Breaking Point - Chapter OneSeries:
KINK: Toys, impact play, orgasm denial, mild humil, public play, smut, smut & more smutSpoilers:
None whatsoever. Dedication
: Fic is for Hoopi. Much love, girl.
Sasuke grit his teeth to keep from screaming in abject frustration. Somehow he kept his eyes down and managed to continue doing as he was told. He didn’t get up and put his fist through a wall or a window…though it was tempting. Oh…so…tempting.
“I don’t think you’re trying hard enough, Sasuke. Faster.”
The voice…the goddamned voice. Sasuke’s eyes slid shut as he obeyed and he hated
. He hated everything with the passion of ten fiery suns. He hated his hand, his traitorous body, his need. He hated the way his knees ached from kneeling despite the soft cushion, hated the feel of the air on his bare skin.
But most of all, he hated the smug, blond tormentor seated across from him in an oversized chair, one leg cocked over the opposite knee and chin resting lazily on a fist. Naruto wore dress slacks and a royal blue button-down shirt that made his eyes practically glow. Sasuke hated that he looked so fucking good…hated the way he couldn’t keep his eyes off Naruto’s mouth, ached to see his tongue sneak out and wet his lips. Sasuke’s gaze kept traveling down, trying to see if Naruto wanted him…he burned to feel hard flesh in his mouth and hands on his body. Sasuke felt that his limbs were made of lead need, and he would do anything to get what he wanted…anything…to make those blue eyes focus on him with hazy lust.
Because second only to his hatred for his Master was Sasuke’s hatred of his own insane desire to obey.
“That’s better,” Naruto said, sounding irritatingly calm. “Lean back on one arm and stroke your pretty cock just like that…”
Sasuke bit the inside of his cheek hard enough to draw blood, but he didn’t whimper. He didn’t whine or beg like he was dying to do. Every cell in his body craved release, and he tried to ignore it as he leaned back with a gasp. He caught himself on one arm, let his head fall back like he knew Naruto liked.
And with his other hand Sasuke stroked his rigid cock and he wanted to scream for mercy.
Every day…every fucking day for a week Naruto had made him do this. The first time was almost comical in its surprise. Sasuke was in the kitchen making dinner, and he heard the garage door open as Naruto arrived home from work. Immediately Sasuke set things down and walked quickly to the end of the counter and knelt in the floor. The brunette was grateful that Naruto didn’t make him wait by one particular door…it just got too complicated and difficult in a manor this large and schedules that were so erratic.
Naruto stalked into the house and Sasuke waited with impatience masked by poise until Naruto entered the kitchen.
“Hey there,” Naruto said and walked over to Sasuke, leaning down to kiss the top of his head. At the old signal, Sasuke looked up and smiled at the sunshine grin that greeted him. He wanted to ask about Naruto’s day…talk about the charity dinner at the end of the week…tell him he missed Naruto and ask if he remembered to phone the travel agent to talk about Greece.
But his thoughts were interrupted when Naruto winked affectionately and ran loose fingers through Sasuke’s hair.
“Strip and get a pillow. Meet me in the ballroom.”
Sasuke blinked at the words, but didn’t have time to say or ask anything before Naruto walked away, whistling. Curious and begrudgingly obedient, Sasuke grabbed a pillow – knowing instinctively that Naruto meant a kneeling pad and not, say, a pillow from their bed – and stripped out of his clothing. He laid each article carefully over the back of the couch in the living room and then walked through the maze of rooms until he reached the ballroom.
Naruto sat in the massive winged-back chair by the grand piano and beckoned Sasuke over when he appeared.
“Kneel in front of me.”
Sasuke crossed the wooden floor and positioned himself on the cushion as asked, wondering what in the world was going on this time. Naruto liked to surprise Sasuke – that he knew. And despite outward appearances and his jovial nature, Naruto was very good at wicked surprises. Sasuke remembered a time when he mistook Naruto for an amiable fool – a mere nice guy. Loyal, brave…but with no depth.
Naruto was, actually, nice, brave, and loyal – but it was a thin veneer over a complicated and caring man who ran a global business and managed hundreds of people through a team of hand-picked managers and trusted colleagues. Naruto was cunning, clever, and intensely observant, though he preferred to store information away as opposed to announcing his intelligence like a certain Hyuga.
Sasuke learned his lesson long ago and now understood Naruto probably better than anyone. They’d been together for years now – since they were teenagers, really – and when they finally figured out their mutual interest in D/s, they threw themselves into the Scene with eager abandon. Naruto played hard…he had a heavy hand, a mile-wide sadistic streak, and he loved voyeurism and making Sasuke break in any way, shape or form. The blond enjoyed seeing Sasuke on his knees and in tears, and Sasuke preferred those tears to be artifice used to get something he wanted as opposed to the real thing.
The dynamic of who got to manipulate whom made things occasionally tenuous.
But somewhere between the reddened handprints, the quick and secretive fucks in bathrooms and alleyways, and the tender moments full of whispered words and gentle caresses shared in their bed…Sasuke realized that he loved Naruto more than anything in the world.
…except when he tortured him like this. At times like these, he wanted to rip the man into shreds.
And Naruto took full advantage of that.
“Get hard for me.” Naruto spoke those words for the first time a week ago and then repeated the same litany of commands every day since. After arriving home, they went to the ballroom and performed this maddening ritual. Naruto would make Sasuke stroke himself until his breath came fast and hard and his body shook. And then – right when Sasuke felt pleasure curling his toes and tickling his spine…
“Stop. Now.” The command was a growl – the kind that made you forget there was any other option but to obey.
For the seventh time, Sasuke stopped stroking and remained leaning backward, hand making a hot outline on the slick, wooden floor. This time he managed not to whine. The first few times, he tried whining and mewling…Sasuke knew that sometimes Naruto caved with sounds alone. The ploy was unsuccessful so Sasuke gave up the tactic but was at a loss for a new one. So he panted, his back aching from the pose and his cock so hard and swollen he actually hoped it would just fall off. Save him some misery.
Sasuke obeyed and the dread of what came next nearly made him whine. He looked up at his Master with pleading, wide eyes…he didn’t give a shit if Naruto punished him for making eye contact. That would be a blessed relief after the past week when the only contact he got was this cruel ritual and evil kisses and embraces that left Sasuke so needy he felt semi-hysterical. Master would hold him afterwards until Sasuke calmed down and then go about his business or calmly go to sleep.
Sasuke hated that indifference to his needs…
Under normal circumstances Sasuke wasn’t allowed to touch himself without permission, but usually that wasn’t a problem. Master took excellent care of Sasuke.
But Naruto made it clear seven days ago that masturbation was strictly verboten. And the breaking of that rule would leave him very disappointed.
Sasuke looked at Naruto’s mischievous expression and remembered those words; remembered the fear the simple word induced. Despite everything, Sasuke understood with grim finality that he would sooner cut off his right hand than risk disappointing this man. Naruto could make Sasuke angry…Sasuke could secretly plot his Master’s death…he could call him every name in the book when he was under the whip or the cane…
But Sasuke could never…ever…disappoint Master.
Sasuke’s lips parted and his pupils dilated with lust as Naruto turned to lay one leg over the chair arm, other foot flat on the floor. Sasuke licked his lips when Naruto casually reached down and undid his pants, and he moaned when Naruto released that thick, perfect cock and stroked himself with deft efficiency.
“Hands behind your back,” Naruto commanded and Sasuke moved immediately.
“That’s my good little slut…don’t want you tempted to disobey me…”
Sasuke panted. “Please…” he whispered, eyes on the gliding, tanned, hand that was responsible for pleasure, pain, and everything in between. “Please, Master, please…”
“What did I say?” Naruto husked, his hand moving faster.
“To watch you, Master,” Sasuke replied immediately. Oh god…he was so hard. Both of them were so hard…if only he could taste Master’s cock…if only he could bury his face at the juncture of leg and body and bite like he knew Master loved…
“Did I say you’d get to suck me, boy?” Naruto growled.
“Did I say you’d get to do anything but watch?”
“Did I say you could fucking ask
for anything else?” Naruto spoke through clenched teeth and Sasuke knew he was close. Oh fuck…oh god…
“N-no, Master.” Sasuke’s voice was a high whine, and he felt wetness slide down his shaft. He leaked shamelessly at the display in front of him, what he wanted – craved, needed – so close and the denial of it brutal.
“Then shut up and do as you’re told.”
Sasuke’s teeth clacked together with the force of his closing mouth, and he stopped pleading and watched. Master’s eyes closed, lips parted, and his hand stroked hard and fast. Sasuke struggled not to make noise – not a whine, whimper, or pant – as Master’s face twisted in pleasure and need only to relax a moment later in release. He came with a harsh sigh, pearly ropes splattering the silk of his shirt and drenching his hand.
For a moment it was all so unfair that Sasuke felt like sobbing and biting something in two. It wasn’t that he couldn’t come – although that was sheer agony. It was that for the past week Naruto had kept Sasuke at arm’s length when it came to his own pleasure. He didn’t call Sasuke down into the basement to play. He didn’t tie Sasuke to their headboard and torture him for half the night with his mouth and tongue until Sasuke cried and begged. No showers, no toys, no public displays, no shows at Club Break…
Nothing but this simple, damnable ritual and occasional heated clutches designed to drive Sasuke insane.
With a shuddering sigh, Sasuke continued to obey the command to watch, hoping that this time would be different.
The ritual over, Naruto composed himself in mere seconds, tucking his softening penis into his clothing and standing. Sasuke looked up in silent hope.
“Not bad,” Naruto said by way of praise and held his come-covered hand down to Sasuke’s face. Hope fled and hid at the repeated gesture, but Sasuke immediately lapped at the liquid, eyes squeezing shut. He damned his own needs, ached for more, and died a thousand times at the thought that the torture was never going to end. Why…WHY was Master so cruel? What was this game and why did he have to suffer like this? Had he done something? Was there a point other than sheer sadism? Did Master not know
how…impossible this was? Was there a way to convince him that he was sorry for anything he might have done and needed…more? Anything, something, everything…more.
Sasuke licked slowly and poured every ounce of sensual trickery into cleaning Master’s hand. He suckled, lapped, and teased, eyes half-closed and body moving with feline grace as he twisted to gather every drop. If he did this…maybe Master would give in. It’d worked before this hellish week, after all. Sasuke was good at everything he did – inspiring lust was definitely one of those things.
But above him, Naruto just chuckled and then took his hand away to absently pat Sasuke on the head. Like a fucking dog. Sasuke’s eyes widened and he stared at the red draperies as though willing them to spontaneously combust.
“Let’s go get ready, Sasuke. We’ve got that fuckin’ dinner tonight.”
Sasuke froze in sheer disbelief.
“Come on. You can get up and talk.” Naruto walked toward the door. “Hey – do we still have any of that dip you made the other night? I’m gonna need a snack or somethin’ before we go. Damned dinners never have decent food.”
Sasuke blinked and watched Naruto’s retreating back and wanted to call after him – tell him to stop; to come back and explain himself. How in the hell could he be so fucking calm? How could he just…just…
Sasuke stood up, grabbed the pillow, and threw it on the floor like a petulant child having a fit. How dare
Naruto ignore him like this. How dare he be so damned impossible!
Sasuke stood surrounded by luxury and decadence and vibrated with denied release, confusion, and rage. This dramatic change in temperament was intolerable. Sure, sometimes Naruto pretended to ignore Sasuke or be oblivious to what he wanted. Yes, Naruto would occasionally take care of himself first and torture Sasuke by making him wait. Over the years there’d been countless games and scenarios…
But in the end, Naruto would give in and Sasuke got what he wanted.
And this blatant, repetitive denial of Sasuke’s state of being and the fact that they were only
doing this and nothing else was new and…
Scary. Because he didn’t know what Naruto wanted, and he didn’t know what it meant.
Sasuke swallowed. His hands fisted and relaxed as he tried to calm down. He knew that lust clouded his judgment and made it hard to think or plan. It tainted everything these days…a mere brush of a bed sheet and Sasuke was hard. Showers were deadly, clothing practically unmanageable. If Naruto was nearby, sex was all Sasuke could think about. For one entire week there was nothing in Sasuke’s mind but frustration, Naruto, this game, and sheer, unadulterated want
Looking down at his suffering body, Sasuke shivered and knew he could end this. He could walk up to Naruto, look him in the eye, and say, “mahogany” and it would stop immediately. Sasuke could demand answers and Naruto could explain away Sasuke’s fears.
But Sasuke was intensely stubborn and proud of it. He would not back down from a fight. He would not give in just because things were hard…literally and metaphorically in this case. Over the years he’d endured much worse than this current bit of maddening perversity. He couldn’t just give up.
…and I don’t want to disappoint him, whispered a soft, small voice in the back corner of Sasuke’s mind. That’s what you fear…not the game…not the change of rules…you fear that
look in his eyes more than you fear death.
The ballroom was silent but for Sasuke’s gradually slowing breathing.
Centered once again, Sasuke scowled darkly and shoved the “f” word out of his mind. It did him no good to think on such things, and besides, eventually he would make Naruto cave. It was just a matter of finding the right tactic.
Sasuke took a moment to curse Naruto black, blue, and purple for the trouble he caused before composing his features. With a straight back and high chin, he left the ballroom and headed for the master bedroom to get ready for dinner.
Naruto was in his closet muttering to himself when Sasuke entered the bedroom.
“Sas, have you seen those white and blue cufflinks lately?” Naruto called. The bedroom was actually a suite of rooms designed to include every luxury imaginable. The bedroom came complete with a 60” hidden-panel flat screen TV, surround-sound, sitting area, and bay window. Thick rugs covered the hardwood floor, and both Naruto and Sasuke liked heavy, dark furniture that was equal parts gothic and industrial.
Off the left side of the main room was a hallway lit with recessed lights. Two walk-in, custom-designed closets opened off from the hallway on either side, providing both men with their own space. At the end of the hallway was a bathroom almost as large as the bedroom. The bathroom had another seating area, a soaking Jacuzzi tub and separate shower that could hold four comfortably, and separate toilets and sinks for each man. The bathroom was done in stark black and white – though Naruto insisted on burnt-orange towels.
Sasuke paused briefly in the doorway of Naruto’s closet. The blond’s soiled silk shirt was wadded on the floor near the hamper for dry cleaning. His pants were in another pile, and Naruto wandered around carelessly naked while opening drawers. Sasuke thought he looked about fifteen and utterly helpless.
Sasuke sighed, knowing Naruto wanted the sapphire cufflinks with the pearl accents. “They’re in the black case on the third shelf to your right.”
Naruto turned and grinned at him. “What would I do without you?”
Sasuke arched a perfect eyebrow in reply and watched Naruto search the shelf and grab the case. It was like nothing happened…that wasn’t anything terribly unusual – Naruto had the uncanny ability to go from sadistic top to cuddly boyfriend in a single breath - but at the moment it made Sasuke want to kick puppies.
“Hn,” he grunted and stalked down the hallway to the bathroom. Gritting his teeth, Sasuke walked into the black marble shower and turned on the water. It warmed up almost immediately and Sasuke flicked a knob to turn on six jets. The water was equal parts soothing and maddening as it drained some tension out of taut muscles but did nothing for his arousal.
After a perfunctory cleaning, Sasuke turned off the water and wrapped a towel around his waist. Naruto wandered into the bathroom half-dressed, his pants on but belt undone. Sasuke rolled his eyes and grabbed another towel to dry his hair. Honestly, at this rate they would be late for dinner. It was for charity and certain to be dry and dull, but Sasuke hated being late.
Warm arms wrapped around him from behind and Sasuke froze, half-bent at the waist and towel obscuring his sight.
“I love you fresh out of the shower,” Naruto muttered, dropping a kiss to Sasuke’s neck. Heart suddenly pounding and cock twitching yet again to half-hardness, Sasuke dropped the towel in his hands.
“I want you to love me in and
out of the shower,” Sasuke purred, leaning into the muscled body at his back and letting hope drown his frustration.
Naruto chuckled. “You’re such a little slut, Sas.”
“I’m your slut, Master,” Sasuke murmured, boldly rubbing his ass against Naruto. Yes, please God, let this man DO something…
With a sigh that sounded genuinely pained, Naruto released Sasuke and stepped away. Sasuke stopped himself from stomping his foot or from doing something equally embarrassing.
“I have a couple of things for you to wear tonight,” Naruto said, voice managing to be both light and commanding at the same time.
Sasuke swallowed and didn’t answer, not quite trusting himself to speak. Hope flared again because this broke the week-long pattern…but dread followed hot on hope’s tail because when Naruto wanted him to “wear something” he rarely meant clothing.
Naruto walked over to his sink and picked up a small, red box. Sasuke looked at it with steadily widening eyes. Oh shit, oh hell…not that…please, please by all things holy…
“Present yourself,” Naruto said and he sounded almost…regretful? Sasuke really hoped that’s what he heard in the bastard’s voice. Untying the towel at his waist, Sasuke let it fall and put his hands behind his back. Pushing his pelvis forward, he bent backward slightly and lifted his chin. He didn’t bother trying to hide the distaste in his expression. It barely managed to mask the panic, and Sasuke clung desperately to his pride.
Naruto ignored Sasuke’s sulk and pulled out a solid-steel cock cage from the red box. It was a pretty thing in a way, and custom made for Sasuke. Vents slit the sides and the tip of the steel allowing for long wear. Four pins fit through and held together rings at the base of Sasuke’s penis and around the back of his testicles. They could be adjusted to ensure the fit and hold the piece in place. The rest of the metal fit to cover and immobilize Sasuke’s penis entirely. The rings closed together with a sturdy lock, and Naruto had the only key. The first time he’d worn it, Sasuke did actually try to get the cage off.
And he failed. Painfully.
As an extra bit of cruelty, one of the rings at the cage’s base had a row of dulled metal spikes on the inside that dug into tender flesh. They wouldn’t cut or cause injury…but they added a whole new level of humiliation to chastity. It was bad enough that the thing wouldn’t let Sasuke get completely hard and made his dick and his balls ache…the spikes dug into his base every time his flesh twitched.
Sasuke’s lips formed a thin line as Naruto knelt and slicked Sasuke up with the lube they kept with the cage. Then he slowly and methodically began to fit him into the device, and Sasuke whined at the touch and the slight pain of forcing his half-erect self into the steel mold. When he felt the teeth dig into his base and Naruto began fastening the pins, Sasuke started to pant and his legs trembled.
A moment later Naruto stepped away, eying his handiwork. Sasuke kept his chin up in the proper pose but knew his cock looked like it’d been dipped and then trapped in molten, silver metal. Naruto had secured the rings tightly around Sasuke’s penis and balls, and already everything was tender and aching.
It made Sasuke…desperate. The touching excited his body despite being impersonal. The slight pain washed over his frayed nerves and easily won the argument that pain was better than nothing at all. His body fought against the restriction around his cock, and Sasuke felt weak. He made soft, needy noises with every breath and couldn’t help himself.
Naruto hummed in delight and, whistling, he walked out of the room. Sasuke didn’t budge. In a way, holding this position was a blessing…he knew once he started to move the metal on his skin would be terribly arousing. He wanted to cry at the thought. As if he weren’t dying for it already…now he would have a constant reminder of what he couldn’t have.
Sasuke heard Naruto come back into the bathroom and watched from the corner of his eye as the blond stepped behind him. He had something in his hand, and panic flitted at the edges of Sasuke’s mind.
“Master…?” Surely that could not have been…no…Naruto wouldn’t be so cruel.
“Bend over and grab your ankles, slut,” Naruto cheerfully ordered.
Sasuke’s eyes widened, and he hesitated. When he took a second too long, Naruto pressed a hard hand to Sasuke’s back and pushed. With a small cry of surprise and anguish, Sasuke’s hands slapped against the tile floor and then he shifted his grip to his ankles.
“Master…please…wouldn’t you…” Sasuke swallowed and tried to think fast. He couldn’t do this. There was no way. He could not wear this damned cage and go to dinner. And he certainly
Sasuke choked on a sob of anger, humiliation, and lust as he felt Naruto press something warm and slick against his entrance.
“Wouldn’t I, what?” Naruto growled, pausing.
“Wouldn’t Master rather feel me himself?” Sasuke answered quickly. He managed to make his voice seductive even while upside down and in a fit of heat and panic.
“It’s been a full week, Master, and my hole is so tight. So unprepared for your cock. I’d feel like a vice, Master, and I’d squeeze you and suck you in…I’m so hot for you…please, Master…” Sasuke arched his back and turned his heels out to spread himself further. “Use me like a whore and make me beg.”
It wasn’t the prettiest speech Sasuke could manage, but it was the best he could do with his brain on fritz. He waited, blood rushing to his head and making him feel dizzy. For a long moment, Naruto did nothing – and Sasuke couldn’t hear him breathing. Maybe it worked? Maybe…
Sasuke yelped in genuine surprise when Naruto’s hand connected with his ass in a bruising blow.
“What did I tell you to do, bitch?” Naruto asked, irritated.
“To bend over and grab my ankles, Master,” Sasuke answered breathily.
“Do you think I’m stupid, slut?”
“Then don’t you think I know that I can use you like a whore? Take you whenever I want, use you how I want, make you fuckin’ like it?”
Sasuke’s blood pounded and his face flushed red with desire. God…that voice
Another vicious blow to Sasuke’s skin woke him up.
“I asked. You. A question.” The words were a dangerous, feral, growl.
“Master does what he likes with me,” Sasuke managed with a pant. He didn’t know which was better: the sting of his ass or the feel of the cage on his struggling cock.
“Oh, so you DO remember who you’re talkin’ to?” Naruto spanked Sasuke several times, each blow harsh enough to make Sasuke cry out. He caught himself on the floor else he fall over, and then quickly regained his balance and put his hand back on his ankle.
“Yes, Master.” Sasuke breathed hard and fast, and he swayed on his feet. Naruto steadied him.
“Then do you have anything to say that matters? Somethin’ I need to hear?”
And image of dark red, shining wood flashed through Sasuke’s brain but he pushed the thought away. He didn’t want it.
“Then quit your damned begging and take this like the little ass-slut I know you are.”
The plug was lubed, but it still felt like it split Sasuke in two as Naruto pushed it into his body with a slow but unforgiving pace. Sasuke yelped before biting his lip as he struggled to hold still, legs shaking and sweat forming on his skin. The plug had an unusual shape: and it started wide, got wider, and didn’t taper in the slightest until just before the base. Once seated, it rested firmly against his prostate and always made Sasuke feel almost uncomfortably full. It felt amazing…but it was almost too much to take. And in his current state, it was practically unbearable.
With efficient hands, Naruto secured a simple two-strap harness over the plug and around Sasuke. The plug wasn’t going anywhere Naruto didn’t want it to go.
Sasuke struggled for air and with himself. He fought against anger and pleasure…against the desire to just break down and beg Naruto for relief and not to do this. Sasuke fought against the sheer fear accompanying the knowledge that he would have to go out like this. And not just to Break or some BDSM function…but to a dinner. A goddamned charity dinner where Sasuke would have to eat and make small talk and be civil. It was too cruel…too awful…and despair threatened to wipe everything else out of Sasuke’s mind.
Gentle hands braced against his skin, and Sasuke heard the command as if it came from far away: “Stand up slowly, and let me help you.”
Since it was an order, Sasuke obeyed, and he was immediately grateful for the support when his vision tunneled to black. For a moment he could feel warm skin along his back and he wanted to just sink into it. He wanted to turn into that heat and cry, beg, plead…apologize and tell Master that he wasn’t worthy, and that he couldn’t do this.
Naruto sighed and stepped around Sasuke, hands keeping the raven upright and steady. Sasuke felt fingers press into the side of his face and along his jaw. In the next second he looked into a pair of startling blue eyes that were full of concern and intent. The look reminded Sasuke of the last week, of the unfinished game…and of his stubborn desire to see this little plot to the end. He still didn’t understand what Naruto wanted, and he refused to give in until he did. Sasuke blinked and managed to keep a scowl from forming.
The blue eyes darkened. “Can you stand?” Naruto asked.
“Yes, Master,” Sasuke replied. He honestly wasn’t sure about that, but he was willing to try. Even if it meant falling over once or twice before he got the hang of being vertical.
Naruto released Sasuke with a little sigh. “Get dressed,” he ordered. “We’re already late.”
Sasuke watched Naruto walk out of the bathroom with enough emotional charge to start an engine. What was this game and when in the hell would it bloody end?
As Sasuke broke down his life into small parts and goals – get used to his body confined and full, remember how to walk and appear like he wasn’t caged and plugged, get to the closet and somehow manage clothing – he worried. What if Naruto was tired of playing? What if this was just his way of showing boredom? Sasuke was a genius…and a master of manipulation. Maybe Naruto was tired of being with someone so…challenging?
That thought struggled to connect to others and Sasuke knew it was important…but the constant grind of the plug against his insides and the cage around his cock made it very hard to think. And when he finally made it to his closet and found pants, he concluded that he needed to master his own body before he tried understanding his Master.