marco yell again.
And then the brothers both pressed in at once, Sabo with a demeaning shove of a thigh right up against the crack of Marco's ass and Ace manhandling Marco's head back up. Quite deliberately, Sabo released one end of the belt and let its length drape daintily over Marco's right shoulder (sharp metal of the buckle clutched tighter now than ever in his grip). He swung it, just lightly. Let it brush over Marco's right nipple, bruised and dark from where (Sabo imagined) Ace had so savagely pinched, and twisted before.
“I do like you in gold,” Ace said in a tone of confession. He too was admiring the state of Marco's nipples, thumbing them in a reverent rhythm, even as he talked of drawing blood. “What do you think—piercings, a chain, a little gold weight? Would you like that?”
Sabo could feel all against his front the trembling strain of Marco's body. He ground his hips forward, then grabbed hold of the belt's loose end in his free hand. Aligning not the flat of the belt, but the slightly worn, uneven edges of it to Marco's throat, Sabo dragged it slowly across the skin.
“Well?” His own state was far from unaffected, and it showed in the rasp of his throat. What an image—beads of blood drawn on dusky skin from Ace's fingers and a delicate needle, Marco flexing and shaking as he forced himself to stay still during the procedure, a winking gold chain pulled taught by a pendulous weight. “It's an easy yes or no. Answer him.”
Ace dipped his head and took Marco's left nipple between his teeth. He glanced up through his eyelashes, as if to say, I dare you.
Marco, breath unsteady and sweat dotting his brow, looked perfectly torn between wanting the pain and wanting release. Sabo resolved right then and there to do this for Marco more often—how fun it was to set up these dual pitfalls that had Marco squirming. Because he couldn't say yes, could he? That'd be presumptuous; asking a gift, whether or not he deserved it, was surely the highest treason in Marco's orientation. He also couldn't say no, because he so desperately wanted to take whatever Ace and Sabo dealt him. He so desperately wanted to hurt, but grin at the pain, because he was taking the pain with purpose, at the bidding of those he cherished and wanted to see happy.
(He was making Sabo perfectly happy. Sabo would show him.)
“I...” The belt wasn't really doing anything to cut off his breath; Marco looked like he wished it was. “I don't—”
“Want it?” Sabo maintained a steady tone and grip, even as Ace increased the pressure of the bite and Marco tossed his head back, mouth open in a soundless scream. “If you don't want it cry mercy. We'll stop.”
“No,” Marco begged, every joint of him convulsing at the relentless pain. “Don't yoi, please. I—Yes, I want it, please—”
Ace released him, and Sabo let the belt drop, palming the reddened skin of Marco's neck with one hand as he forced Marco still in the same position, breath coming ragged and wet right beside Sabo's ear. If he dug his chin slightly into Marco, Sabo could watch as Ace's tongue swept first flat and wide over Marco's tortured nipple. He could watch as it then went pointed, the dexterous tip working the little divot right at the tip of the nipple. He could watch it pull entirely away, leaving dusky skin glistening with spit.
“Good,” Ace said primly, before blowing a stream of cool air over Marco's chest. The sound Marco made was inhuman. “Thank you for your honesty.”
“I have,” Sabo muttered, attention fixed on Ace's lips, the corners of which turned up into a smug little grin when Ace noticed, “a fantastic idea.”
Ace—beautiful, generous Ace—straightened and gave Sabo the kiss that he craved, right there next to Marco's cheek. Sabo stroked the arch of Marco's neck along with the strokes of Ace's tongue, and pressed their bodies even closer together.
“Marco,” Sabo husked into Ace's mouth, “I'm gonna fuck you. But before that, I'm gonna beat you until you beg for mercy. Would you like that?”
“Yes.” The answer came immediately, guttural and groaning. Marco's hips were stuttering like he didn't know whether it was better to arch forward into Ace or back into Sabo. “Anything you want yoi.”
“Anything?” Sabo's critical tone was paired with a scolding rake of nails across Marco's Adam's apple, and Ace turned his head to watch, blinking with the indolent satiation of big cats facing cornered prey.
“Anything,” Marco promised. The sheer amount of power he was trusting Sabo with was as heady as it was aggravating. This was probably slightly different from what Ace was feeling, Sabo reflected. For Ace, the sharp edges were a weapon, wielded and worn to damage but ultimately home in a scabbard or stored away in a chest. For Sabo, the edges were underneath—if he just unfolded his fingers like peeling away skin, he could show Marco the metal belt buckle inside. What pretty bruises it would make.
“This would be too easy for you.”
Sabo stepped back with a wink and a loud, mean slap to Marco's flank. As he crouched to pull out the box underneath the bed, Ace draped himself over Marco from the front, lazily grinding his hips.
“What, the flogger?” Ace asked dubiously. “Haven't we used it on you already?”
“I'm just an average, breakable human with fragile skin and nothing to prove. That nice soft flogger is mine,” Sabo replied absently, sliding the big heavy box aside as he reached past it. The nature of a ship—no matter how large—was that space was limited and sometimes, the corners underneath your bed ended up stuffed with sailing material.
Sabo grabbed a large fistful of the metal rigging chain coiled beneath the mattress, and yanked it out into the light.
Marco didn't even see it, but the sound was enough. The noise he made in response—Ace didn't even bother asking for mercy.
“Oh.” Fingers clawing into the welts on Marco's back, Ace's eyes went dark and vicious. “Can I do it?”
“Um, yes.” As if Sabo's ever wanted anything else. Haki in his fingers, it was a simple matter to cut off a suitable length of the chain, about as long as his belt. A bottle of medical-grade alcohol from Marco's shelf emptied into a wooden basin, and Sabo was watching the minute, anticipatory shivers of Marco's back as he loudly dipped the chain in and out of the sterilizing bath. “I think I'll get his dick in my mouth.”
How much more, Sabo wondered as he approached, would it take to drive Marco fully insane? Like some smooth courtship dance, Ace backed away as Sabo got closer, cocked his head in vivid consideration as Sabo draped the chain first over Marco's shoulders. Marco flinched at the touch, then at the cool burn of the alcohol dripping down his torso.
And Sabo was about to make this so much harder for him.
“The rules are simple,” Sabo declared. He glided a hand down Marco's left arm to the elbow, then guiding the whole limb up until Marco's upturned palm was about shoulder-level. There was a hardcover book on the desk, which he placed in Marco's hand. There was also a drinking glass (one of three), which he placed on top of the book.
There was a pitcher of drinking water, which Sabo slowly tipped, until the glass balanced on the book was filled to the brim.
“One,” he told Marco, “you don't have to say mercy if you don't want to. If the water spills, we stop. Easy as that.”
Which was the punishment and which was the reward?
“Two.” With a nonchalant crack of his neck, Sabo dropped to his knees in front of Marco. He glanced up with a flash of teeth. “Try not to move your hips too much, yeah? You know I have that sensitive gag reflex.”
Sabo didn't think there was a more intoxicating sight than Marco's expression at that moment, telegraphing so clearly, I don't think I can do this.
...He was proven wrong just a second later, when Marco's met his gaze, eyes all hazing and trusting, pledging, but I will since you asked me to.
All, thank you for asking me to.
Ace took up the chain, and Sabo took Marco's cock between his teeth.
The chain was brutal on his back.
Pain, Marco thought, was pain. There was nothing unclear about it. It wasn't pleasure, not like a warm lap of tongue against sensitive flesh, nor was it the ecstasy of friction and accelerating tempos. Pain was pain, was thudding where the weight of the metal slammed into his flesh, was stinging where the tail-end chain link licked into his skin. Pain was the enamel edges designed to rend meat scraping up the length of his cock as Ace guided his hips forward then back, in and out of Sabo's mouth. Pain was the strain in both his arms, but particularly the left one, outstretched without support and weighted so precariously on his shaking palm.
Pain was pain, and Marco loved every fucking second of it.
How could he not? There was the bone-deep quivering shame of not being the one on his knees, the one in service and of use. But with that came the allaying recognition that all this was punishment and righteous. This was what Marco, when he wanted to be at the center of attention, deserved. This was him taking and taking and taking what the two most beautiful boys in the world wanted to give him. This was them trusting him with their darkness and their blood.
It was the least Marco could do, giving his in return.
There really wasn't that much blood; the part of Marco's mind doused in phoenix fire was certain, absolutely clear on the extent of his wounds even as Marco held it back. His back though, felt dripping with it. It must be the alcohol, cold then burning against the breaks of skin, trickling down a swathe of muscle before catching in another welt right underneath. It felt like Ace was flaying him open, and Marco wanted nothing more than to bare his ribs.
And Sabo—that wicked, brilliant brain. He who designed this particular round of torture, he who announced the rules. The cup of water stood tall and trembling, but not a single drop has spilled over its edge (onto Marco's accounting book, Sabo that bastard). How the hell had Sabo found the exact perimeters of what Marco was capable of, then gotten his fingers in, then stretched Marco open to accommodate him and Ace? How the hell was Sabo grinning slyly up at Marco, all white teeth and hot breath, promising to ruin Marco if he broke and to ruin Marco if he didn't?
The next lick of Ace's chain struck so perfectly into a previous welt that Marco had to scream. The glass didn't tip. The next lick of Sabo's tongue lapped insistently under Marco's foreskin and into his slit. The glass didn't tip.
Fuck. I can die like this.
The game, Marco knew, was no fun if he held out for too long. He knew the role he was meant to take, going boneless and trembling with exhaustion as he finally let the water glass fall, shatter on the floor portending Marco's own fate. He knew he could take hold of the mercy so readily offered and be helped to the bed. Be gently stretched opened and then thoroughly filled.
But—the arm stayed up, stayed steady, shot through with rigid iron and a determined shout of No! You can take this! You can take it all. It was a mantra preaching selflessness. Take everything they want to give you. It was the most selfish shock of thrill. This is what I want. They are hurting you because you asked for it. This is all for me.
Sabo, jaw probably sore, allowed his lips to draw back over his teeth, encasing Marco in a silky wet warmth. His hands gave Marco's pants a firm downward tug, and obligingly, the material fell puddled at Marco's feet. When Marco shifted to lift his legs, Sabo stopped him.
Leave it, Sabo's gestures, the demeaning arch of his eyebrow said. Marco felt his ears going hot with shame, and at once he felt so itchingly compelled to kick his pants away, to stand totally nude instead of as this humiliating, obvious object of undress. Which was the intended reaction. So Marco hissed through his teeth and forced all his attention onto keeping the glass steady and water unspilled.
And that's when Ace decided to switch his aim, bringing the whip of the chain down to the flesh of Marco's ass.
An arch of water jolted over the rim, splashing soft on the worn leather of the notebook. Both Ace and Sabo froze in all their motions.
“Sorry,” Marco choked, a terrible fear beginning to eat into his skin. “Sorry yoi, I—Sorry—”
“Sorry's not the word I want to hear,” Ace said from behind him, so low and steady that Marco felt instantly like grounded lightning. “So do you have something else to say, or can I continue?”
He wants to continue.
He wants to do this for you.
“No,” Marco said, the most pious man in the world. “Please continue.”
And then, when the next stroke came: “thank you.”
Sabo, beneath him, was just letting Marco's cock sit in his mouth. It was a gift. It was torture. Ever cognizant of Sabo's request not to choke him, Marco ached with the effort of not letting his hips so much as twitch. A drop of water fell onto Sabo's cheek, and for a moment Marco feared the worst, that this was all over because of his stupid repeat mistake of spilling the water—but then he realized it was his sweat, dripping off the tip of his nose. So Marco pulled his head upright, focused on the glass again. Focused on keeping it tall at every whip of metal across his ass. Focused on keeping it safe on the strikes that licked into the insides of his thighs. Focused on keeping it unbroken as Sabo just kept breathing, doing very little else, around the tip of Marco's cock.
Tears as well as sweat ran down Marco's cheeks, but he didn't notice.
His attention was tunneling, everything whittled away except for the thud-sting of the chain in a rapidly steadying rhythm and the inadequate clasp of almost-suction around his dick. Marco could hear nothing, see nothing beside the shaking arm and the tendons of the wrist and the book and the glass and the trembling water. Had lost all concept of things like breath and time and motion. Just knew that one thing, then the other, stopped, and there was nothing else but the water and feeling so profoundly lost that he wanted to collapse sobbing—and then there was a hand—a hand on the glass with the water—the hand tipping the glass with the water over—
Marco shook back into himself with an awful gasp. The loud smash of the glass against their cabin floor followed immediately after, Sabo standing upright now before Marco with one hand still unapologetically outstretched over the space where the glass had once been placed.
“Oops,” he said, his casual shrug so catastrophically mismatched with the intent expression on his face. “Oh well. We've had quite enough of that anyways, haven't we?”
“I'm gonna bring your arm down now,” Ace said quietly. He was so close and warm next to Marco's ear that Marco started. There was, indistinctly, sensation in some faraway part of Marco's body—his fingers, he realized. Both sets, gone so numb and distant that Marco could clearly imagine just cutting them away with little pain. Ace was gently prying his right hand loose from the grip on his restraint (restraint—hah! As if such a self-imposed thing could truly be called a restraint), and Sabo had removed the leather-bound book, massaging feeling gently back into Marco's left hand.
When Ace grabbed firm hold of Marco's entire right arm and pulled it down, a soft, agonized cry escaped Marco's throat. Sabo took the same moment to lower Marco's left arm as well. Marco squeezed his eyes shut so tightly against the pain that he didn't know whose thumb came up to gently wipe away the tears on his cheeks.
“You're one stubborn bastard, aren't you?” Marco didn't know how much of the grudging admiration in his tone Sabo meant to let him hear. “That was good, wasn't it? That was everything you wanted. Just say that's enough, that's all you needed, and we'll let you rest.”
“You said,” Marco slurred, listing forward and backward into warm arms. Oh, how he longed to do as Sabo suggested. Just relax, and let everything come to a stop. Get a nice hand from Ace, or maybe Sabo was feeling generous enough to finish the blowjob. But there was still a gnawing unrest, deep inside his core. An emptiness that begged to be thoroughly claimed, and filled, and hurt. “You said you'd fuck me.”
The moment of silence that followed was so excruciating, that the sudden, vicious grip of Sabo's hands digging into his ass was bliss by comparison.
“Got it,” Sabo said, voice gone so perfectly savage as he lifted Marco, all the weight on the freshly whipped, absolutely burning flesh of Marco's backside, and Marco screamed—
“No mercy. We finish the scene.”
They left his arms loose, when they arranged Marco facedown onto the bed, figuring he could use the blood circulation.
Ace told Sabo to do the prep, because one, he was still a bit shaken from the whipping (with the chain, the links of heavy, unforgiving metal), and two, he and Marco shared a love for Sabo's dexterous, clawing fingers. Sabo rummaged through their box of goods until he came up with lubricant—the stubby little bottle full of the thickest, greasiest stuff.
Ace had half a mind to tell Sabo to put on his gloves again. Sabo, two fingers thoroughly slathered in the lubricant already, winked like he could read Ace's mind. Or maybe Ace was just predictable at this point.
Not, Ace thought, that there's anything wrong with predictability. Sure, the thrill of a first round with particular kink would not be replicated, but even knowing something was coming often didn't adequately prepare you for it. For instance, the sheer choreography of Sabo's flexing fingers.
“Put it up,” Sabo told Marco, both taunting and coaxing as he rubbed a clean thumb over a particularly nasty welt Ace had placed right along the seam where Marco's leg met his hip. “You wanna get fucked, you present yourself like a good little whore.”
There was a sharp, affected inhale—perhaps from Ace himself. That language... That tone of voice so filthy it was dripping, with the venomous love that could only come from an absolute embrace of one's lover at his most debased. It was Sabo being so generous to Marco. And Marco made a choking sound, fever-eyed and scrambling to comply even as his arms still shook when bracing under him, even as his hips stuttered under Sabo's pointed touch.
Ace had his fingers dipping into the tub of lubricant too, before he really thought about it. He just knew he wanted to be part of this, to give Marco as much as Sabo was promising to give.
The moment Sabo spread Marco wide with one splayed hand (the skin of Marco's ass going white in the shape of Sabo's hand but not where the chain marks had painted lacerations in furious red, thick bruises in dark purple), he was sinking two fingers deeply in. It was a set of kinetics Ace was intimately familiar with, one that he cherished and welcomed and now got to see Marco cherish and welcome to. He got to see Marco's knees spreading wider along the bed, Marco's spine arching for more pressure as Sabo began stroking the lubricant generously around inside.
When a pump of Sabo's hand sunk those two fingers in to the knuckle, Ace reached forward as well, and hooked his forefinger in past Marco's rim. The full-body shudder Marco gave was satisfying, so Ace did it again with his middle finger.
“This is intimate,” Sabo commented with a joyous little snicker as he bumped the back of his fingers against Ace's. It was as hot as it was hilarious, touching hands like this like some shyly scandalous gesture of ancient courtship, all the while they were fingerfucking Marco, lube dripping out of where all their flesh was meeting and trickling down Ace's wrist.
(And all this was giving Ace such ideas—but, he found, just the snapshot fantasies were enough for now. They weren't something he was eager to enact today, right now, but something he would meditate on and save for another desperate panting evening.)
“Marco, you ready?” Sabo asked in the tone of a casual formality, as if he didn't see the mess of tears streaking Marco's cheeks and forearms where he was pressing his face. “Say it clearly now, what you're asking of me.”
“Please.” Usually, it took a good long evening of both Sabo and Ace fucking his throat to get Marco sounding that wrecked. Ace curled his fingers even further into Marco, giving the smooth flesh over the prostate a heavy, thorough rub. Marco actually shook so hard that is hips fell back flat onto the bed, but Sabo seemed fine with that now. He pulled both his and Ace's fingers out of Marco and then mounted Marco's thighs. Unzipped his trousers, got his cock out. Waited. “Please yoi, fuck me.”
“At my pleasure?” Precome was painted over the lashes of red on Marco's ass and Ace felt his mouth going dry, wanting to lick, wanting to bite.
“Yes,” Marco gasped, fingers clawing into the bed at his only points of leverage, as if he was going to physically haul his whole body back onto Sabo's dick if he wasn't penetrated in the next heaved breath or two. “Take your pleasure in me, please.”
“Then,” Sabo said with fluting satisfaction, “you don't get to come.”
And Sabo fucked into Marco. Not even giving Marco the time to adjust or catch his breath, Sabo rutted forward in a rhythm that was as punishing as it was selfish, the full-speed gallop of a man chasing nothing but his own satisfaction. Sabo's mount kept Marco's lower half flat on the bed, and then his hands were knuckling into the welts on Marco's back to keep Marco's front half down too.
“Yes, yes, yes,” was escaping in a feverish litany from Marco's lips into the soft sheets covering the bed. “Thank you, thank you...”
“He's gonna come in you,” Ace said, undoing his own pants and taking himself into his already-lubricated hand. He left his belt dangling from the loops, metal buckle clinking. “And then it'll be my turn.”
Right on cue, Sabo achieved orgasm with the bone-deep shudders of a man who's been on edge all night. A man who's had his dick in Marco's mouth for the better part of twenty minutes and had to keep himself still.
“Beg for his cock,” Sabo hissed, grinding meanly into all of Marco's welts as he emptied himself inside. “Beg for the privilege.”
“Please yoi, please, I want it I want it I—”
Sabo pulled out with a shaky breath stifled.
“Good.” His tone gave away none of the affect that had him tonguing, dark-eyed, at his bottom lip, that had Ace longing to wrap him up in a spit-drenched kiss. Instead, Sabo left his perch with a sideways glance at Ace and a loud, open-palm smack! to Marco's asscheek. “Here you go. Sloppy seconds.”
And then Ace was sliding in, the stretch cutting Marco off mid-keen. He took up very much the same tempo as Sabo, knowing he was the second runner of a race already-started. The buckle on his belt bounced wildly and unpredictably off Marco's ass, his back, Ace's thigh—the noises Marco made were coupled with the seismic shifting of his back muscles. But as if Sabo's hands from earlier still pushed on him, Marco wasn't letting his chest lift from the bed. When Marco turned his head so the other side of his face rubbed hot against the sheets, Ace could see Marco's lips and cheeks shining with drool.
Ace fucked harder, lubricant and Sabo's climax more than enough to ensure a wet, filthy glide. On a beat of pause to catch his breath, Ace used a finger to swipe up the leaking mess from around his dick. And then he pushed it all back inside Marco, finger popping past the rim to fit right there next to his dick and Marco sounded like he was dying—
“God, he really wants it,” Sabo said from somewhere behind Ace, tone too low to be anything but genuinely shocked. Chancing a glance back, Ace saw Sabo's expression, disbelief warring with dissolving satiation warring with the most heretical type of coveting, all aimed at Marco's beaten back. “All of it.”
Ace and Sabo's eyes met. All of us.
A gritted, gutted groan tore through Ace's throat as orgasm hit. But even as he was coming, Ace could see in the happy, greedy hitch of Marco's hips that Marco wasn't quite finished. That Marco could take more. So he spilled and spilled until he was empty. And then he rearranged Marco's around him, and, not pulling out, settled into a comfortable seat.
A disbelieving laugh left Sabo's mouth.
“Keep my cock nice and warm,” he told Marco, breathing through the aftershocks of his own climax, which had honestly hit like a hammer. This was, Ace thought, part of the work. “And I'll have another go at you in a bit. Sound good?”
Conscious of Marco's erection, still unsated, pressed right into the mattress, Ace deliberately didn't give him any weight. As expected, Marco was much too disciplined to just start rutting the sheets on his own, and kept himself the only rigid posture in the room. It felt vindicating and heady to leave Marco in such a state, to take their leisure and make Marco wait.
“Yes. Please. Thank you,” Marco whimpered, the only words left that he wanted to say. His gaze was unfocused, distant, and yet his body shifted in tangent with Ace's every time Ace moved. It was perfect submission, holding onto consciousness for nothing else but Ace and Sabo's bidding.
Sabo huffed out something incredulous-sounding, then got off the bed. Ace watched in affectionate silence as he crossed the room, chugged a glass of water, then brought another filled glass back over to Ace.
“Half of me wants to strap him up again and whip him until his front matches his back,” Sabo grumbled as Ace drank. “I wanna hit him so hard his dick bruises.”
“I think the only one of us who can actually muster up the energy to do that is Marco,” Ace answered with a chuckle. He emptied the last bit of water from the glass and, sweeping a palm up the entire length of Marco's spine, fisted Marco's hair and—rather gently, all things considered—lifted Marco's head for a kiss. He fed Marco the mouthful of water that way, tongueful by tongueful as Ace remained aware of the strain on Marco's throat. Then Marco's tongue was lapping against his in grateful strokes. Ace could feel his dick twitch, still buried deep in Marco's wet heat.
He reluctantly pulled away, a line of drool lingering between their lips before canting like a tightrope and then snapping apart.
“Why don't you finish that blowjob for Sabo, hm?”
“My dick is gonna fall off,” Sabo complained—disingenuously, seeing how he had already bared his cock again and was hovering by the head of the bed. When Sabo settled against the headboard and guided Marco's mouth over his cock, Ace couldn't see the expression Marco wore. But he could see the one Sabo wore, and wondered with aching fondness if Sabo even knew how devotedly tender it was.
“Ace,” Sabo whispered, thumbing the stretch of Marco's lips, “how the hell did we get so lucky?”
Maybe he did know.
Round two (for them—rounds three and four for Marco) began much more cordially than the first, more mutually. The race was over, and this was the celebratory parade. This was the hot dripping sweat of Ace and Sabo working in tandem, the fumbling grips of reaching for each other's lips over Marco's bent body, the generous rakes of nails across chain marks as the keening coming from Marco's throat got more and more desperate. As Sabo's eyes got more and more strained because of the vibrations wrapping around his cock. As Ace felt the desperate tightening at the base of his stomach for the second time that evening, and he was proud, so damn proud of the way Marco looked beneath them. The way that the slope of Marco's shoulders had broken so elatedly.
“Come for us now,” Sabo ordered.
Ace reached his hand underneath Marco, and stroked, letting Sabo empty himself down Marco's screaming throat before letting release find him once more.
Marco came to dried, cleaned, and warm. It was a sensible practice for them to have gotten into, after scenes like this, to wrap whoever had been at the center of attention in between the other two's arms.
Marco couldn't remember the last time he had passed out so, and woken up with Ace and Sabo curled protectively on either side of him. He found himself flushing in embarrassing delight.
“Unbelievable,” Sabo muttered at Marco's back, an arm draped tamely over Marco's waist. “We can slap him and beat him and call him a whore and it's cuddling that makes him go red?”
“It's sweet,” Ace protested, with a tentative little glance at Marco's face. What he found there (a defenseless reflection of Marco's true and absolute bliss, probably) soothed away every line on his brow, and he dropped a loving peck on Marco's lips.
“It's incongruous,” Sabo corrected. That characteristic grouch he liked to put on wherever Marco was concerned was nothing though, compared to the way his fingers were soothing balm over the welts on Marco's back. Fastidious. Attentive. Assuring. “You know you're wasting perfectly good medicine like this right? When you can just heal these?”
“No.” Marco's voice was so hoarse it was barely audible, but both his lovers immediately silenced at the sound of it. Smiling, Marco gathered one hand each from Ace and Sabo, pulling them to clasp gratefully between his. “Let me keep them for a while, yoi. I can be selfish sometimes too.”