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no one but the pure at heart

Chapter Text

 

’cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
and love dares you to care for
the people on the edge of the night
and love dares you to
change our way of caring about ourselves…
—Queen, “Under Pressure”

 

James sits in the chair, and looks at Michael. Michael sits down, too, and looks back.

His bag’s in the hotel-suite kitchenette, perched on the bar; James had been washing a teacup when he’d arrived, and had said, “Sorry, hang on, let me finish—” and had, a bit nervously. Michael had been impressed, and said so. He’s not certain how many celebrities would clean and dry and put away the hotel-provided dishes in their rooms after drinking out of them, but he’d guess the answer would be along the lines of not too many.

James hadn’t exactly blushed. Had said, intriguingly, “Well, I might as well make life a bit easier for someone, right?” and then wandered back out to the sitting room, hand absentmindedly trailing along the gold-trimmed bar, the heavy table with its barley-twist legs. Sitting down, he’d petted the comfortably-upholstered arm of his chair. Making friends with the world, Michael’d thought, amused.

He shifts his weight. Wonders whether James is waiting for him to speak up. Might be in character.

James starts, “Listen, I—” Stops.

“It’s all confidential,” Michael says, in case that’s what’s lying under the nervousness. “No matter what we decide, if I stay or if I leave, no one will know.”

“You’ll know.” James catches one vivid lip between teeth, worries at it. “You and Ian. I’m not—it’s been a long time, all right? I don’t know if this can happen.”

“You want it to,” Michael says. Possibly too intimate, that, or maybe just intimate enough, from the way James breathes in at the words, the comprehension.

James does want it. James wants it very badly. Michael can tell. It’s his job—his secondary job, really, but the one in question at the moment—to tell.

He makes decent money as a physiotherapist, does a lot of work with injured stuntmen, film crews, extras. He’s good at it, and he loves the profession, he truly does, the way that people come to him broken and in pain but depart feeling healed, on the way to recovery; the way that he can push those people to achieve more than they’d believed themselves capable of; the way that he’s been able to give some of those stuntmen back their lives and careers.

He also loves his secondary job. The one in question.

Michael Fassbender, Dominant for hire. Professional, discreet, and very, very good.

He has a reputation, not out in the open but where it matters, in the scene. People come to him. He can afford to be selective. And many of the skills transfer rather well between his lives. Awareness of clients’ bodies. Pressure points, metaphorical and not. Care. Patience. Knot-tying. Stretching limits.

Sir Ian had actually met him through the physiotherapy side first. Had, several weeks later, turned up at his door without an appointment and declared, rather accusingly, “Dear boy, you didn’t tell me that was you everyone recommends!” Michael’d said “What?” and then his brain had caught up and he’d yanked Ian inside and then wondered how many ways he could suffer for manhandling a knight of the realm.

Ian hadn’t wanted his services in that regard, but had evidently been hearing about his reputation for some time. Had mostly been miffed that there was information he’d not known. They’re friends, these days, which is how, more or less, Michael’s made it here.

“You know that I do.” James glances away. He’s kicked off his shoes, and his sock-clad toes’re unfairly adorable. The incongruity’s disconcerting. James McAvoy, everyone’s favorite cuddly wee Scotsman, effortlessly good in romantic comedies or tragic period costume drama or flippant black-comedy awards-bait, with slightly too-long jeans and rumpled hair, and he’s asking Michael to put him on his knees and use him and spank him and fuck him and make him beg.

Or not asking. Hesitating. Michael’s seen hesitation before, though, with clients who can’t get past the enormity of what they’ve asked him to do. This is in part that, but there’s more.

“It’s been over a year.” James sounds tired. Highland tartan wearing thin. Rain and wind and the elements battering the wool. “And I’ve been on stage every night for three months, until last week, and I can’t sleep, and I need—I just need to be fucked, right? To feel—to let it out. You can do that, right?”

“I can do that. If that’s all you need.”

Ian had met him for lunch, the week before. Had said, grinning too widely, “I’ve got a present for you,” and then, back in Michael’s sunlit white-painted flat above the clinic, “here.” Had tossed a photo at him. James Andrew McAvoy. World-famous actor, gorgeous, Scottish, kind to obnoxious journalists and actively involved in at least two charities, and the man of Michael’s idle morning daydreams.

Those sorts of daydreams. And before-bed dreams. And in-the-shower dreams.

He tries not to be an obnoxious or creepy sort of fan, he honestly conscientiously does. He’s seen all of James’s films, and had even been in the audience for the Scottish Play during the final show, left breathless and astounded by the ferocity, the commitment, the capacity for emotion. He’s done some YouTube watching, and lurked a bit around the part of the internet that posts lovely James-related photos, but that’s all, really. It’s a fantasy, a ridiculous crush, and he knows it is; it’s not as if the most famous movie star in the entire fucking world will ever trip over him in the street or get caught in the rain and have to borrow his umbrella or stand beside him on a crowded train.

Michael may’ve watched Notting Hill a few too many times. But he knows it’s not real. These things don’t happen. Not beyond a cinema screen.

Except for when they do happen. Because he’s here now. Looking at James.

Back then, he’d glared—Ian knew all of his embarrassing fanboy secrets, and had teased him mercilessly ever since the discovery—and grumbled, “Not hilarious.”

“Not meant to be. We’re doing that tights and spandex film this summer, you know, superheroes and all, and we had a table read—and I adore James, he’s such a genuinely lovely person, so nice to be working with him again—he asked me after, quietly, whether I knew anyone who could…assist with a problem he’s been having.”

“Oh,” Michael’d said, still having trouble processing. James McAvoy. James McAvoy. Needing his help. The thought didn’t even make sense. Unreal. “Okay. Um. What sort of problem—I mean, I know he’s just got done with Macbeth, and I’d heard it was pretty physical, sort of, so is it more preventative, like getting him back into healthy condition, or do I need to focus on an actual injury, like—”

“Not that sort of problem,” Ian had said, and Michael’d very nearly fallen out of his chair in shock. “I told him about you—told him you came highly recommended—and showed him a picture, and he said he’d like to meet you. Next weekend, if you’re free?”

“Holy fuck,” Michael’d said, from behind his hands. “James fucking McAvoy. You’re serious? This isn’t some sort of, y’know, terrible practical joke for which I will subsequently murder you in very hot blood?”

“Not at all. And, by the way, he employs fuck as an adjective even more than you do. The two of you should get on quite well.”

“I hate you.”

“You love me. I’ve given you the man of your dreams.”

“Go the fuck away,” Michael’d said, “I need to panic,” and as Ian got up, laughing, had flailed, “wait, yes, I mean tell him yes, next weekend, I’m free, completely, whenever he wants—”

“So adorable.” Ian had patted him on the shoulder. “I’ll tell him.”

Michael, alone in his flat, had shut the door, leaned against it, and very slowly slid down to sit on the floor. James McAvoy. Needing to be—to be—taken care of—by him. Michael Fassbender, professional Dominant. He’d sat there just breathing for a while.

The shell-shock had mostly gone away in the days before the actual assignation. It’d come back in full force the second he’d stood in the hotel corridor and knocked, clutching his familiar well-packed bag in one hand and ordering his heart not to leap out of his chest.

When the door had opened, instantly recognizable blue eyes had found his, on the other side.

The hotel’s an old one, Georgian and lavish and proud. It sits in a quiet unfussy location off Russell Square and radiates innocuous historic respectability. The rooms, at least the lobby and this one he’s been directed to, are lavish as well, unobtrusively updated splendor personified in elegant furniture, heavy and sturdy and dark, lit by equally splendid lighting in high sconces, illuminating neutral yet stylish wallpaper striped in shades of golden caramel. Michael might be able to afford a stay here if he didn’t want to eat dinner for three weeks. James had picked the place. Had paid for the weekend. In advance.

And Michael wants to do this. Wants to do this for James, with James; to do it right. Not merely because he’s got professional pride—he’s seen what he can bring out in people, he’s had clients who didn’t know how intensely they could feel, how deep they could go within themselves, until he’d led them there—and not just because this is a celebrity client, James McAvoy, darling of stage and screen and able to alter Michael’s reputation and annual income with a word.

He wants to do this right because this is James McAvoy, though not for that celebrity reason. Because he’s admired and daydreamed and wanted for himself, as well.

He’s imagined what they could be for each other, what a person of James’s enormous capability on stage and visible, genuine passion could bring into his private world. He thinks—he’s idly always thought, and it might of course be only the wishful sort of thinking but he’s got a lot of experience and knows the signs, the body language, the way James stands and angles himself and turns toward the people he’s with—that James might take on the role that’s the complement to his, might yield and submit and give himself fully and freely, sublime. He’s wondered in the past whether James knows that about himself, or whether it’d be a surprise; if James would come to him experienced in reaching those magnificent heights, or if James would be wonderfully innocent, sweet and unpracticed and needing to be guided through his own body’s trembling responses.

Michael would love to be able to see that, to experience it. To be the one who can give James, who's unpartnered and always a bit solitary, perfectly willing to laugh with interviewers and chat about characters but very rarely offering glimpses of anything personal at all, what he might need. Might want. Might love, beyond the artifacts and the bedroom bruises. They might share a table and drink all the varieties of flavorful coffee seen in most candid shots, might discuss books they’ve read, might argue and laugh and look at one another as if they’re the only two people in the room.

But those are dreams, and this is real, with James tied up in knots right now, and not the enjoyable kind; he’s looking at Michael with those gorgeous eyes darkened and his face taut—maybe about to say, “No, this was a mistake and I’m sorry to have wasted your time.”

But it’s not a mistake. It’s not.

So before James can say it is, Michael straightens his shoulders and stiffens his spine, subtly cocks his head a bit to one side. He leans forward to plant his feet wide and firm on the carpeted floor. He half-lids his eyes, and allows his lips to part over the white brigade of teeth that he’s been told are nearly the most effective weapon in his arsenal. “Mr. McAvoy.” He smiles with the low dark silk of it, rough-edged and curling into the antique shadows of the room. “Shall I show you what I can do?” He shakes out his sleeves—a sharp snap of leather over long, elegantly-boned wrists—watches sea-blue eyes latch onto the movement as if hypnotized, pomegranate lips parting soundlessly.

Michael will be walking a fine line, here. James doesn’t know him, and clearly isn’t used to trusting anyone, from the two rules so definitively laid down when they’d first discussed the contract, to his current posture, so authoritative that anyone not used to catching the tiny tells—the shift of a foot, the flex of fingers when certain words hit the air—might think James was the Dominant, and Michael his chosen canvas for the evening.

Michael knows better. He’s used to reading those tells.

But it is a fine line, nonetheless. James hasn’t done this for a long time—for over a year, as just admitted. James needs this very desperately, needs the intensity, needs everything Michael can give, it’s there in the tightness of his shoulders, the tension in his spine even when he tries to seem relaxed. But James isn’t a regular client, and might not be ready for everything Michael has to offer—even if he thinks he is.

James probably also won’t take kindly to any proffered reassurance. Nothing that’d imply pity or gentleness. Maybe later. Not now.

Nor will James likely appreciate any attempt to make him smile by jumping up and down and shrieking, “You’re James fucking McAvoy!” as loudly as the inner fanboy part of Michael has been wanting to do ever since the hotel room door opened and James invited him inside.

He needs James to trust him. More: he wants James to trust him. And he’s shocked by the strength of his own desire.

James continues to watch his hands and arms as if hypnotized. Michael carries on adjusting one sleeve, casually, as if those eyes haven’t gone from summer-sky sunshine to simmering twilight, following his movements.

He murmurs, low-voiced, “I think perhaps we should try something simple, to start? To see whether we…suit each other…before you decide whether it’s yes or no?” and is gratified when James has to swallow before agreeing.

“I’ve heard your rules,” he says. He has. “You’ve heard mine.” Safety, consensuality, consciousness: he won’t do anything a client doesn’t want, and he won’t do anything unless he’s convinced the client is rational enough to comprehend the scene. Respect for safewords, on both sides. James had nodded, at that.

He pushes to his feet, prowls across the room to the chair where James sits poised as if ready to spring for escape at a moment’s notice. “Stand up.”

Eyes locked on his, James slowly obeys. Once he’s standing, Michael delights again in how neatly he might fit within tight-wrapping arms, how his lips might nuzzle comfortably against Michael’s throat. A small crease forms between expressive eyebrows, but James stands firm, looking up at him from a few inches away.

Michael wants to stroke the fine skin of lushly freckled cheeks, feel the moisture of beautifully-shaped lips on the tips of his fingers—and can easily imagine them enveloping quite another tip—but he refrains. Go slow, stay in control, become the master of the room without losing mastery of himself. “I’m going to sit in this very comfortable-looking chair that you’ve warmed so nicely for me. You’ll go read the contract—it’s right in the top of my bag in the kitchenette, can’t miss it. It’s the same one you saw over email; nothing’s different except your two additional hard limits, as we discussed. If you agree to this arrangement, bring it here to me and we’ll sign and date it. If you don’t...”

Michael lifts his chin, shrugs one shoulder, watching James watch him; then carefully but firmly grasps James’s shoulders and moves him to one side, steadies him and squeezes the firm muscles beneath the fabric, once, before releasing him and dropping into the truthfully very comfortable and body-warm chair. He sprawls his legs wide; one knee nearly touches James’s where he stands stock-still, staring with widened eyes, breathing a little faster.

“I’ll be glad of a cup of tea, either way.” Michael lets his smile slide across his lips, less warm than at their first meeting at the door, letting a little of the ice he can muster show through. “James,” he goes on, hardening his voice into an order. “Fetch me a cup of tea. Then you’ll kneel between my feet while I drink it.”

There’re other words he could say; he could remind James that ultimately this is James’s choice, that despite the dynamic the power to step back always lies in those freckled hands. But James knows that. And the mention of the contract would’ve been a reminder as well: James can sign it, or not, and that’s up to him.

If he does, though…

Michael very much hopes he does.

Enormous eyes gaze down at him, and James’s lips part, wordless and breathless. That’s an expression Michael’s seen before, though James wears it better than anyone else ever has or will again. It’s the look of someone who wants very badly to follow that order, someone also very used to independence, control, responsibility. Those two points make their arguments behind blue eyes, and Michael waits. He’s fairly certain of the outcome. He’s been watching James watch his hands.

James sighs, and a bit of that tension ebbs. Decision made. Accepted, at least in theory. Michael smiles more widely.

James takes a step toward the kitchen. Then says, “Would you like me to bring it to you on my knees, too, or are we saving that for later on?” and of course it’s sarcasm, defensive walls rising in the Scottish hills, but he's obeying even as he tosses the defiance out.

Michael refuses to be provoked. Only answers, lazily. “Perhaps.” And this earns a lovely flush of pink, heat washing through all the gilded-nutmeg freckles: James facing the possibility that those words might come to pass, and that he might want them to.

James comes back with one cup of tea—interesting; none for himself—and the contract in his other hand, not signed yet but he’s also holding a pen. He starts to kneel; Michael, testing, says, “Sugar,” and James breathes in, caught mid-motion, and that’s another quick blush blooming under pale skin: humiliation and desire.

Michael would under most circumstances be perfectly happy with sugarless tea. That’s not the point.

James returns from the kitchenette with three differently colored packets. Drops to his knees, flawless and elegant—and, oh, he does practice yoga, Michael’s read that somewhere, one of those celebrity gossip sites, not that he was actually looking but the article was there and opens up all sorts of intriguing possibilities—and says, “Wasn’t sure which you wanted.” A hint of defiance remains, but it’s battling with the yearning, down in the depthless blue, and losing.

“Thoughtful of you,” he says, deceptively mild, “good, I like that,” and picks one without really looking at it, and hears the soft gasp when his fingers brush that palm, when the praise registers. He pauses. Sets the tea aside. Brings his hand back and takes away the other two sugar packets—James hasn’t moved a muscle—and closes his fingers, one by one, around the fine bones of James’s wrist.

James’s inhale is very loud, in the sudden silence.

“You’ve not signed it yet.”

“…what?”

“The contract.” A nod to where it’s lying next to knees on the floor. “Are you planning to? Or are you not convinced that we’ll suit each other, James?”

“I’m convinced,” James whispers. Barely audible.

“Louder.”

James looks at their hands. At Michael’s grip on his wrist. At long fingers keeping him in place, promising bruises, though not yet. “I’ll sign it.”

“You’ll sign it here,” Michael murmurs, “kneeling at my feet,” and James breathes in, shivers, and nods. Michael lets him go long enough to pick up the pen.

They’ve discussed hard limits and safewords—the standard red, yellow, green; Michael prefers simple and James hadn’t argued for any alternative—and time frame. They’ve got the whole weekend, here in this very discreet and diplomatic hotel, and now that they’ve agreed to move forward, it’s just a matter of fine-tuning the details. James, on his knees, runs his lower lip through his teeth, back and forth, not quite nibbling. “No blood,” had been his first stipulation, reiterated after they shook hands and took their seats, civilized men discussing a forthcoming transaction. His second forbade permanent visible marks, which makes sense given his profession; that one isn’t a service Michael generally offers in any case unless by specific in-writing request, and he’d been glad James hadn’t asked. For now, though, both their phones are set to silent, left in the efficiently designed kitchenette along with Michael’s bag of tricks; and each of their safety contacts have been notified and check-in times agreed upon.

Michael watches James’s face over the rim of the teacup, both because he needs to be able to judge how to read his expressions, to determine when it’s safe to proceed and when to stop, if James isn’t able to make that decision—and because he can barely bring himself to stop looking, though a little voice inside his head screeches that he has to stop, unless he wants to come off as one of James’s less-restrained fans rather than the professional he is. Still, James’s face warrants a second glance, and a third and a fourth; it’s mobile and expressive, thoughtful now, pen twiddling between blunt fingers as blue eyes flick back and forth over the contract. Not the perfection of a typical leading man, but alive with thought and intelligence, tempered with kindness; and Michael focuses on his tea, takes a sip to distract himself. It’s a good blend, not out of the ordinary, but he’s forgotten, after all, to put in a sweetener. He doesn’t need it, but that’s not the point: he asked for one. Made James bring it to him.

James looks up at his indrawn breath, brows drawing together briefly as he notes Michael’s mild chagrin before Michael can smooth it to impassivity; James’s lips quirk into a half-smile before he blanks his own expression. The pen falls still, James scrawled in interrupted blue ink. He drops his eyes, head lowering—and it feels to Michael like the subtlest disappointment, a pulling back as if Michael has failed him, presented a facade less than impervious, against which James can throw himself without fear of falling through the cracks.

Michael reaches out, puts a hand in James’s hair and makes him look up. Says sternly, “Don’t hide from me.” It’s an order, full stop: the mere idea of disobedience unimaginable. James raises his head and glares—while faint pinkness washes across his cheeks again. His breath hitches when Michael holds him in place, fingers tight in the thick hair, dark and wavy and so very soft.

Losing momentum now wouldn’t be a disaster, but Michael pushes forward, unwilling to accept a setback. He pulls James’s head back a bit, the slim throat revealed above the sharp lines of his shirt collar. Then presses the rim of the teacup gently to James’s mouth; he watches the plush red indent beneath the sturdy white china.

He tilts the cup little by little. James’s eyes hold Michael’s, stubborn, wordlessly resisting. Testing.

Michael tilts the cup again, until it will spill if James doesn’t open his mouth…and James’s eyes go dark as milky, warm liquid laps against tightly seamed lips. He lets his mouth soften at last, opens himself to allow the tea to flow. Desire surges through Michael at the swallow and bob of that prominent Adam’s apple; he can practically smell it in the air as James’s body floods with need, hungering for command as a man thirsts for water. When Michael lifts the cup away, he finishes the tea, turning the cup in his hand so his own lips touch where James’s drank. James’s slow flush deepens.

But what James says is, “I like mine with more sugar, next time,” and Michael has to smile, because all that determined intransigence will be fun.

He sets the tea down next to the abandoned sweeteners, thinking. Of course James likes too much sugar in his tea. It’s like those elaborately-flavored coffees in so many photographs: James needs more intensity, more sensation, more.

Michael can do that. He’s good at that. He wants—irrationally, passionately, deeply—to be the one who can do that for James.

And there will be a next time. At least, he hopes James’s words are indicative, even if subconsciously so for now, of a matching hope that there will be.

Still smiling, Michael lifts his eyebrows and places the tip of his shoe on the contract. “Going to finish this, or was that our farewell cuppa?” And lets James tug at the pinned sheets for just a moment too long, enough to see the shoulders between his knees stiffen again, before moving his foot aside.

James glances up at him, assessing. A moment later, shining eyes drift downward to Michael’s crotch, where the very beginnings of meaningful stirring are only just visible—Michael is experienced, he can keep it in his trousers for as long as needed for any assignation. Then the tip of a pink tongue licks briefly, pointedly, around the inner surface of rounded lips, moisture gleaming in its wake. Michael’s cock twitches of its own volition and starts to press upward; his eyebrows shoot up and he has to concentrate suddenly on his downstairs neighbor’s appalling taste in country-punk-rap to suppress his reaction.

James grins, and signs his last name with a swoop and a flourish; inclining his head genteelly, he presents pen and paper to Michael. Michael eyes him grimly, then beckons him forward. The grin fades into watchfulness and hope edged with trepidation and rising eagerness; so that when Michael presses James down until his chin digs into the cushion of the chair, inches from Michael’s groin; when he leans over to use James’s strong upper back for a writing surface; when the pen digs into the paper and presses into fabric and flesh: Michael feels the tension in James’s back, feels a tremor ripple through skin and bone.

He lays the contract next to the teacup on the side table. Spreads his legs a little wider, pulls James’s head a little closer, until he can feel warm breaths high on his thighs. Testing in turn, Michael slides his arse forward until his cloth-covered cock presses against James’s mouth, and at that, James balks again. Michael shoots both hands forward and grabs James’s face. He bears down hard, stares with eyes cold as diamond. “Too late to back out,” he purrs, putting every ounce of lust and intent into the low rasp of his voice. “You signed, you’re mine.”

And he does what he’s wanted to do since first seeing James at the hotel door, gorgeous and suddenly, absolutely available. He recalls a film James did some years past, about a rising author kidnapped by an insane fan and subjected to graphically intense abuse. Michael smiles his widest smile—the one that seems highly motivating to clients. He whispers: “I’m your number one fan.”

James recoils; Michael leans down while forcefully pulling James up; and plunders him with kisses all the way to the floor.

They wind up in a heap on the carpet, Michael’s thighs bracketing James’s while he lets his weight rest heavily on the smaller frame. He pulls James’s head back in a hard tilt, arching his throat and spine; he kisses as if he’s delving for dwarvish gold. After a moment, James’s genuine resistance—broad hands shoving at Michael’s chest, body twisting to throw him off in a move that would have worked had Michael not flopped down belly-first on James’s torso, knocking him breathless—tapers off when Michael only continues kissing him, tongue invading, penetrating that tea-flavored mouth. Long fingers stroke through apple-scented hair—why apples, a tiny corner of his brain wonders, that’s never been in any of the interviews or behind-the-scenes tidbits. When a little of the tension seeps away, Michael pulls back, allows James to rest his head on the floor, blinking up at him with hazy eyes sharpening quickly.

“What the fuck was that for?” Outraged, but he lies perfectly still beneath Michael, body thrumming with energy.

Michael doesn’t answer immediately; he kicks James’s legs further apart instead, switching quickly from one knee to the other to keep his balance, and drapes himself even more heavily so that their groins rub together. James is already hardening. His hands flatten on Michael’s chest, fingers twitching into the fabric of his shirt.

James stares at him. “I asked—”

Michael swoops in and silences him with a harder kiss, punishing, forcing James’s jaws wide and thrusting against his wriggling tongue. He doesn’t withdraw until he feels James’s chest heaving for breath.

It takes a longer moment for James to recover this time, sucking in air and blinking rapidly, eyes fully dilated. Michael rises to his knees, shifts to straddle James’s groin; James’s hands fall limply to his sides. “…what?”

“I thought you read the contract. You don’t get to ask questions,” Michael reminds him, and smirks at the immediate pursing of swollen lips, bright eyes narrowing with irritation. He reaches down without warning to clutch James’s half-hard erection where it tents his trousers obscenely, groping until his balls are in hand, too—the entire package rather more generous—how lovely!—than seemed apparent in most photos Michael has seen. “Or is it that you want to be punished? Shall I bind this all away for the next two days, leave you wanting while I use your mouth, your hands, your arse, however I please?”

James’s mouth falls open, eyes widening, and he bucks up so fast and hard that Michael nearly—nearly—loses position. The fabric beneath his fingers dampens. Color stains James’s face, red as roses and so hot that Michael fancies he can feel it on his own cheeks, even with the several inches between their faces. “So,” he continues, eyebrows rising, “you like to suffer while you serve.” He thrusts his own hips against those trapped beneath, grins at the faint whimper that has James turning his face to one side, eyes closing, before he defiantly turns back to glare at Michael. “And I suppose you expect to be rewarded for good service, for self-denial—like the pure and devoted altar boy you look like right now, who’d never dream that serving on your knees meant sucking cock until you choke.”

The damp spot spreads, and the flush now extends down the entirety of James’s throat, disappearing beneath his shirt collar. Michael leans down, slow as a hypnotizing cobra, and closes his mouth over James’s. He delicately licks the ridges of teeth, and withdraws until their lips only brush together with their breathing, open-mouthed and mutual. “I’m going to make you choke,” Michael promises, and savors the way James’s eyes close and his body writhes, hips straining upward. “I’m going to fuck you until you scream.”

Then he rips open James’s shirt, every button flying free, and bats away James’s reaching hands, his cloudy-eyed protest.

James is flexible and strong and not easily subdued without a fight; James is also beautifully aroused and fighting that too—and losing. Michael can see it in his huge dark eyes, in the way his arms tense and quiver and finally give in when Michael captures them and pins them one-handed to the floor. In the way James unconsciously lifts his hips—surrender winning out for just an instant—before he recalls that he really shouldn’t be letting Michael strip him so ruthlessly, so efficiently, jeans down around his ankles, last scrap of fabric following that, so he’s naked everywhere for Michael’s leisurely perusal.

Michael definitely wants to peruse.

He lets his gaze linger, without speaking. Acres of pinwheeling freckles, joyous star-maps over Scottish-fair skin. Ginger and gold; autumn-leaf and rust. Toned muscles, not a bodybuilder’s, but decidedly present; James isn’t soft, though he does have splendid curves, that high waist and those hips and those long, well-muscled legs. An old scar laces one knee, healed but ugly; Michael frowns inwardly, taking note. That’d been something bad; and James hadn’t told him there were any limits, hadn’t noted tertiary physical restrictions in conversation or in contract. Still. They might need to have a conversation about acceptable risk to past injuries; they might not, he might be overreacting, but he needs to know—on at least two levels—that he can trust James to speak up regarding any pain.

That can be set aside, for now. He can chastise James for it shortly, in many inventive ways—denial, bondage, and physical control evidently provocative ones—and he will. But not yet. This is about establishing dominance. Groundwork. Here, on the floor.

Michael’s eyes follow that trail of dark hair, right there, leading to a nest of curls surrounding the delectably formed cock, risen stiff and eager between spread thighs.

Inside he admires, appreciates, adores, but he schools his expression to be the impenetrable stone James needs from him. And he simply looks, carefully neutral. No approval—or the reverse—in evidence.

James lies quietly at first, perhaps not minding the attention, maybe even enjoying it, with his wrists still pinned to plush hotel carpet. After a minute, though, his face flushes—a flush that extends, Michael’s amused to note, nearly everywhere—and a minute after that he starts to squirm, assurance cracking under the ceaseless gaze, arousal warring with humiliation and the knowledge that his arousal, if anything, has begun to grow, with himself on display before such coolly evaluative eyes.

Excellent, Michael thinks, and opens his mouth; before he can get a word out, James glares through his mortification—his cock jumping, smearing wetness over that lightly muscled stomach as it rises and falls with his heavy, fast breaths—and says, “You were goin’ to show me what you can do. So, you plannin’ to get on with things, or’s looking the extent?”

Michael almost—almost—laughs. James is so bloody perfect. Gorgeous, desperate to be fucked, utterly unafraid, even with the richness of that accent giving away the depth of his need. An equal, he thinks; and then, astonished but not opposed, thinks it again.

James might be his equal. Here in the scene, the person who can take everything Michael demands of him and beg for more; also, though, the person who can match him strength for strength in other ways, teasing, laughing, coffee and crosswords puzzles and solutions in the mornings, loyalty and commitment that’d never be broken, not ever…

James McAvoy. Amazing. Michael has to mentally shake his head. Back in the scene. Be professional. Time for that later, for tentative questions about dinner and coffee-and-bookshop dates and hesitant first kisses, if James might even ever consider the possibility of a later; no reason to think the attraction’s two-sided, after all.

No reason except the coruscating glimmer of recognition, the brilliant sparkle in blue eyes when James looks up at him, the look that hopes: you might be my answer, too.

First things first. He sits back, releasing pinned arms; notes with satisfaction the tiny sound of disappointment.

“Up.” He rolls off of James, letting the contrast between their bodies sink in—himself still clothed, James naked and vulnerable. “Get my bag from the kitchen. Bring it to the bedroom.”

As James moves to get to his feet, with graceful fluid motion, Michael knocks one leg out from under him—not the scarred one, but the one supporting him—and James nearly falls. He catches himself easily, whips around, and glares. “What—”

Michael raises eyebrows. “You did suggest it, earlier. On your knees, when you bring me things.”

James may be standing while Michael lounges at ease on the floor; but Michael doesn’t need to stand to be in control. Leisurely, he slips the end of his belt loose from its buckle, then glances up in evident surprise to see James still there. He lifts an eyebrow, and watches that Adam’s apple rise and fall. James signed the contract. He wants this. But it’s not Michael’s hands on him that will make him obey.

The belt-leather whispers, sliding against fabric, and James wipes his palms against the sides of his thighs. He’s hard, he’s breathing rapidly, and his eyes flicker from Michael’s hands to Michael’s belt and back again. He lowers himself to one knee, to both, skin flaming red from head to toe.

He looks good, very good, kneeling and flushed and staring into Michael’s eyes. “It’s your time,” Michael says, affecting boredom. “But don’t waste mine.” He turns away, rises to his feet and tosses the belt onto the chair. Behind him, he hears shuffling, soft mumbling that cuts off, and turns his head to watch James knee-walk into the other room. Faster than expected, and a bit clumsy, but not pained. The injured knee doesn’t receive any less weight than the other. Michael notes it, along with the way James swings his arms a little more aggressively, compensating for the unusual mode of locomotion.

Michael strips off his shoes and socks, curls his toes in the carpet and settles himself on the bed. He calls out when he hears a chair scrape over the tile in the kitchenette— “No hands!”

Silence falls in the other room, followed by an explosive huff of breath. Half a minute passes; Michael’s watch clicks with the turn of the hour. Outside the wide windows—nearly wall-to-wall in the south corner suite, ensuring both eastern and western vistas—the shining rim of the sun slips behind tall buildings, stealing the ephemeral heat of London’s day as it goes. Shadows rise in its wake, and the florid radiance of the city below begins to glimmer. Michael reaches over to snap on a lamp affixed to the bedside table; warm amber spills across the bed, pools on the floor.

James enters on his knees, more slowly than he left. Dimming brightness from the other room glows palely on his skin, clings until he passes the threshold, where the golden lamplight limns him in topaz and shadow. He breathes in and out steadily, chin lifted with his arms folded behind him; his shoulders move widely, balancing his weight, and the tendons of his neck arch as he grips the bag handle between his teeth, white enamel clenching hard into the leather. Good God, Michael thinks, and refuses to adjust himself, rampant at the sight; James’s cock straining against his belly, balls half-drawn up below and starting to swell.

His eyes burn into Michael’s where they find him, dry-mouthed and hard and waiting for him on the bed.

Michael crooks a finger, sees those capable shoulders straighten. James makes his way across the room, trying to maintain a semblance of grace, lifting each knee in turn, but more often shuffling. When he reaches the bed, he drops the bag on the foot of it without waiting for instruction: his mouth’s reddened and his lips puffy. Discomfort and indecision wrestle for control of his features. He takes a breath, another, catches his lower lip between his teeth. Blue eyes flicker up the long length of Michael’s legs and torso stretching along the dark covers, settle on his face.

James sighs, and rubs a hand across his eyes, shoulders slumping. “Look, mate,” he says. “It’s not that I don’t want what you obviously can offer, but this isn’t—”

“You didn’t tell me about your knee.” Michael doesn’t move, but speaks steadily, disapproval edging his words. “I had to see if it would be a problem. We’re not here to hurt you... not by accident, anyway.” He sits up, leans forward and grabs the bag to drop it next to him. “If you want to stop, you have your safeword, but if not, I’m going to assume you’re being difficult for the sake of being difficult, and you’ll be punished accordingly.”

Michael reaches into his bag and pulls out a length of scarlet silk. Methodically, he lays out a line of tools across the foot of the bed where James kneels, watching: rubber-coated wooden paddle, leather flogger, pale length of cane; he drops a blindfold on the bed and chunky leather cuffs, a pair of clover clamps and a ring-gag. He picks the cane up and snaps it across his own palm. Blinks at the sting, the white line filling in red. “Do you need to use your safeword, James?” His gaze locked on James, Michael brings out a handful of cock-and-ball-cages, metal and plastic and leather tangling together. “Or are you ready to trust yourself to my hands?”

The expression on that face is absolutely enchanting: astonishment, embarrassment, white-hot pure need. James can’t seem to look away from the implements laid out so tidily, from the line across Michael’s palm; but something else shimmers in those eyes as well.

“My—” James stops. Answers the question that’s been asked of him, first. “Yes. I mean...” He swings his gaze to Michael’s face. “Yes, sir? Although I’d rather use your name. Michael.”

Yes, he would, too, rather. His name, in that spiced-whiskey voice… “Yes.”

“May I ask a question?”

“For now, yes.” He’s already coiled halfway down the bed, and leans closer and puts a hand on James’s cheek; he slides his fingertips down beneath that stubborn chin and lifts James’s face. Not gently, but not roughly either, only assertion. “If you feel unsure—if you have reason to; don’t do so lightly—speak up.”

“Then…it’s not exactly a question, or I suppose it is…but…you noticed. My knee.” A swallow, blue eyes fixed on his, breath swift but even. “I honestly didn’t think about it. It’s years old. And no one else ever…”

“No one else ever asked?” He keeps the flare of anger out of his voice, with some effort. Who had James been going to for this, who’d not been professional enough—who’d not cared enough—to ask? Had they all assumed that James would list the injury as a limitation if it were one, and left it at that?

He can’t assume that. Not here, not with James.

And a tiny voice in the back of his head snickers: you’re calling him James. Not ‘the client.’ James.

“No,” James answers. Michael slides his fingertips lower on James’s face, enough to feel the motion when he swallows. “I mean, no, they never asked. Michael. But I am all right. I’d tell you if not. Not here to get hurt—” A pause, almost a grin, “—by accident.”

“Hmm.” Michael’s still got the cane in his other hand. He spins it, experimentally. James gasps out loud.

“You know you should have told me, though. If there’s even a chance.”

“There’s n—”

“Is there?”

“…half a percent?” The blue gaze sticks to the cane like glue.

“Ah.” That may or may not change the scene; he’s always been good at improvisation, though, suiting a client’s needs. “Since you’ve admitted you should’ve told me, though…and you didn’t…I know you didn’t intend to keep secrets, James. But you did. And there’ll be consequences. So I’m asking you again. Do you trust me? Will you put yourself—all of you—in my hands?”

And James whispers, kneeling before him, word brushing the edge of his hand like a symphony, like yielding, like a promise, “Yes.”

Michael strokes the skin of James’s jaw, faintly stubbled, pinprickling awareness under sensitive fingers. He smiles down at him, lets warmth glimmer in his eyes—a hint only, enough for James to see—before Michael shutters himself away and straightens. He hooks a thumb toward the center of the bed and snaps: “Face down, legs spread, hands clasped behind your back.”

James blinks, shakes his head minutely, then scrambles into position, a rush of compact, strong limbs jostling the bed, pale skin splaying out like a canvas for Michael to work his art. He smiles where James can’t see him.

“Wider,” he urges, when James parts his legs only enough to reveal a shadow between; “wider,” when the lithe body squirms and the thighs creep outward. The cleft of James’s arse, the wiry hairs, the firm muscle smoothed under gloriously unmarred skin, the crease between buttocks and thighs—Michael sets a hand down and squeezes firmly, repeatedly, clenches long fingers over and over the curves and valleys while James gasps and jerks beneath him.

When all that bare flesh has gone red and white with pressure marks, with the indentations of Michael’s nails here and there, he slaps the closest buttock hard enough to leave a pink handprint; slides his fingers down the inward curve—avoiding the tight pucker—and traces a firm line along the seam of the perineum. James’s testicles have drawn up tight, rounded and hard where they meet the base of his cock. He’s breathing fast, his ribs expanding and contracting; the curve of his ear and the visible portion of his face are damp.

Michael moves to kneel between James’s legs. He grasps muscular thighs and pushes them beneath James, forces the lovely round arse—apple-red and split open—high into the air until James’s spine bends in a glorious length of indented muscle and bone; his fingers knot together, white-knuckled. Michael can see the back of James’s cock, bouncing with excitement when long fingers wrap around it. He tightens his grip, maintains his own steady breathing even when James whimpers and pumps his hips, trying for friction, motion.

“No secrets,” Michael reiterates, and feels James go still beneath him. “This is for not telling me about your knee.” Still holding tight to James’s cock, stroking the length with a hard thumb, Michael reaches not for the cane—James had wanted it, and so its use would reward instead of punish—but for the paddle. It’s more of a glorified table tennis paddle than anything else; its blows fall lightly, meant to sting rather than bruise. Their position isn’t apt for stern force, either, and Michael’s hold on James’s cock restricts his range of motion. The cane and its attendant bruises will come later; but for now, Michael intends only to enhance verbal and mental dominance with physical; mild chastisement should help James settle down nicely.

Laying the flat of the paddle on the upper swell of James’s arse, Michael taps lightly, once, to establish his range; James quivers. “Count,” Michael orders, and strikes.

“One!” James yelps, startled; a light pink splotch joins the fading marks of Michael’s fingers. He swings again, feels the jerk of James’s cock in his hand, the spurt of liquid against his thumb when James calls out the number, and decides a cock cage will be the next toy; he’s not sure how long James will last on his own, after a year without imposed discipline.

The light, rhythmic smacks of paddle on flesh please the ear and the eye. Sturdy thighs at first squeeze around Michael’s hand; gradually, James begins to relax into the blows. His fingers loosen their tight grips on one another, and a sheen of moisture rises on the skin of his back. When Michael pauses to lay his palm across the punished flesh, it’s warm and silky smooth, and James’s hole clenches, ignored and wanting.

“Eight,” James gasps, and that lovely cock jumps and leaks in the loosened circle of Michael’s fingers, though he doesn’t allow enough pressure for it to gain any friction. Aside from his cock and clasped fingers and thighs tensed to keep his arse raised, James has gone limp head to toe. Michael can see only part of his face: curving lips, moistly parted and not-quite smiling; long, dark lashes resting lightly on a pink cheek.

Michael paddles steadily, his trousers tight and growing tighter; he’s usually better at separating his own reactions to his scenes, but working with James is different. It’s chemistry, pheromones, he doesn’t know what, but Michael wants to put his hands on James for more than the submission he can draw from him as a client. He wants those blue eyes, vivid and aware and beautiful, to see someone who’s more than a hired whip. Michael has had James the client at his feet; for the first time since he’d discovered this talent of his and utilized it, he wants more. He wants James at his feet, yes; not as a client, though. Because James wants to be there, kneeling for Michael and no one else. Ever.

A groan nearly escapes Michael’s throat, but he swallows it down, feels the strain of it in the hinge of his jaw. Unattended, his cock swells against the crotch of his trousers, seeking its own friction. It’s all Michael can do to keep a steady rhythm, to be the professional James hired, that James needs. He’s never allowed his own interest to interfere with his performance; but then, he’s never had James McAvoy in his hands, intelligent and gorgeous and in dire need of release. Release that Michael can give him. He swallows again, forces remote disinterest into his forebrain, takes a mental step back.

James’s voice is dreamy, soft but not slurring as he calls out, “Thirteen.” The pink splotches have merged and spread a little, although Michael's confined his strokes to the less sensitive skin; he has plans for the lusher curves of James’s arse. One more strike, and “Fourteen!” This time James thrusts his buttocks out to receive the next blow. His cock drips copiously, warm and sticky and stiff, sliding through Michael’s curled fingers.

With smooth precision, Michael exchanges paddle for cane; he slashes it down hard. At the same instant he brutally squeezes James’s shaft. A distinctly pained yell follows, all the more satisfying when James stays where he’s been placed.

Michael lets go, and James spurts come all over his hand and the bedcovers; James’s hands slip free from their clasp and fall abandoned at his sides. His legs slide down, girders collapsing in slow motion, and he mumbles indecipherably into the bedding. Michael allows him a few minutes to rest; admires his naked form while he takes off his own clothes. His cock appreciates the release, slapping against his belly while his balls draw up beneath, aching and full.

Fishing in the bag, Michael bypasses the pocket containing a variety of condoms; they’ve already discussed that issue via email, and exchanged copies of their most recent test results in the kitchenette before adjourning to the sitting area. Anticipation tingles through him, curling his lips and toes; condoms are baneful necessities at times, but not now. And the thought of burying himself in James McAvoy’s tempting mouth, his tight and muscular arse, quickens Michael’s breath. Shaking his head, he considers the contents of his bag, and chooses the most stringent chastity device he brought; not the leather and metal he typically prefers, but something a bit more extreme. He smiles down at it, imagines both the expression on James’s face when he sees it—when he feels it, and the absolute pleasure it will be to watch him struggle to master himself once it’s locked in place.

James’s murmurs dwindle; his breathing evens out, though how he can breathe with his face buried in the bedding, Michael doesn’t know. James isn’t a small man, though he’s smaller than Michael; and his limbs are powerful-looking, his shoulders wide. Michael thinks about lying down and wrapping himself around James, tugging him into an embrace until he wakes in Michael’s arms; but no. They have a contract, and Michael will ensure that James receives exactly what he needs.

Relief, for one thing: he’d said so earlier. Three months of stage performances, physically and mentally brutal—that’s one of the reasons why he’s chosen this, chosen Michael—to help him find release, to let go of accumulated pressure, tension, strain. And here he lies, rumpled dark hair and gradually drying skin, unmoving as if he were Sleeping Beauty, to be awakened by a kiss.

Michael drinks the sight in for a moment—skin glowing under the lamplight, while the eastern-rising quarter moon sheds its own delicate illumination, a drift of silver across the floor, along the walls. Michael licks his lips. Later, he’ll turn off the lamp, and let the moonlight paint James with its cold brilliance, an image to remember…to treasure.

Now, though. Michael shakes his head to clear away the fog, to sort himself out. He has a set of routines he can tailor to each client; he’s only begun with James, initial ideas unfolding into plans of action the more he learns how James reacts, what piques his interest, what arouses him—and what he needs.

Gently, Michael palms the plush cheeks of James’s arse, thumbs at the tight hole, rubs unscented oil everywhere. Crinkled hairs bend under his fingertips; furled muscles resist. James murmurs, shifts, spreads his legs in invitation; and Michael grins and leans down and sets his teeth ever so lightly to the outermost curve of flesh where buttock meets limb, where the crease fades into a firm thigh. Not enough to wake James, but the salty-sweet scent of his sweat, his skin is stronger here; and he tastes exquisite under Michael’s probing tongue.

More oil, more rubbing, and gradually James’s body begins to accept Michael’s intrusion; muscles relax enough for a slick fingertip to enter. It doesn’t take long for James’s hole to loosen after that, one finger becoming two, becoming three; Michael’s cock, unboastingly, can claim a substantially larger girth; but he’s confident that James can take him without further stretching. He wants the fit to be tight, this first time, wants to ensure the maximum of sensation and fullness, a hard fuck, indelicate and indelible.

Infinitely carefully, Michael rolls James onto his side to expose the front of his body, keeps an eye on the slack face, sprawled limbs for signs of waking. Though James has only just come, Michael doesn’t know his refractory period, so he’s quick, cradles the softening, wet shaft, the delicate testicles in gentle hands, coats every inch of skin and the wiry-soft curls with oil, enjoying the heft and color, the shape of James here, masculine and perfect.

Michael works the tender flesh with meticulous care into the larger end of the lubricated cage, deftly avoids pinching or even rubbing too hard at fragile tissue, sensitive skin. It’s a small device, and while James’s balls hang unconfined below, they’re separated, spilling to either side of a bar beneath the main housing: a transparent plastic tube, ventilated and painfully short. James’s cock—generous even in its lax state—compresses and compresses like a coiled spring, foreskin pushed back at last with the decreasing size of the tube, the pinkly tender head exposed and shining with oil, pressing into the slotted end.

Michael bends down and works the tip of his tongue through the slot; this is his first taste of James here, and the drying come clinging to the glans is surprisingly less bitter than most.

Once he snaps the lock shut, Michael takes a deep breath. He can smell James’s come and his own arousal, sniffs again and enjoys the way his groin tightens, the heated rush of anticipation through his veins, tingling up through his belly. He flexes his shoulders, rolls his neck from side to side, goes over his game plan, which, roughly, is this: fuck James through the bed until he screams.

After all, it’s what Michael promised at the beginning.

He springs into motion, seizes James roughly, flips him hard and fast onto his back. Dazed eyes blink and stare; hands rise in instinctive protest; James gasps, expression sharpening when Michael grabs long legs, hoists them up and over his shoulders. Michael holds… holds… until he sees comprehension in those wild eyes—James flails and shouts—not using a safeword—and then plunges the entire length of his rigid, eager cock into the hole he’s so carefully prepped.

Michael gasps with sensation: he drives his hips in and out, jackhammers James’s clinging entrance and tight channel as hard and fast as he can—his cock feels as if it’s reaching for nirvana as he shoves in, drags out, shoves in again. It’s nothing so easy as thrusting; James clamps down hard, as if he wants to meld their two bodies into one, wants to keep Michael in him, forever.

Sweat streaks down Michael’s spine, and he stares into James’s eyes, wide and white-rimmed and dark with want; James’s hands curl, claw at Michael’s biceps, his shoulders. “Hands down,” Michael orders, breathing hard. “Cross your ankles, hold tight.”

He releases James’s legs once they clasp behind his neck, squeezing his ears and tightening, tightening, heels dragging him closer while James sucks in breath after breath, mouth open and wet and red; Michael fucks in and out relentlessly. He’s not looking for James’s prostate, not yet. This isn’t about getting James off, but about using him. Making him service Michael; making him hurt just the way he wants to while he does.

And fucking James…

It’s better than… It’s better than Michael’s first all-out, balls-to-the-wall desert motorcross; more spine-tingling than his passenger turn round the Indianapolis 500 speedway, exceeding two hundred miles per hour, face rippling with it, every muscle tuned for instant action, every moment one that could spin him into a wall or flip him across the track like a broken toy. Fucking James isn’t anything like those adrenaline-driven rushes; it’s better.

Michael wants to fuck James until they’re both exhausted, wants to ruin him for anyone else, wants simultaneously to kiss him stupid, and to fuck his mouth until James comes choking on Michael’s cock, his own untouched. Michael wants to suck him dry and eat him out, to leave him a filthy mess on white sheets and sink himself onto the cock that’s right now so painfully confined; there is nothing, Michael thinks, that he doesn’t want from James, now, tonight, tomorrow—and his mouth falls open on his own groan when he realizes that tomorrow is only the first of all the tomorrows that he wants—that all of James’s tomorrows should—God help him!—belong to Michael.

Beneath him, James’s cries rise like frantic bird calls, Scottish lilt suddenly harsh with pain. Michael continues pounding into him; it looks like—oh, James has discovered that his own arousal has been locked away. His head dips, staring between their bodies as much as he can. He’s reaching down to touch even while he’s being jounced and driven up the bed. The grip of his legs loosens and he gapes wet-eyed at Michael, the muscles around Michael’s cock slackening; but Michael will have none of that. Not from this man; not now. Not ever.

“Fuck me—” he grunts, punching out his words with each hard crash of their hips, “—as if—you mean it,” and planting one hand on the bed by James’s shoulder, he slaps his other palm flat across James’s chest, catching a nipple. Drags clawed fingers down the arch of sternum and rib—controlled even in this, not breaking the sweat-damp skin—and watches the parallel lines blanch and then redden. It’s beautiful. James chokes out a plea while his hips undulate erratically, and he swings his legs back up with a groan.

Michael glances down—the cock cage must be agony for James. His bound cock swells helplessly into tight confinement, fragile skin rubbing against hard plastic, pressing hot and taut through the ventilating perforations. Michael reaches down to jiggle and tap the cage, forcing a shriek of pain and James’s stunned, wide-eyed jolt; his whole body shakes with it. That pink tongue swipes wet lips, and he bucks up hard, grinds the cage against Michael’s hand, until Michael has to shove him down, hold him in place while James’s yearning, mindless moans taper off into a frustrated whine.

It’s hard to focus, but Michael sucks in a breath; reminds himself of why he’s here. James can’t seem to stop himself reacting, reaching for Michael instead of waiting for permission, not staying where Michael has put him; and if it weren’t for the cage, he’d have already come.

Michael’s orgasm builds and builds, coiling in his gut, tightening his groin even further; he slows his thrusts but increases the force of them, and watches with glittering eyes as James’s head falls back, bouncing on the mattress as Michael knocks him breathless with every hard slam. His hands have fallen to his sides again, where his fingers dig into the bedcovers, twisting the fabric; and his hips twist into Michael’s, grinding the cock cage against himself. He moans, high and almost wailing, face gone blood-red, freckles nearly lost in the dusky color. James’s whole body radiates heat, flushed heavily from head to as far down as Michael can see, and his eyes…

“Open,” Michael grits out. When he gets no response, he reaches down and slaps James’s cheek. Tear-blurred lashes sweep up, revealing only the slimmest sliver of blue rimming deepest black. James blinks and blinks again, tongue flicking at his lips, throat working, tendons corded and sharp under the dull-wet sheen of sweating skin. What looks back at Michael isn’t a consciousness; and triumph roils in his brain: this is sensate obliteration.

“James,” he says, seeing if he can get through; he’s close to coming, but won’t, not until James is there with him, fully aware of being denied—while Michael uses him to quench his own desire.

“James!” It’s a growl this time, and he puts his hand in James’s hair, jerks sharply.

A faint line forms on James’s forehead. His eyebrows very slightly draw together. He licks his lips again, and looks groggy, before his eyes roll back. He moans long and low when Michael pumps in again, holding in place this time, rocking his groin against the cage. James’s eyes gain a shade of clarity. “Mic—”

“So you’re still with me,” Michael says pleasantly, slow and steady and controlled. He grins down, white-toothed, and has the pleasure of seeing James shudder, briefly. “Good to know I’m not boring you.”

He pulls out, almost to the hilt, while James sucks air through his teeth, face pinching at the sensation. “N-no,” he stutters, and he looks at Michael, sees him, certainly feels him. His legs, crossed at the ankle behind Michael’s neck, quiver; a tremor ripples through his torso. “I’m, I’m here, si—” He stops himself. His eyes when they meet Michael’s have regained that world-beloved spark, temporarily drowned by pleasure and pain.

“Michael,” James pants, “Michael…” His eyes gleam, crinkling a tiny bit at the corners—then he thrusts his pelvis up, impales himself on Michael’s cock and fucks upward until their hips meet, crushing his confined cock between them while Michael stares down, shocked and delighted and barely, barely restraining his own moan at the delicious and defiant squeeze of that muscular and magnificent arse. “Is that all you’ve got?”

It is not; and Michael reins in his expression, his pleasure at James being James. That smart mouth normally wouldn’t be tolerated in a scene, as wonderful as it feels to hear it now; but James seems to turn things upside down with just a quirk of his lip, an arch of his irrepressible eyebrow, a wrinkle of his double-star freckled nose. And Michael lov—likes it very much. He’s had cheeky clients before; he’s had devilishly cute men and women at his disposal, begging for his touch; he’s had defiant boys and bad girls and sweet giving souls who fall quickly and easily; but none of them were, or could ever be, James. He’s lively, quick, knows what he wants, wants to be cooperative—but he fights it, fights himself even as he’s trying to be good; and has, Michael suspects, forgotten what it really means to have someone take care of him, rather than settling for a quick fuck and temporary release.

No wonder he’s weary; no wonder he reaches out instead of waiting for what he can’t trust will be offered; no wonder he was hesitant to make this arrangement. No one has properly taken James out of himself, it may be, even before his year of self-imposed abstinence from scening. No one has taken him in hand, taken away his responsibilities, his worries; but Michael will. Michael is. James signed himself over, gave himself into Michael’s keeping; he wants to trust Michael with his body, and more importantly, his mind, his intimate desires.

Michael intends to honor that trust. He intends to drive James to distraction; wear him out, give him a focus for his enormous energy and capacity to give. To let him exist for another’s desire, to be the center of attention, paradoxically, by giving his all to another. To Michael.

But he evidently hasn’t yet earned James’s trust; and it may be that James doesn’t feel the same triggering sense of connection; but Michael desperately hopes that he does.

He stares down into blue eyes darkened with arousal and pain; they stare back, yearning and wary at once. James’s pink tongue swipes over bitten lips. He knows very well he’s breaking the rules; and so. Michael thins his lips. He—painfully, achingly—pulls free of James’s clutching arse; tightly grips his own erection until he can reach into his bag to draw out a thick leather cock ring. He buckles it around himself, wincing.

James looks as if his world is ending. “Michael?”

“Was there a part of the contract I missed?” Michael grits out through clenched jaws, shuffling backward, forcing his spine straight. He shoves James’s legs away until there’s no contact between their bodies. “Or is it that you’ve forgotten how to obey?”

It’s not much easier now, but he gets up from the bed, draws himself to his full height and looms over James, sprawled and caged and bewildered—and looking down now, fidgeting and flushing anew. Michael pushes a little more. “Or am I not worth your full attention?”

“No!” James exclaims, horrified; then waves his hands, “No, I mean—yes—” His eyes widen and he shakes his head, “I’m sorry, that came out wrong, you are—completely—” Lips press together, tongue wetting them, brow furrowing as James leans up on his elbows, gets to his knees—

“Don’t move another muscle!”

James freezes in place. He looks down at himself, then up at Michael. He falls silent.

“I haven’t given you many orders,” Michael says. “I’ve been playing this by ear, seeing what you need, how I can give it to you. But if you can’t even stay where I put you, James, can’t keep still, can’t take only what I choose to give instead of taking what you want—then clearly you don’t want this as much as you thought you did.”

Michael allows heat and displeasure to bleed into his voice, while he keeps his face stiff and closed, only narrowing his eyes. He doesn’t look at James’s body, holds that dismayed and shamed gaze for a long, long moment.

“Well,” he barks out, and stifles the sharp pleasure at seeing James jump. “What’s it to be? Do you want to dispense with my services, or do you want to admit that you don’t really trust me to see to you, to give you what you need, without you having to cheat?”

That stings; he sees it in the flash of James’s eyes, the way his chin lifts, his shoulders unconsciously drawing back with affront; and then those shoulders slump and James drops his eyes. Quietly, he lies back down and lets his hands drop to his sides; he splays his knees and exposes himself; his palms lie open and still. Michael’s throat works at the display of pliancy, vulnerability.

Lifting his head, James meets Michael’s eyes. “I didn’t trust you,” he admits. “Not really.” He sighs. “It’s been too long, and I don’t… I don’t know how to let go.” Eyes that were so bright, and so driven, and so glowingly perfect, shine only dully now, lamplit and wet. “I’m sorry, Michael. I really wanted to try. But I understand.” He swallows, drops his head back. “I’ll understand if you don’t want to waste any more of your time.”

Perfectly posed, now that he’s given up; and something hurts in Michael’s chest at the sight. But. It was hard, but James needs to feel the consequences of misbehaving; so that when Michael relents and gives him a second chance, James will try that much harder, will obey that much more readily. And if Michael’s own eyes have gone a little hot, it’s only because hurting James like this shouldn’t have been necessary; James shouldn’t ever have been made to feel he couldn’t trust his partner, his Dominant; and Michael wants to reach back through time and shake to pieces those men or women who failed him so.

Michael’s cock throbs when he steps forward, when he sits on the bed at James’s side and leans down; when he presses his lips to closed eyes and takes James’s gasp into his own lungs. “Trust me.” He clasps both of James’s wrists tightly, strokes his thumbs over the soft inner skin until he finds the heavy pulse, presses down until the beats double with his own. “Trust me.”

And this time, when James looks into his eyes and nods, Michael feels some barrier give way; a subtle wave of softening throughout James’s body. James presses his temple into the hollow of Michael’s cheek, and he curls his thumbs round Michael’s where they’ve moved to caress James’s open palms. “I will,” James whispers. His eyes are dark; his brow untroubled. “I do. Now.”

“All right?” Michael asks after a moment. James nods. “Then we’ll continue. But I’m going to punish you for cheating.” He smiles a little. “You’ll like it, I promise.”

James nods again, but doesn’t move; his eyes brighten, though a certain somnolence seems to have come across him. His legs flex slowly, the cage shifting with the motion. James bites his lip. “Yes, Michael. I’m sorry.”

Michael pats his shoulder and stands. He lets his grin grow fierce and watches James squirm. Time for one of his favorites. Moving around the bed toward his bag, he orders James to stand. “When I sit down, come lie across my lap. I want your legs spread, and I want your hands behind your head. If you let go, or if you close your legs, you won’t have supper, and you’ll sleep on the floor. Understand?”

“Yes, Michael,” James says, close at hand, staring into Michael’s bag curiously. Michael quirks an eyebrow, and James steps back a pace, lowering his eyes. Dark lashes rest on cheeks where the flush has begun to subside, James’s natural freckle-rich fairness returning, although the crests of his cheekbones remain a bit pink; and he’s still breathing a little fast. He keeps brushing his thighs together, making the cock cage shift in place. Michael doesn’t tell him to stop; if he can manage to come through that restrictive plastic, James’ll deserve a damned medal. But if he does—

“I may let you come on occasion this weekend,” Michael says casually. “If I think you’ve earned it.” He chucks James under the chin, meets hot eyes. “But if you come without permission, you’ll be chastised—thoroughly.” He grins widely, wickedly, and enjoys James’s hasty nod and full-body shiver—the way his thighs close and his hips buck, standing in place, lips parting on a swift inhalation.

Michael settles on the foot of the bed and plants his feet shoulder-width apart on the floor for stability. “Over my knee,” he commands, and waits for James to approach, to kneel on the bed beside him, to lower himself across Michael’s lap, shifting forward until Michael’s long thighs support his hips and belly. It takes a minute of squiggling for them to both to get comfortable; Michael lays his palm across the fading marks on James’s upward-canted arse; although he prefers the intimacy of skin-to-skin contact, his hands tingling with each impact, Michael also enjoys the tangible results of a thorough session with the cane.

And the cane will be intense, on already paddled skin. The way James needs it to be.

The cock cage nudges at his thigh—it’s going to jolt with every strike. Constant tremors race through James’s frame; the skin of his hip rubs Michael’s stomach as if made to fit there. Michael’s own cock twitches and jerks with frustration, trapped between them, and perhaps it’s a good thing he got the cock ring for himself, after all.

He reaches for the cane; slim and clean and carefully checked for splintering, it’s a good piece of equipment, with a fine wooden grip. Michael swishes it through the air, and James quivers under his hand. Michael runs his fingers along pinkened skin; slips them into the crevice split open by James’s parted thighs; spreads a bit of the oil that remains up and down James’s cleft and his perineum, where he presses his thumb lightly, repetitively, to hear James groan. He fingers James’s balls, the dark hairs there silkier than elsewhere; and as he fondles the taut, tender organs within, he brings the cane down in a whistling strike across the outer part of James’s bottom.

James shouts; his whole body draws tight; but he doesn’t move. “Count,” Michael orders. James nods, and says, controlled and clear, “One.”

That control will have to go. Michael strokes the bright stripe; splays his other hand across James’s lower back, additional support there, a reassuring weight. He strikes again. His cock jumps as his arousal spikes: the red lines moving inward, James’s voice going in and out, the hiss and sigh and sharp thwack of the cane in air and on swelling flesh. He swings and James cries out; he puts his weight into it, and James moans.

The marks increase, march across the right side of James’s arse. They’re not the beautiful horizontal pattern that Michael’d try for, standing; the lines burning into James’s skin stretch diagonal and vertical for the most part; but Michael takes special care to torment the most sensitive areas, the curve where James sits, and the thin skin where buttock meets leg; lighter strokes there, but more. He wants James to feel this, wants it to stay with him; wants him to feel Michael’s touch long after they’ve parted.

Michael can’t take his eyes off of James’s glorious backside; the contrast between freshly caned and recently spanked skin makes his mouth run dry. He’s lost count and he actually doesn’t know if James has, either, because he’s forgotten to listen for accuracy instead of lovely wounded-velvet whimpers; but half of James’s arse glows red with a lattice of bright and paling lines, while the other half’s deep pink, gradually beginning to fade. Michael brings the cane down once more on the crease between buttock and thigh, where the skin has darkened, beginning to bruise, and then he stops. Places his fingers on beaten, tender flesh, feels tremors coursing through James’s body as he cries—not quiet sniffling, but open-mouthed sobs. James bucks in his lap, thrusting helplessly against his thigh.

“Please,” he cries, rough-throated; and his hands dig ferociously into his own scalp at the back of his head. “Please, Michael, oh, can I come—”

Michael grins savagely and rakes his hand up James’s spine, digging deep; drops the cane and grabs him by the shoulder and bends him backward, leaning down himself until their faces nearly touch. He can see James’s closed eyes, his knit brow, his throat taut and shining-wet and his mouth a babbling, red-bitten invitation—can feel frantic breaths warming the space between them. Michael wants to devour James’s lips, close his teeth around the jutting Adam’s apple, leave a ring of toothprints on a sweat-dripping collarbone.

But he restrains himself. “James,” he says, and kisses him; drops the cane and with that hand, drags hard fingers from the crease of James’s left buttock up and over to meet the matching lines down his spine; he swallows James’s loud moan while crystalline blue-rimmed eyes squint at him, wet and dilated and nearly gone—God, James goes down well, when he can be gotten there, and Michael feels so many things—lust and affection and pride, that he can do this for James, that James is really, this time, trusting Michael with his desire for pain as well as pleasure.

Michael kisses him again. James’s mouth slackens, letting him do whatever he wants. What Michael wants is to wrangle James onto the bed, splay him on his belly and push his legs far apart and kneel between, greedily scrutinizing James’s burning arse, his dark pink little hole clenching while restrained genitals rub into the bedding where James can’t seem to stop rolling his hips, gentle undulations driving his groin into the mattress.

Michael scratches his nails gently but firmly across rough and swollen skin. Heat rises from James’s arse; his whole body gleams with sweat, near-radiant under the combined light of lamp and streaming moon. Michael’s cock gives notice: arse or bust. He squeezes James’s hips, listens with glee and rising happiness to James’s groan—pain edged with arousal. Michael unbuckles his own cock ring. He’s worked damned hard tonight; and so has James; they’ve come a very long way together.

Tomorrow, they’ll go further.

But tonight, he’s going to come, at last, in James’s hot and eager hole. He thumbs James’s cheeks apart; a bit of oil lingers, but not much; and Michael doesn’t want to injure James; just fuck him into oblivion. So a little more oil, for James and Michael both. Michael lodges the shining, wet tip of his cock into James’s tight entrance; he takes himself in hand and slides, gently this time, into James; and it’s even hotter than before, as if the heat from the caning has penetrated deep.

Michael breathes in; he breathes out and pushes in; bottoms out in James’s lush body and thanks God that Ian told James about him. He’ll have to offer sufficient proof of undying gratitude later somehow; but right now, he uses all the energy left in his muscles to fuck James as hard as he can, slamming his hips and groin into bruised flesh, feeling the heat on his skin with every impact. James cries out, and he still has his hands clutched at the back of his head; Michael’s heart swells and he presses his weight down onto James’s shoulders, curls his fingers around and bears down, leans in and bites the crest of a shoulder blade; savors James’s moan, his thrusting back, the roll of his spine and the gasped “Yes, there, please, Michael, Michael, fuck, Michael—”

And this time Michael searches for and finds that softer swell; that small area that will—

James keens like a banshee. His body stiffens; his arse squeezes so tight Michael momentarily fears he’ll be trapped forever. Smugness overtakes trepidation, though, and he begins sliding against that spot over and over. James writhes, and he begs: “Michael, please let me come!”

That’s not going to happen.

Michael finds himself hard-pressed not to come immediately: his cock so stiff inside James, so ready; but he coils every muscle in his groin as tight as he can, and begins settling James down. Sweeps hands up to shoulders rigid with tension; rubs and squeezes, laying a kiss here, nuzzling his nose there; he moves the massage slowly, slowly across the smooth layered muscles of James’s back, finds pressure points and digs his thumbs in, feels the minute relaxation in James’s body; and he whispers, “So good for me, James. That was wonderful. You did so well.”

He keeps up a steady stream of praise, soothing and warm, draws his words around James like a net. The heat rising from James’s body slowly dissipates, the heaving of his ribs to diminish. James’s begging subsides to a low whimper; and even that becomes intermittent. Michael continues to work him down, strokes along biceps and forearms and gently presses kisses onto shoulders, spine, the backs of still-clasped hands.

Gradually, James’s breathing begins to even out. Michael rubs his nose through boisterous hair, transformed by sweat and pillows into a fantastical tangle of dark curls; he traces his fingers behind James’s ears, along the freckle-speckled ivory column of his neck. Sadly, James does not appear to be ticklish. “I’m so proud of you,” Michael murmurs; James is crying still, but it’s gone quiet, and the tension in him fades by degrees to limp pliancy under Michael’s touch.

Michael is so pleased; and he’s so proud; and he wants to hug James tight as much as he wants to fuck him. With James quiescent again beneath him, Michael slowly starts pulling out; James sighs, but makes no protest, doesn’t attempt to clench around Michael or draw him back inside. Michael stops when just the head of his cock remains engulfed in James’s heat. He wraps a hand around his shaft and starts stroking, begins loosening his tight hold of internal muscles. Until his breathing deepens; until he’s shuddering on the edge again, and then he grips James’s waist firmly. He plants the heels of his hands on the sweet dip above James’s beautiful arse; he plunges in, eyes closing with pure sensation. He manages four full-bodied thrusts before spilling with a yell and a white-hot orgasm flooding his nerves; awash in pleasure, he nearly collapses onto James, waits through the juddering of his hips while his cock empties itself. James moans, throaty and almost a whine.

Come beads up and trickles whitely down when Michael reluctantly pulls free. He takes a moment to look at James’s well-used and swollen hole, skin puffy and red and dripping with oil and warm, pungent come. His. He did this, filled James up with himself, incontrovertible ownership.

Michael’s spent cock manages a further twitch or two at the sheer possessiveness twisting through him. He gently prods a finger into the loose entrance, careful of tender flesh, but still earns a shudder and whimper. No blood though, nothing torn despite his earlier roughness. He nods, satisfied.

He lets himself drop at last, drapes himself over James and feels the pleased wriggle in reply; James turns his head enough to expose a tired smile. Michael drags an arm up, slips clean fingers down to James’s mouth; kisses James’s ear when James suckles at his fingertips. He’ll let James rest, will rest himself, just for a minute or two before he cleans them both up. It’ll soon be time for their check-ins, and he wants to make sure they both go to bed on full stomachs; it’s been a long night.

James murmurs something indecipherable about phones and food; Michael smiles at the congruence of their thoughts, and kisses his ear again. James sighs, mouths at his fingers where they’re brushing weary lips.

He does, Michael thinks again, go down so well, when he can; this isn’t as deep as he suspects James can descend, with that vast multifaceted well of generosity and powerful sweetness, but it’s further than he guesses James has been in quite a long time, and he feels good about that. He’s been able to do this, to be what James needs.

What James needs is complicated: pleasure and pain and denial and also, importantly, care: care with him, for him, about him. Michael kisses the back of his neck, lightly; James makes a small sound, not a word, contented and peaceful beneath his weight. James can’t get there, Michael suspects, if he doesn’t feel that his Dominant’s truly his equal—that’s in part why all the beautiful defiance—but James also needs to be certain that if and when the surrender happens it’ll be accepted with love, and—

Love, he’s just thought. Well. Fuck.

He has to laugh then, though not aloud because he’s still soothing James, hands and caresses and solid body weight bringing him back down from the high of near-orgasm and the exquisite torment of denial. Fuck, yes. Very much so. That’s rather the point.

And if he is in love, or starting to suspect he is, he can control that too: as a professional, he genuinely feels concern when he looks at James, a luscious and willing and intricately lovely submissive who’s apparently never been properly taken care of, ever, and yet who needs the care more than most others Michael’s seen. James gives so much of himself on stage and screen, pours himself into characters and supports charity causes and always finds time to smile and hug his fans; that’s hard work, physical and emotional, and it takes a heavy toll. He’d seen the exhaustion in those shoulders, when James had opened the door to let him in.

The professional concern’s real. He can’t let James leave without some relief from the heaviness, this time.

The personal concern’s real, too. But no one else has to know that one.

He runs a hand over James’s hip, tracing drowsy dandelion-wisp freckles. Along his side, feeling the motion of ribs as James breathes, steady and soft but not asleep. Gentle petting, long continuous caresses; James sighs and offers another indistinct happy mumble.

“You were very good,” Michael tells him, words forming anchors along with the touch, repetition and reassertion, “you were excellent, James, you did everything I asked, I’m pleased with you,” and James’s lips flicker into that smile again: resurfacing, then, a fraction.

“I’m going to let you get up.” Michael traces the smile with fingertips. “When you feel ready, just tell me, and I’ll walk you to the shower—”

James whispers something that sounds a lot like the beginning of a protest, but when Michael pauses he shakes his head. Michael shakes his head, too, and stops exploring the line of happy lips and presses fingers over James’s mouth, forceful enough to smother his breathing; reminds darkly, as James goes rigid beneath him, “No hiding,” before he lets go.

After a second James relaxes, though not completely, that ragged-tartan voice catching on the next inhale. Michael recognizes the emotion even as it startles him. On reflection, it really shouldn’t. James evidently likes that, too. Again: more.

“I’m not hiding. I just thought better of saying it…was that…for you…it was good, right?” And the question inside the question replaces the pronoun: not was it good, but was I good, for you?

“Yes,” Michael says again, and kisses his shoulder. “Yes, you were, James. Tell me what you meant to say.”

“I was going to say I can walk to the shower and you don’t have to come, but then I thought I shouldn’t argue. And anyway I want you to. Um. Terrible pun. You did sort of…already come.”

Michael blinks, stares at James, laughs helplessly. James starts laughing too, body full of weary merriment under his. “Sorry!”

“No,” Michael gets out through the sudden laughter, and rolls them swiftly to their sides, his arms around all the freckles and that burning arse pressed snugly against his cock, which decides consequently that it’s not that tired and stirs with interest. He doesn’t mind James feeling that, so pulls him closer. “No, you’re fantastic, make all the terrible puns—and don’t argue—”

“About the puns? Is that an order?”

“Fucking yes.” Michael kisses him again, lips branding a new stain of pink over the line of his tempting throat. James melts into the embrace, quieting at the scrape of teeth, the rasp of stubble, the mingling of sting and sweetness.

And Michael’s heart’s laughing too, deep inside: the kind of elation that’s bone-deep and shocking and unspeakably profound.

He murmurs into the mark he’s just left, breathing over sensitive skin, “No one’s ever made me laugh while doing this, James,” and James, being unequivocally perfect, wriggles that cane-and-paddle-scalded backside against him, nonverbal teasing that makes Michael want to kiss him and spank him again, possibly at the same time.

When he pushes back, a nudge of his cock and hips in return, James winces. Michael raises an eyebrow. “Sore, are you?”

“Yes, sir. Michael—! Sorry, I didn’t—my last two, the last times I tried—they both wanted—I’m trying, I swear, Michael.”

“It’s all right.” He does sit up, though, mostly so that he can find an angle to look James in the eye; but he knows James will flinch, taking the distance as a rebuke. That’s fine, too; James needs the reminder. “I won’t punish you for an honest mistake, especially not if it’s something you’ve been asked for in the past. I will punish you if you do it on purpose. We’ve agreed that you’ll use my name. Clear?”

“Yes,” James says, eyes enormous and a little unhappy. “Yes, Michael.”

“Really all right. Come here.” He tugs James across his lap, face-down; inspects his handiwork. James twists around to look up at him, in an impressive display of flexibility; smiles, clear and quick, at whatever he’s found in Michael’s expression, and settles back down.

Michael runs a hand over the lines, slightly faded now but still hot and glowing against the rest of that Highland-linen skin. “After you shower, we’ll put cooling cream on these. It’ll help. I want you to feel it, not be out of commission for the rest of the weekend.”

“Yes, Michael.”

“And you’ll need to call your check-in contact. Make it quick, because I want to know you’ve done it, and I also want to shower.”

“Yes, Michael.”

“You were very well-behaved, earlier, so you’ve earned food, and you’ll sleep in bed. With me.” Not that he’d’ve seriously made James sleep on the floor or go without food—he’s not that interested in complete subservience, and James will need the energy—but he would have permitted both with a far different tone.

“Yes, Michael.”

“Are you deliberately being submissive to annoy me?”

“…yes, Michael.” James grins. Audible, in the folds and billows of Scottish vowels and consonants. Saying his name. “But I do mean it. I mean…I want to.”

“Hmm. All right, then.” He slides to his feet, grasps James’s wrists, hauls him upright. James gasps, stumbles, looks surprised at his own shakiness. Michael catches him; raises an eyebrow.

“Yes,” James grumbles, “you don’t need to say it, you’re right, I need you,” and Michael grins back, and does spank him, one swift smack without warning. James’s knees buckle.

Michael leans down, supporting shocked quivering freckles in one arm. Murmurs, with the darkest intent he can summon into his voice, “Yes, you do,” and watches those eyes turn into enormous midnight oceans of need.

The lamplight, caught in long eyelashes, dances with glee.

He walks James into the bathroom, once he’s satisfied that James can stand. Orders him to wait before turning on the water, and pushes him down to sit on the closed toilet, legs spread. James doesn’t protest, only gazes curious-eyed while Michael kneels before him.

“For now.” Michael unlocks the confining plastic carefully, and then gingerly eases it away, freeing James’s trapped cock at last.

It hurts, that rush of painful release; he tries to be gentle, but tears well up in blue eyes, and a whimper escapes when sore flesh meets night air and the cautious cup of Michael’s palm. He cradles James in his hand, strokes softly, makes James sob again.

“Mine,” he says, looking up; James nods in acquiescence. And that aching length stirs and fills under Michael’s touch, which makes James whimper, stimulation too much to bear.

Michael bends his head. Draws skin back, even as James shivers with arousal that’s already doing so for him. Licks, the merest brush of tongue, over the tip. Tastes the sweetness of need, of James, clinging remnants of all those near-explosions.

James cries out and tries to curl inward even as his cock jumps, and Michael kisses him there too, lips pressing over the wet slit, sucking just a bit, knowing how searingly intense it’ll feel.

Blue eyes flutter closed; James pants heavily, breathing uneven, shredded. Michael stops. “Does it hurt? Tell me.”

“Yes,” James whispers. “But I—it feels—I want it, Michael. Please.”

“You have been good,” Michael agrees, and rubs his thumb deliberately across the swollen head. James lets out an agonized moan. He’s mostly hard, now, in Michael’s grip; the pain of it interferes with much more, but liquid’s already gathering at the tip, beading up faster as James’s cock fills out, dark with blood and striped with red where the folds of skin have been compressed so tightly for so long. Michael fingers a few of the marks, listens to the hitch of James’s breathing. This is a test as much as a reward: can James come, like this, from the intermingling of hurt and bliss?

“I want you to come,” Michael tells him, “when I say you can,” and pulls him to his feet, one hand grasping his wrists and pinning them behind his back. The other strokes his cock relentlessly, making the tears fall.

“Watch,” Michael says, and James does, gazes down at Michael’s large hand working his flushed erection, long fingers moving roughly over that throbbing, dripping length. “I want you to watch, when I make you come.”

James gasps, trembles, jerks in his grip; a bead of fluid spills out slowly from the slit, glistening under the bathroom lights. Michael will have to work fast, or James may come on his own, and that failure could set them back awfully, if James feels he can’t live up to what he thinks a good submissive – what he should be able to do. If he thinks he can’t live up to Michael’s expectations, after so long out of the scene. Even if he’s never properly done a scene with anyone competent in his past. While Michael would understand, under the circumstances, and not condemn—that external understanding’s different from internal emotional comprehension, and James isn’t thinking, only feeling, right now.

Shifting his hand—the one around captive wrists—Michael digs fingers into the welts he can feel on James’s backside, watches James’s mouth flutter. James’s gaze flickers from Michael’s stern expression to between his own legs, eyes narrowing with determination. His tongue flicks out, a breathless sweep across parted lips when Michael strokes his wet cock harder, faster. James shivers, caught between competing needs: arousal and obedience, twin cravings.

Michael stabs his thumb against the back of the head and demands: “Now!”

James screams as he comes, eyes falling shut, body tensing everywhere; spurts of white splash into Michael’s hand, hot and dripping. James sobs, and there are more splashes, pent-up need spilling out at last.

“Shh,” Michael lifts his hand from James’s cock, presses sticky-coated fingers to those parted lips. James doesn’t open his eyes, but licks at the mess of himself, motions distant, dreaming, far away.

“Good,” Michael tells him, and James opens his eyes, looking dazed. Tries to speak; stops, with Michael’s fingers over his mouth, and shuts his eyes, swaying on his feet.

“No. Look at me.”

Open eyes; a smile reflected in them, pure and true.

“Good,” Michael repeats. “Can you stand?”

A nod; James licks his index finger again, cleaning, tasting, swallowing. Michael moves the hand.

“Can you shower on your own? If I leave?”

Another, rather more coherent nod. “Yes. You need to make your check-in, for the night…you said…I’m all right. Thank you, Michael.”

“You earned it.” Michael pushes away his own relief, edges his voice with steel, reassertion. “Enjoy it. You may not get another one. I plan to put that back on as soon as you’re done here. You come when I permit it, James. Only when I permit it.”

James smiles, slow and private and glowing as a bonfire. “Yes, Michael.”

Michael leaves him in the shower, and washes up—after standing in the separate sink-alcove smiling like a lunatic for two full minutes: he’s just made James fucking McAvoy scream with pleasure and come into his hand in a hotel bathroom—and forces down his own treacherously irrepressible desire and makes his phone call with an unaccountably hoarse voice.

Steve snorts at him, rolls eyes—Michael can hear the gesture, even over the phone—and says, “I’m thrilled you’re happy and he’s not a lunatic, yes I know he’s James fucking McAvoy, if you say that one more time I’m not sending any of my actors or crew to you for therapy during this next film even if they fracture multiple legs, seriously, just ask the man out to dinner after you’re done, you’ve already fucked him and it’s been good so that’s that out of the way, and he seems perfectly nice in interviews, not that I’ve met him in person.” Michael asks plaintively, “So you think he’d want to have dinner with me if I, y’know, asked?” and Steve says, “Oh for fuck’s sake,” and hangs up on him.

Not a yes, but also not a no. He chooses to think that’s promising.

He contemplates options for the night, for the weekend, distracting himself from those possibly-promising ideas while stripping off the soiled bedcover. It’s a good hotel; there’re more blankets and sheets on the closet’s overhead rack. Well stocked. All needs provided for.

A thought—and not a new one—occurs. He strolls over to the dining area table. It’s the antique-style piece he’d seen James stroke earlier on his furniture-friendly trip from kitchen to sitting area, and it stands very solidly on the carpeted area just before the dividing bar and the tiled area. Michael eyes it, the shining, dark wood, the smooth, waxed surface. It looks sturdy enough. Listening to the twinkle and splash of the shower in the background, he raps his knuckles on the top. Nods with satisfaction at the solid thunk produced. He leans his weight against the side, pushes, and then pushes a little harder when the legs, heavy and straight and decorated with a thick coil halfway up, don’t budge. The joints don’t creak under the pressure. Michael peruses the table, well-versed in assessing sturdiness in furniture, in measuring human bodies to a variety of surfaces; and he smiles now, imagining James trussed up and displayed like a delectable buffet.

Which reminds him that they both need food. Time to continue providing for needs, then. He’s here to care for James, after all. There’s more than one way of doing so.

Keeping an ear attuned to shower-sounds, he steps into the kitchen. He could call room service, but James had made tea earlier, and he’s fairly sure that James, having planned to stay the whole weekend even if Michael’d left, would’ve thought to bring supplies.

A quick check confirms this: nothing fancy, but most of the basics, and some surprises. Eggs, bacon, beans, bread, cheese, milk; assorted vegetables, including some rather lovely portobello mushrooms and juicy red tomatoes; baking supplies, including lemon zest and something he decides after a minute is some sort of candied citrus—well, James does bake, he recalls that from one or more of those engaging interviews; perhaps James was hoping to channel desires that way, if Michael hadn’t worked out, and his heart beats faster for a second at the thought that it might not have worked out. Good scotch and equally good beer, of which he approves; cognac, which is a bit curious, but perhaps James needs it for a recipe, or simply enjoys it; not as much meat as one might expect, but James may be on a diet, not that James needs to be on a diet, because James is utterly beautiful and if anything too thin, all muscle and sparkling eyes but no body fat at all, worn to the essentials from the months of total commitment to the Scottish Play.

He studies the options. Stretches his arms; flexes fingers. He has some ideas. He’s not a chef’s son for nothing. And he’s positive that it’s been a very long time since anyone’s cooked for James, along with the other methods of caring for his needs.

The scotch and lemon zest and tomatoes grin back at him conspiratorially. They want to care for James as well.

The shower water flips off. Michael hastily stops communing with the portobellos to return to the bedroom. He's there when James emerges, towel wrapped around his waist, hair drying into improbable loops and whirls, stray water droplets glinting from his eyelashes, his shoulders, his stomach.

He’s splendid. Michael forgets words.

James blushes, suddenly shy; not defiant or resistant, but open and vulnerable and hesitant. “I didn’t know if you wanted—you said we should put something on—”

“I did, yes.” He comes over to James in two long-legged steps, bare feet soundless on the plush carpet. The night’s watchful and protective around them. “Knees. Naked.”

James drops the towel. Drops to his knees. Smiles: anticipation without demand, simple eagerness for the next command, buoyed by the night’s triumphs, the connection forged.

Michael puts out a hand, catches his chin, lifts it. Smiles back.

“Up.” He guides James onto the bed, on his stomach, limbs splayed out comfortably. Finds the softest cooling cream from his bag; dabs it gently over pink lines and welts, skin shower-warm and healing but—he frowns—not as much as he’d like. He runs fingers over the darkest marks. “James?”

“Mmm…”

“Does this still hurt? Right here?”

“It’s not supposed to?”

“Only enough for you to feel it. That wasn’t an answer.”

“Oh. Ah…not too much. A bit, my lower back, but it’s been a while, you know… I think I’m all right.” James sounds sleepy, under Michael’s ministrations. The golden lampglow and onyx shadows play at being artists across the pale expanse of his back: a streak of light there, a hollow of shade along his spine, a chiaroscuro of gilded treasure. “I bruise easily, if that’s what you’re worried about. Always have. This feels good, what you’re doing…”

The creamy green uncomplicated scents of aloe and arnica float through the air. James doesn’t flinch when Michael’s fingers probe at the second-darkest line. That’s good. That means, among other things, that James isn’t lying to him.

He doesn’t like the bruises rising so dark and so early, but they’re meant to happen during a scene, after all. He cups his hand, slick with lotion, over the curve of that arse; James practically purrs, going limp and boneless and pleased with the touch.

“Very well. You’ll tell me if I hurt you.”

“Of course, I will…” More unfocused now; the desired response, but too soon, and Michael mentally swears at himself for forgetting. “James. Phone call. You need to check in.”

“Hmm…”

He pushes long legs further apart. Finds the softer skin inside a thigh. Pinches. Hard.

James yelps. “Sir—Michael—did I—”

“You’re not paying attention. I told you you’d make your check-in call after your shower. If you can’t, if you’re not capable of that, I’ll have to call him—was it Ben, that you wrote down?—and tell him to come get you.”

James turns to look at him, shocked, betrayed, lips parted on an indrawn breath.

“I want you.” Michael rubs the spot he’s just abused, easing the hurt. “I want you here. But I need to know you’re choosing to be here, James.”

“Oh.” That little head-tilt would be adorable, except that it means James is obviously confused by his Dominant’s insistence on continuous conscious consent. “But—I did—we did—we signed the contract for the whole weekend.” At which Michael feels his jaw clench, so tightly he’s astonished James can’t hear his teeth grind. What the fuck has James experienced, with those people who weren’t him?

“All right,” James goes on, now looking a bit worried that Michael’s not responding, “but I did tell him not to worry if I didn’t—he won’t really worry until tomorrow—”

“Quiet.” All he can manage without wanting to break something. If he were a less scrupulous person, if he were out to truly injure James, that would give him the entire night to—to—

Control. He has it. He does. “You said,” he says as evenly as he can manage, “that you’d arranged to check in every day. Call him. Now.”

James takes in his expression. “Yes, Michael.”

“Don’t get up. I’ll bring you your mobile. Are you cold?” Some submissives—actually, quite a few—experience drops in body temperature, coming out of a scene; James isn’t entirely back to himself, still obedient and pliable, but present enough to process what’s just happened and decide not to argue.

“A bit.” James sounds surprised, as if he’s just noticed. “I thought it was just getting out of the shower, but—yes?”

“Don’t move.” On the way back from the kitchenette, he collects more blankets, carries an armful of fluffy, thick fabric over and folds them around all the freckles, the shining skin. Watches his own hands, because that’s easier than watching James, at the moment. Hands over the slim expensive mobile phone; sits down on the edge of the bed, beside the blanket-fort, and waits.

James swallows, nods as if Michael’s spoken, and dials. His voice burrs soft and warm and honest when he says he’s all right, when he says he’ll be staying the whole weekend, when he promises to check in the following evening. He glances up at Michael, saying that; Michael offers him a smile in return, and James blushes as if that’s the highest of praise.

The person on the other end must’ve said something exasperated and fond; James retorts, “Yes, I know, I’m sorry, Benedict, and if it helps he told me it was stupid, too, yes, of course you’d worry, I didn’t mean to—no, all right, you’re both fuckin’ right, okay, you what? That is the most terrifying fucking thing you’ve ever said, and I’m hanging up now. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, good night,” and ends the call.

Michael lifts eyebrows at him. James sighs, drops his face into the pillows, and admits, “Benedict says he, and I quote, approves of my choice in kinky sex partners. Because you told me I’m an idiot about checking in. And he said of course he was worried, he was sitting by the phone.” Michael doesn’t say the told-you-so because James already knows, only takes the mobile out of his hand and turns it off and sets it aside. He rubs his thumb across the freckled hand in his grip, both of them tangible and real.

James is a bit too coherent, he concludes. Necessary, both the phone call and the subsequent realization; but they’ve very nearly reset to equilibrium, and that’s not what James needs. Not what this weekend’s for. And he has permission to make all that coherence implode; his body tingles with the renewed comprehension that he can use James however he wants, for said weekend. Because James wants to be used.

He tightens the grip. James breathes in, sharply. Gazes at him. “Michael…”

“I promised you something else, as I recall.” He pushes James to his side, dislodging some, but not all, of the clinging blankets; James needs to stay warm. “Something for this.” He closes a heavy hand around James’s bare cock; it's not hard enough to hurt, but enough to register, and James shivers all over, eyes huge.

“Stay here,” Michael orders, and gets up to search through his bag.

He picks a simpler device this time, easier if not precisely comfortable, supple butter-soft leather and a touch of metal. It needs to be somewhat easier; James will have to sleep in it.

James gazes at him, when he returns. A hint of curiosity lurks, but the question remains unspoken.

“You’re wearing this all night,” Michael explains. “At least.” And he catches the sparkle of excitement in the ocean waves.

He’s careful, keeps James on his side even though that’s a bit trickier, eases the curved weight of that impressive endowment into confinement again, compressing and fitting the length into leather straps. He pauses to admire, after: James does look marvelous this way, bound and on display and malleable in his hands. The dark leather makes pale skin and red lines gloriously decadent, some exotic prize for a Roman gladiator, perhaps, who’d fought well in the arena.

James lies still, one hand tucked under his cheek; his eyes’re a bit damp, but he’s not really crying. A prize, indeed.

Michael taps fingers over a strap. “Comfortable enough?”

“Yes,” James says. Drifting, tangled in new sensation, but not falling under just yet; it won’t be that simple.

James isn’t simple. Michael lov—likes that. Likes the fact that James has entrusted him with that secret: James McAvoy, cinema darling, isn’t the kind-hearted cuddly Scottish-plush adorableness everyone thinks he is; or, rather, he is all that, but he’s this too, the person who needs the freedom of being commanded and the release of pain and the knowledge that he belongs to someone, every piece of him, body and heart and soul given over to his Dominant’s will.

And James has shown that to him. Of all the people in all the world, James has wanted him. It’s like a miracle, right here in their antique hotel room with the striped wallpaper and luxurious carpet and rumpled sheets. A private little sort of miracle, made for two.

“On your stomach,” he orders. “Legs apart,” and James moves with liquid grace, flowing into the position, but slowly, like the lassitude’s spreading through his body. This position presses his bound cock into the mattress; it’ll be uncomfortable, though not truly painful.

“Hands.” James locks them together behind his neck, waiting. “Very nice,” Michael approves, letting that tinted glass and sin back into his voice, and trails a fingertip down that freshly cleaned back, watching James shiver, the single touch almost too much and not enough. “You’ll stay here while I shower. You’ll stay here until I’m ready for you. Understand?”

“Yes,” James breathes, word half-muffled by the sheets but distinguishable. “Yes, Michael.”

“Good,” Michael tells him, and gets up, and getting up’s one of the hardest acts he’s ever had to undertake. In both senses of the word.

He takes the fastest shower he ever has in his life—attempts, futilely, not to think about James naked and well-used and flushed with post-orgasmic euphoria in the same shower a few minutes ago—and scrubs his hair dry and throws on jeans and a t-shirt—decent ones, though, casual but underscoring the point: he doesn’t need leather and a whip to be a good Dom.

A glance at James, following orders and magnificently motionless on the bed; perfect, and he walks into the suite’s little kitchen and starts pulling out ingredients, smiling to himself, suddenly happy everywhere, all over, head to feet. The tile’s cool and welcoming under his bare toes. And he catches himself humming, under his breath.

The happiness isn’t inexplicable. It’s easily explained. It has everything to do with that glance at James. And when he opens the refrigerator, it hums happily too.

It doesn’t take long to whip up a light supper, something filling and tasty that won’t weigh them down. The tomatoes smell wonderful, sliced and seasoned and grilling in the toaster oven with cheddar cheese melting on top; the scent of the portobellos rises up as they sauté in a bit of butter and spices; and the bacon sizzles in a small pan on the tiny stove’s second eye. Fresh, good food, simply prepared; and when the tomatoes are ready, bread slices wait to take their place. Michael’s less concerned about a mess than preparing the meal quickly and well, but he’ll do a quick clean-up and rinse. James can wash dishes in the morning after breakfast; Michael plans for them to prepare that meal together, a different kind of domesticity.

He wonders again about the bacon. It’s kind of an anomaly amid all the vegetables and eggs and baking supplies. Excellent quality, though, like everything else. If James is cheating on some sort of diet, he’s doing it without sparing any expense; but, then, the whole weekend’s about James giving himself, for a few short days, a release.

He’s curious, and he shouldn’t be. Personal. Not his job.

But James is too thin, too tired. The thought that James might feel, even when his theatre run’s so recently concluded, as if he needs to diet or restrict those indulgences…the idea that James might feel not good enough…

That hurts. Like wire poking into his chest, sharp and metallic and physically cruel.

James might tell him, if he does ask. Not now. Now James needs to eat—they both need to eat, to recover energy—and Michael can feed him. And will. He’s got plans.

“James,” he calls through the suite, and smiles at the eventual drowsy reply: “Yes, Michael?”

“Fluff the pillows on the bed, set it up for me to sit in the center, against the headboard. Then kneel on one side.”

“Um, yes, Michael.” Through the silent stretch between them, Michael hears the faint rustling of fabric, and turns back to plating up the food. He’s made sandwiches, and two of them he’s cut into bite-size chunks, held together by melted cheese; and the bread isn’t so crisp from toasting as to break into crumbs at the slightest pressure. Michael carries the ivory-toned platter into the bedroom, where James has obeyed him, has cleared a space and knelt down beside it, his hands resting on his thighs even as his head droops a little, his shoulders not quite straight; he startles when the bed dips under Michael’s knee.

“Oh,” he says, blinking, and peers at Michael with sleepy eyes, and blinks again until the haziness dissipates. “Oh, that smells divine!” His lips curve up as his gaze travels from the plate to Michael himself, eyebrows lifting briefly at the casual clothes. Then he straightens himself up properly, chin raised and shoulders straight, hands open and relaxed.

“I hope you’ll like the taste, as well,” Michael says. “Hold the plate for me.” He waits until James takes it, then settles into position, back against the headboard, legs stretched out before him.

“Er, why have you cut some of them into pieces?”

“You’re hungry, aren’t you?”

“Oh!” James’s surprise melts into trembling lust: “Oh, you’re going to—” He shivers minutely; and Michael grabs the plate back.

“Across my thighs,” Michael says, firm and low. “I want you on your hands and knees, and I’m going to put the plate on your back. So if you want to eat your food and not wear it—”

“Won’t I be wearing it, though, if it’s on my back?” James smirks at Michael, cheeky and smiling even as he moves into position, settling his hands and knees carefully—with the smallest clink of the cock cage’s lock drawing notice to the erection beginning to appear. Michael holds the plate in one hand and smacks James’s arse with the other.

James tries to stifle a laugh and fails; but when Michael lays his hand on the pink-tinged flesh, he manages it, dropping his head and going still. His erection swells a bit more.

Michael sets the plate down on the long plane of James’s back; it’s warm from the sandwiches but not uncomfortably so. “Quiet,” he orders, stroking his forefinger gently across the spanked curve. “You’ve done well for me today, James. It’s been a pleasure having you under my hands.”

Color flushes across James’s shoulders, his back. Michael takes a bite of his sandwich; it turned out well, and he’s glad to be able to show off a bit, this talent as well as the other. And when he takes a small piece of the cut sandwiches and presses it to James’s lip, the sensations of those soft pads against his forefinger and thumb—the tiny flick of tongue—make warmth rise in his chest.

Falling in love wasn’t what he’d expected. If he’d had any expectations at all, beyond sheer amazement at the situation, of course. But love seems to’ve happened. He only can’t believe it because he wants so badly for it to be true.

James holds position, but gradually turns his head toward Michael; eyes almost closed, lipping at his fingers with slow languor; mesmerized by the steady repetition of eating what’s given to him, tasting the salt of Michael’s fingers along with the flavors of the food. When it’s all gone, Michael simply rests the tip of his forefinger against the plush curve of James’s lower lip. James sighs and licks and then closes his lips around it, sucks gently, slowly. His head begins to droop, the weight of it growing as Michael curls his palm under the elegant curve of James’s jawline.

“All right?” he whispers. Distantly, as if rising up from the depths of dreaming, James nods against Michael’s hand, presses half a kiss on the finger as it withdraws. Michael sets the emptied plate on the bedside table. “Good,” he says, with a touch more volume, until a closed eyelid slits open only enough to reveal a brimming circle of black encircled by the thinnest rime of blue gemstone. “You’re been so good,” Michael says. The words he wants to say—I think I love you, you, you—catch in his throat before they can betray him. “Let’s get some sleep,” he says instead. “There’s so much I want to do with you.”

James lets Michael roll him onto his belly, where his half-hard cock in its confinement rubs into the bedding; he lies there, not quite gone, a sliver of awareness enlivening his drowsy gaze; the tiniest smile quirks his mouth when Michael links his hands behind his back with padded leather-and-metal cuffs to match the cage. James is beautiful. That’s a statement like gravity, like starshine, like the truth of the earth spinning under them, such a given that it goes unspoken as bedrock.

Michael can’t quite let go yet; he wraps long fingers around the padded restraints; he feels the warmth of James’s body beneath him; he savors the pliancy, hard-won and hard-given; he wants to lean down and press his lips over and over to the sweet arch of James’s temples, the crest of his cheeks, the two freckles that accent his nose and make it striking. Michael looks at James, and his imagination runs wild: James is a rebel prince captured and brought to his captor’s bed; a selkie, trapped and bound to Michael’s will; a work of art brought to life by the moonlight spilling through the wide windows, his breathing, warm flesh a gift or reward or compensation for some trial Michael had won through; James himself is the trial, and James the prize to be won; and Michael wants nothing more at this moment—for the foreseeable future—than for James to fall in love with Michael, too.

To stay, without having to give up his skin; to breathe in and out with Michael, their arms enfolding one another; to share the radiance of his self with Michael’s yearning soul.

James murmurs, eyes closed and body limp in the clutches of sleep, and if it sounds like, “love,” it’s only a moonlit dream, a reflection of Michael’s sun-bright, burning heart. No one falls in love at first sight, after all. Not even James, who’s surely fit to bring that myth alive. Not even Michael, who’s admired James from afar for so long. It’s chemistry, pheromones, and wishful thinking.

He can hope for it to be real; but, oh, how it will hurt when the fantasy dissolves, when they part company outside of these sheltering walls.

Michael coils himself around James, curling up into a big spoon to James’s perfectly-sized teaspoon, easing a leg over James’s and wrapping an arm around him, and finally resting his own head in the crook of James’s neck. Reaching down, he finds James still a bit hard; and he smiles. For the next two days, at least, this man with all of his hurts and hopes and trust and bright-eyed smiles, belongs not to the world, but to Michael; and Michael will wring every last bit of pleasure from them both.

He curves his palm across the sweet warmth of James’s naked belly, tips a thumb across a soft nipple and flicks it to hardness; James moans a little. Michael draws the sheets and blankets up over them and closes his eyes, eager to see if dreams will live up to reality.

Chapter Text

James awakens beautifully. James awakens curled into Michael’s side, soft and warm and breathing evenly; when he blinks and yawns, head on Michael’s shoulder, the morning light outlines long eyelashes and sleep-rumpled hair with gold.

He’s the most wonderful sight Michael’s ever seen.

The thoughts are as golden as the sunlight, deep down in his heart. James is here in their shared bed; here with trusting hyacinth eyes and the slow beginnings of a smile; here beside him, Michael Fassbender, and that’s incredible, unbelievable, and real.

James murmurs around another yawn, “Good morning,” words buried in sleep and Scottish fuzziness. His wrists’re still loosely bound; his cock, bound too, stirs against the cage. The hint of renewed restraint knocks something free behind those eyes, and they lose a bit of focus, recalling both mentally and physically why he’s here, how he’s here, where Michael’s put him.

Wonderful, Michael decides again, watching the fall. James fights it, of course, but they both know the outcome’s inevitable.

Just to see if it’ll assist with the descent, he puts a hand around those wrists, over the leather and padding that's doing its job so wonderfully, and squeezes hard. “Good morning.”

James breathes in. Shivers. Scowls at him, which Michael finds delightful. James is adorable when attempting to resist his own instinctive responses. Of course, James is adorable always, on-camera or off, but here and now, having yielded himself so completely and yet remaining himself, made of compact strength and fierceness even naked and bound and submissive…

Michael’s admired James on cinema screens and in interviews for years: that visible passion, compassion, for all those characters and stories. He knows—most fans do, at least the bare-bones internet summary-version—about James’s childhood and the non-present father and the council-estate upbringing. He’s constantly been impressed—even inspired—by the boundless optimism James projects nonetheless, the way those blue eyes look at journalists and co-stars, giving them absolute attention, as if they deserve nothing less, as if the whole world’s magnificently worthy of being loved.

That kind of strength astonishes him. Even more so now. James has brought all of that old pain and limitless generosity and honest desire to lay at his feet. Along with himself, kneeling.

He doesn’t say so, though. Not aloud. It’s no doubt obvious in his expression, from the way James watches his eyes, smiling a little. Not a challenging I’ve-figured-out-your-weakness sort of smile, but a surprised sort of wondering curve, as if James also feels those adjectives in the morning light: incredible, unbelievable, beautiful, real.

“Are you comfortable?” Michael tightens his grip so that the cuffs dig into freckled wrists. James’s eyes get wider, darker, distracted clouds flowing in. “Yes. I mean—yes, Michael. I—feel—it doesn’t hurt—” He squirms minutely, then winces, lips tightening and the skin between his eyebrows crinkling. “That doesn’t, but—”

He flushes, embarrassed to say it, perhaps. Michael flicks the cuffs open, re-attaches them so that James doesn’t end up lying on his arms when pushed over onto his back, spine arching fast to keep his arse off the mattress. Michael almost bites through his lip when he realizes what’s wrong, but keeps going, settles bound hands on the pillow over James’s head, while James hisses a bit and gingerly lowers himself.

“It has been some time, hasn’t it?” Michael walks his fingers down between tensed thighs, below the less constrictive cock cage and the relaxed balls, hanging down in their wrinkly-loose and adorable pouch—smiles a little when they mildly twitch when he brushes them with the backs of his nails. “Since you’ve done this.”

Michael turns his hand, thumb and little finger pressing at thighs, and James parts them easily, allowing Michael’s gentle touch at his exposed entrance. The comparative darkness of the skin there conceals no injury that Michael might've missed last night; and when he glances up at James’s face while pressing the flat of his thumb firmly on the furled muscle, James lets out a breath, but doesn’t wince again. He nods in response to Michael’s question, catches his lower lip between neat teeth, releases it. “Yes, Michael.”

Michael pats James’s thigh and straightens. “You’re fine,” he assures; bares his teeth and drops his voice to a dark purr and clenches his fingers into the soft inner curve of James’s thigh. “But you’ll be feeling me in you for days.”

James inhales, eyes darkening further. He swallows hard and nods shakily.

Michael lets go, then sets that hand on James’s cock, which swells further, pressing into the cage. “Is this uncomfortable? Answer me.”

James starts to turn his head away, visibly recalls another earlier order, stops. No hiding those honest reactions. No secrets. “I like it. But now…I have to…” A quick eloquent glance toward the door, the one leading to the bath and toilet; James shuts his eyes, after, blush deepening. Ah. They can work with that.

“You need to…relieve yourself,” Michael muses, and lets his hand rest over the nest of springy dark hair, the flat muscles of James’s abdomen. “Should I let you out of bed, James? To find relief?” He presses down, only a fraction, but James lets out a desperate sound that’s practically a sob and the hands curl inward where they’re lying tautly on the pillow.

“I can’t wait—”

“I could make you.” He won’t, not unless specifically requested—he’s had clients who’re into that, and he certainly can, but the subsequent necessary clean-up will disturb the burgeoning scene, and while he’s certain by now that James likes a fair amount of erotic suffering and denial, he’s also pretty certain from the expression in those eyes that any arousal at the moment stems more from the idea of being commanded than from the act in question.

He’s not above tormenting James a little with the thought, though, before letting him up. He runs a hand along the nearest hip, over scattered constellations of freckle-suns. “You have a choice, then. I haven’t said you can get up. I might give you permission. Or I might not. You can wait for me to say yes—or you can get out of bed and take care of yourself.” He taps fingers over flexible leather and metal, trapped tender flesh beneath. “But if you do, you’ll do it knowing I’ve not said you can.”

Red-bitten lips shape a word, soundless: his name, or a please, or a yes, or a no. All the constellations tremble, under his hand. And James looks away, an actual flinch, not hiding but fundamentally shaken by the impossible decision, wanting to be good, needing to disobey, understanding that there’re boundaries that he’s never even considered that might be broken through irrevocably.

Michael makes him wait another half-minute—not enough to be sadistic, just enough to make the point: James’s choices belong to Michael, by consent freely given—before saying, “You can get up.”

James stares at him for a few eternal seconds, then slides gradually off the bed, and then nearly slides to the floor, shaking everywhere, legs not quite sure whether they can hold him even while James tries to obey.

No safeword, but Michael’s in part the best because he’s good at reading body language, the physical expression of emotional turmoil. And this is pushing James very near to the edge.

So Michael takes a deep breath. Gets up as well. Comes over to the side of the bed, where James has managed to stand by bracing bound hands on the bedside table, eyes huge and suddenly too unmoored: previous certainties swept out to sea by the comprehension that this, even this, can be required of him; his anchors are falling away, sinking into unseen depths.

Michael stops in front of him and demands, “Knees.” James drops to the floor with what sounds like a gasp of relief. “Shh,” Michael says. "We're all right." It’s reassurance he doesn’t often offer, not when clients mostly require the cane or the command, but it’s what James needs right now. And Michael wants profoundly to be what James needs, wants to have those wide-blown eyes able to meet his: focused and clear, or clouded with passion; but always with the confidence that James is safe with Michael, that Michael is the secure harbor to which James can return.

“I won’t.” He puts an arm around those shoulders and draws James close, feels the tears when James rests his head on an offered hip, feels the shivers. “I won’t ask you for that. No one ever has, before?”

A headshake, face still hidden in Michael’s leg. Not talking. Michael runs fingers through dark hair, caressing, comforting. “We’ll add that to your hard limits, then. It’s a contract between us, James, we can change it, all right?”

No answer; this time he shakes his head, though James can’t see. “I asked you a question. Do you understand?”

And James whispers, “Yes,” the word damp and ocean-salted against his thigh.

“Good. Tell me when you want to stand up.”

“Yes,” James says again. That voice sounds a bit steadier now. The oceans calming, after the turn of the tide. “Thank you. Michael?”

“Did you have a question?”

“I…just…I told you only two. Hard limits. No blood, and no permanent marks…”

“And I’m listening. I respect that. Is something wrong?”

“No. Not now. I—you said we could change it. The contract.”

“We can. We will, after this. Do you want me to do it now?”

“I trust you.” James leans a bit more weight against his leg. “This…not this, or not yet, I can’t—but if we try something I’ve never done, and if I like the idea kind of in theory but…we can have soft limits, right? Not everyday things, but things that’re sort of maybes? I’m getting the idea that you might have a lot of ideas that I’ve never tried. And we can…edit as needed? Whenever it comes up?”

As needed. That implies future needs. James wants to see him in the future.

“Yes.” He puts out a hand and lifts James’s chin, those sea-floor eyes gazing up at him, all blue and black and flooded with want. “Yes, we can.”

James blinks once, slowly, in place of the nod he can’t give while being held. “Thank you.”

“Don’t,” Michael tells him, and traces the curve of his ear with a finger, under tousled hair. Delicate and shell-furled and enticing as the rest of him, that ear. “Don’t. I’m sorry.”

James tips his head to one side, as far as possible under the circumstances. “For what?”

“For pushing you.” He touches James’s cheek, fingertip resting just below one wide blue eye. Over tear-tracks. His fault.

He could be the sort of Dominant who’d not apologize. Could be implacable, imperturbable, impassive. He’s not.

They’re in this together.

The room’s very quiet, holding them safe inside. The caramel-gold stripes of the wallpaper, the lush weave of the carpet, enfold his words.

“I know,” he says, picking words with care—steps across a minefield, where one foot wrong will blow the world into pieces—“you’ve not done this for a long time. And I know you want to be pushed. But I’m the one of us who does this more regularly. Who has experience. That means I should be better about recognizing your limits. It’s not your fault, James, it’s my responsibility, and so, yes, I am apologizing. All right?”

James looks at him with a complicated expression, one that he can’t quite decipher. Startlement? Confusion? Disappointment that Michael isn’t that unassailable wall against which James can throw himself? Gratitude for the same? Affection? Something else entirely?

A lip-lick, unfairly lovely, almost innocent in its heedless swiftness. That’s a gesture Michael knows, the one James makes when nervous or when thinking, pausing during an interview to sort out the answer to a difficult or awkwardly phrased question. He holds his breath, and leaves his fingertips where they are, caressing James’s face.

“It’s not all on you,” James says, but it’s not an argument; the words sound as if he’s working them out while giving them voice. “You do this professionally. You’re used to—if people give you terms, and only have two rules, you work with that. I should’ve—some things didn’t even occur to me. And you did notice that I was…not so much okay. You noticed, and you’re here.”

“I’m here,” Michael agrees, and taps his thumb over mobile lips, a gesture that feels like a kiss. He thinks that maybe James feels it too. “Are you all right? Now?”

Those lips quirk up. “Better. Though I still sort of have to…and I’m guessing, since you did let me up, not your particular fetish either? Not judging if so, though—I didn’t mind the part where you made me wait, and maybe we could sort of compromise—”

“It’s not.” Michael has to laugh, half out of relief and half because James is teasing him, and slides the hand to the nape of his neck. Ocean-jewel eyes laugh as well, voiceless reply. “No. I’ve done it for clients before—people who wanted that sort of scene—but no. Same page. You and me. James?”

“Yes?”

“First, thank you…second, I’m not certain you remember which of us is in charge, here…you’re smiling at me now…”

“Should I not smile at you?”

“Depends,” Michael muses, “on how much you enjoy being on your knees for me,” and the oceans dance, even while James appropriately schools his expression into something resembling submissive anticipation. This doesn’t exactly work, mostly because James still looks like he wants to laugh, happiness pulling at the edges of lips, the corners of eyes, all those playful freckles. Michael can’t even chastise him for it. That emotion’s in his own chest, too. Omnipresent. Filling up the hotel room, the air, the universe.

But he really can’t let James get away with that, so leans closer, hand in exuberant hair pulling James’s head back. “Mouth. Use it.”

“What,” James says. “I thought you were going to let me—”

The rest of that sentence gets cut off by Michael’s cock shoving into his mouth. Further. Into his throat. James chokes, gasps for air, muscles fluttering around the invasion, and then relaxes. His eyes slip half-shut, taking it all in; and Michael holds him in place on his knees and fucks his remarkable mouth, uses him relentlessly, pushing in and out and leaving him bruised and messy and wet and helpless to do anything other than take the iron length over and over.

Michael could come, if he let himself. Could make James swallow it all, or gag and cough and choke on it. And, as if to cheerfully spite his time-tested assumptions about himself and control and training, that thought nearly does make him finish on the spot.

Apparently James, not to mention James’s mouth, is just that good. A challenge in all sorts of ways; and he loves that thought, too. He never loses control. It’s part of his reputation.

James McAvoy, all generous compassionate warmth on the outside, and pure uninhibited sensuality here, in the bedroom, where only Michael’s privileged to see him. To see that other side of him, the side that wants to be taken down and overcome and made to come, marked with lips and hands and paddles and restraints, defenses stripped away until he’s got nothing left but overwhelming sheer sensation.

And Michael can do this for him.

It’s humbling, that.

He stops himself with one hand tight around the base of his cock, squeezing—he’s got some pride left, though he can’t in fact recall the last time he needed physical assistance to pull back from the precipice—and pushes James back, not as hard as he conceivably could because James had said, when asked about injury risk, half a percent. Then grabs for him, panicking, as James tips over backward, eyes going wide.

James hits the floor regardless of both their instincts, distracted by the moment and the headspace and not expecting the shove. Michael winces at the soft thud and thump, but straightens back up, stifling his own reaction before James can see it. James doesn’t look injured, not when he rolls to one side and uses bound arms to push himself up to sit on the floor. But still. Michael’d not actually meant for him to fall.

Control, he reminds himself. Dammit. “Are you all right? Answer.”

“Yes…fine…” James coughs, regains breath, lips wet and swollen and hair in his eyes. “What—was that—” Grimacing, he folds one leg—only one—under him, puts his weight on it instead of his backside.

“Honestly fine? Don’t move.” Michael gets down on the carpet, too. “Knee?”

James opens his mouth, but hesitates. Michael says, instant and grim and cursing himself up and down and sideways for not thinking, getting too close, slipping, “You gave me your word, James.” And James shakes his head, lets Michael pull that scarred leg into anxious hands, trained fingers and eyes sweeping over the joint. “Not—I mean, yes, it was that, just off-balance, but it’s not hurt. I can tell.”

True, as far as Michael’s various areas of expertise suggest. His heart’s not quite recovered yet, as he sits there on the floor running hands over James’s knee. “Tell me what that was. Just now. You were going to say something else, first.”

“I wasn’t…” James looks at Michael’s hands on his leg. “You asked again. Honestly, you said. Like you didn’t believe me.”

And Michael’s hands freeze in place. So does his heart. “James—”

“I—” James touches his throat, half-smiles at the rasp in his voice. But it’s not a full smile, and he glances away. At the corner of the bed, at the indentation where the post flattens itself hopelessly into the carpet. “You asked me to trust you. Yesterday. I do. I thought—I wouldn’t lie to you. I’d tell you if you hurt me, and you didn’t, so I didn’t. But then you said— That was what that was.”

Michael swallows. Takes a careful breath. Takes one of his hands away from where it’s been resting over the old scar, and lifts James’s chin, gently. Finds those eyes with his. “I’m sorry. For both. I sort of—I had to make sure you were all right. Not an excuse. I…had to know.”

And James breathes in, and out, and meets his gaze. Whatever emotion’s on his face, bare and heartfelt, it earns a tiny smile, tension easing.

“I trust you,” Michael tells him, very quietly. “You showed me that I could, yesterday. This is my fault, not yours.”

James smiles a bit more at that. “Why’d you stop me? In the first place?”

“Because…I…didn’t tell you to make me come. Yet.”

James starts to answer, stops, and instead looks utterly delighted. “You were about to—”

“I didn’t say you could talk, either.” He lays his hand over the scar again, assessing. “But I want you to. Ruptured tendon? Patellar?”

“Ah…yes, actually. Partial, but enough that it needed surgery.” James balances on an elbow, leaves his leg in Michael’s lap, and wiggles his toes, presumably to indicate his lack of pain. “I’m guessing you’ve seen that before. It healed fine, I hardly even notice, unless I seriously overdo things. I play football on it, even.”

And it’ll still forever be prone to further damage, tendinitis, aches and soreness. Michael has seen that before, and this doesn’t look as bad as it could’ve been, but. But this is James, and James should never have had to go through that kind of pain. He thinks about everything he’s heard, running over fandom trivia in his head; but it’s with a purpose this time. All he can come up with is that James’s IMDB and wiki pages mention an unspecified knee injury while filming Assassin.

Unspecified. Hell. Of course it’d been bad. “What happened?”

“Oh…um, I was doing a stunt—my first big action movie, you’ve probably not seen it, I was a lot younger and it’s not really all that coherent—and I was thrilled to be there, and I’d had to fight for the part, the studio wasn’t convinced I could pull off action-hero, so of course I tried to do everything myself. A staircase came down—it was meant to come down, but not that early—when I was jumping off it. We all kind of hit the ground together, me and the stairs and the explosives. Are you giving me a massage? You’re very good at that.”

“I…can if I want to. Anything I want to do, with you. Stay put for a minute.” He has to get up. Can’t let James see his face. Barely managing the voice. James and explosives and a collapsing staircase. God.

He comes back with the cage from the night before, harsh confining plastic. James, lying lazily on the floor, narrows eyes at him. But doesn’t object, which is promising; the undercurrents are established enough to let them slide from gentleness and caretaking into dominance and submission without a fight, then. Time to reinforce that dynamic. For them both.

James waits while Michael unfastens the overnight bondage and sets it aside; continues to wait, but quivers slightly, muscles tensing, while Michael painstakingly fits the more restrictive version around him once more. He licks his lips, nibbles at them, glances at himself in Michael’s long fingers, before looking up.

“Did you have a question, James?”

“I…thought…this started with…I have to…”

“I know.” He cups his hand over the confining cage, hears the anticipatory inhale—the expectation of freedom granted after the point’s been made—and grins inwardly. He taps his finger thoughtfully on the lock—then lifts it away, leaves James bound, cock and hands both. Hands in front of him, which should help, at least—a fact which causes those spectacular eyes to get even wider at him. “Seriously?”

“Yes. It’s ventilated.” Refusing to be provoked. In role. And also simply relieved: James feels stable enough to argue with him. And when he pulls James to his feet, their eyes catch: we’re all right, we’re fine, we’re together.

Perfect. Him and James.

“You have five minutes. Anything you need to do.”

James opens his mouth again.

“Four.”

James glares, but turns and goes, knowing when to cease pushing. Michael grins again. Swings arms over his head, stretches, feeling the pull of muscles, feeling entirely satisfied.

The room, all tumbled sheets and the scent of sex and the scattered detritus of clothing, grins back. It’s satisfied, too.

James comes back exactly three minutes and fifty seconds later, and tries to pretend he still feels like glaring. “Was that acceptable, then?”

“Perfect. You are good at…being good for me, James. Behaving. Being obedient.”

James breathes in, and forgets to scowl.

Michael wants to laugh. He can’t remember the last time he’s wanted to laugh so much, mid-scene. Can’t remember the last time he’s been this happy. It’s not that he’s been unhappy—he enjoys his side profession, or he’d not be in it—but with James it all feels brighter, somehow. “Come here.”

James does, flowing down onto the bed at his side, movement without apparent effort, unconsciously graceful. Studies him, expectant but without demand.

James doesn’t move while Michael makes sure the cage is clean and dry, that lovely package still trapped, cock crumpled and compressed, balls separate and loose. No protest appears in eyes or muscles, only acceptance: these terms have already been established, made welcome, anticipated.

Michael uncuffs him, moves his arms behind him, and locks obedient wrists together again. He runs an exploratory hand over James’s lightly-haired chest, fingers spreading wide, closing, enjoying the firm muscle and clean skin under his fingertips. James parts his lips with a quick sweep of pink tongue, moistening them; Michael’s hand comes to rest over one nipple.

He teases that tight bud inquisitively at first, watches James shiver, blink, twitch when the motion roughens. James likes that, clearly, or at least his cock does, trying to swell against its confinement. So Michael does it again, harder, pinches and twists until he hears the gasp, the broken little inhale. Does it once more: methodical assault on tender nerves.

James sobs and moves, helplessly, body twisting under his hands. But not truly trying to escape. Nothing's holding James down on the bed except the command. Nothing keeps him from speaking either of the two words that would stop Michael in his tracks.

He's whimpering softly, ceaselessly; his nipples have swollen, puffy and pink, when Michael decides to stop, and his bound cock has flushed red, his balls drawn up tight. Tears leak steadily from closed eyes, down into the dark tangle of his hair; but he opens them at the order of, “Look at me,” and all the freckles quiver.

He’s still too self-aware, though; an element of watchfulness remains in that gaze, as fogged-over and tiny as it’s been made by desire. It’s a note of self-preservation, observing, processing: this is happening, to me.

More, then. James responds so wonderfully, so gorgeously when he breaks at last; Michael’s curious to see how far they can go, whether he can push those blue eyes into the unthinking billowing ecstasy of complete subspace, given the time constraints, given the so-recent date of their first meeting. James trusts him, that’s no longer a question, but that final liberating collapse isn’t exactly a conscious choice, and it’s been a very long time since James has allowed himself this kind of release with anyone at all.

He’s willing to bet, from the way James gazes at him, that they can get there together.

He gets up. Moves away; comes back. Holds up the simpler of the two pair of clamps he’s brought, letting the metal catch the advancing morning light. Practically audible punctuation: a chime for the moment. “I like the way you look, like this. I think I’ll keep you this way.” One clamp closes over an already-abused nipple, squeezing flesh in its lightly ridged grip; James makes a small anguished sound, though they both know it’ll hurt worse when Michael removes the clamps, when sensation rushes back in.

“We agreed,” Michael murmurs, holding the next one poised, “that you want to suffer, while you serve,” and lets it go.

James cries out, face wet, but his eyes stay open: that’s a yes, contained in those shining depths. No challenge, not now; nearly there.

Michael grabs a hip. Rolls James to his stomach, limbs falling limply across the bed; a low whimper breaks free as the clamps drag on fabric, pulling at him mercilessly, as his caged privates rub across rumpled bedding. Nonetheless, he goes willingly wherever Michael wants to arrange him, malleable as molten gold while his arms are stretched overhead, his legs closed, thighs pressed tight together.

Michael uses his hand this time. Hard. The imprint of his palm, his fingers, across that deliciously shaped arse. James moans, long and liquid, and goes even more pliant beneath him. Five cracks of his hand. Eight. Ten.

He turns James’s face, brushes hair from his eyes. James whispers, not a test but honest desperation, voice splintering, “Why?”

“Because I wanted to,” Michael tells him truthfully, and watches, awestruck, as the words go home; as James shudders head to toe, and shuts his eyes. He relaxes into the bed, into the weight of Michael’s hand on his backside, adding pressure to throbbing heat. As if he’s found serenity in the eye of the hurricane. Peace in the howl of the storm.

“So good,” Michael tells him, and pets his back, gentle rubs, providing sensation, an anchor, physical contact, “for me.” And James sighs and stirs, muscles not restless but rippling under his touch, pleased and content.

He’s not sure they’re quite there—James can still question, still verbalize—but that’s fine; part of the art lies in the dip and swell, the ebb and flow. The end’ll be that much sweeter when it comes.

Michael rearranges them so that he’s sitting up on his side of the bed, back against the headboard, comfortable. Newspaper within arm’s reach. Water. Balm that he can spread over those lips, so red where white teeth have bitten into them, if he so chooses. He rests James’s head on his thigh, facing away from him. James settles readily, fingers loosely curled over half-open palms, nestled in the small of his back. Michael rests a hand in his hair, savors the sight of James obedient to his pleasure, the relaxation in the pocket-sized frame, the softness of glossy hair, thick and mussed, the whole of him imperfectly perfect in his suffering.

After a while, he decides he'd better make a token attempt to focus on the paper. He’s not truly interested in the news of the day, but that’s not the point. This is an art. And he’s very good at it. And James…

James deserves his best. Everything he can offer. Every calm reassertion of command. Every test of will.

He wonders how long it’ll take for blue eyes to resurface. James isn’t the type of submissive who can peacefully wait on his Dominant’s pleasure all day; no, James, like himself, needs action to stay in the moment. A film role, a sky-dive or football match for charity, a book or crossword to occupy that imaginative mind. James never sits passively in interviews. Constantly in motion. Eyebrows and lip-licks and hand-sweeps, big expansive gestures that invite the universe in to play along.

He turns a page of rustling newsprint. Pretends he’s absorbed in the latest Royal Family Reproductive Drama, decides to use both hands to hold the paper, and leaves an elbow negligently resting—not sharply, it’s not about pain—on James’s temple.

James lasts about twelve minutes, two longer than Michael would’ve initially given him credit for, but he guesses James is as stubborn as he is and doesn’t want to admit failure.

“Shh,” he says, at the indrawn breath, the fidgeting leg. Drops his hand without looking, and sets it over James’s eyes. James settles again with the renewed attention. Michael leaves him there, half-under and quiescent, and neither encourages nor discourages the willingness to try.

It’s nearly another ten minutes, which is impressive, before James cracks. The break comes in the form of a tiny whimper, before a deliberate yawn.

“Quiet,” Michael says, “I’m reading this,” and he has to use the pronoun because he has no idea what the fuck he is reading. Sport. Of some sort. Possibly cricket. Mostly he’s delighted all over again by James.

Who mutters something under his breath, voice warm and tempting along Michael’s skin.

Michael, without bothering to respond aloud, lifts the hand and smacks that lovely arse, just once. It’s sharp and without warning and meant to hurt. James yelps. “What—”

“I told you not to interrupt me.”

“I—”

“Am I boring you, James?”

Those shoulders slump a bit. “No. Sir.”

That’s on purpose as well. James knows perfectly well that Michael wants him to use his name. James is also obviously not quite telling the truth, though not deliberately lying. It's complicated. And no wonder whomever James has gone to in the past hasn’t been able to get him there. James is submissive, yes, and when pushed part of the way down will say the right words and even want to say them, wanting to please, to be good, to perform whatever’s asked of him. It’s not disobedience to the no-secrets order, not precisely, anyway.

But that doesn’t mean it’s working.

Michael’s developed a rather low opinion of the professional skills of whomever James has worked with in the past, frankly.

“Are you asking to be paddled again? Because I will. And it’ll hurt. This—” Firm grip, nails digging into just-spanked skin, eliciting a gasp of shock. “—was only a warning.”

“Michael,” James says. “I’m s—yes, please.”

Michael raises both eyebrows. That’d been closer to an apology than he’d expected to get; and he’s not surprised that James pulled it back last-second.

Definitely fun, this. And he plans to return to the action. Decidedly so. The last twenty minutes or so have been about seeing how long James can be good without direct stimulation, about making him need the agony and the ecstasy, making him admit to himself and to Michael that he needs it.

“No.”

“…what?”

“You want me to. Do you think you deserve to get what you want, James?”

James actually starts to sit up. Michael shoves him back down. Tosses the paper to one side. Fixes eyes on his face. “You have my attention now. Should I give you what you want, when you can’t be silent when I ask you to? Do you think you’ve earned a reward?”

He waits. Is rewarded when those eyes fall away from his, when James breathes, “No.”

“At least you know that. Get up. On your knees, on the floor, next to the bed.”

James moves with alacrity, no doubt expecting some sort of act of penitence, punishment and contrition, repentance and forgiveness. Michael leans down to unbind him, gives him a moment to shake out his wrists before re-cuffing his hands in front of his body. James lets them rest between his thighs, palms open, looking neatly and submissively proper now that he’s regained Michael’s attention—not that he’d ever lost it.

Michael skims a hand through the toys scattered on the table. Picks one. “No interruptions, I said.”

Bright eyes go very wide, alarm flaring through the oceans. “You—that—”

“It’ll look good on you.” It will. This particular gag is black and shaped like a man’s phallus, large enough to stretch those vivid lips, to press deep into a vulnerable throat. He’s growing hard himself, picturing it. Picturing himself standing over James, jerking off, while James kneels there bound and gagged by the cock Michael’s chosen for him, face upturned as Michael’s come lands on his eyelids, his nose, his chin.

“Yellow,” James says, eyes pools of mingled desire and dismay. “Christ. I—what if—”

Yellow. Slow down, not stop. Fair enough. “Is it your throat? Or are you asking what signals to use if you need to stop?” He runs a hand through James’s hair. It winds itself around his fingers, clinging, wanting comfort. “Put your hands here. Where I can see them. For red, flex your fingers.” He demonstrates. In, and out. Repeated. Both hands.

James nods, tension fading at Michael’s voice, at Michael’s calm response to the slow-down safeword. “My throat’s fine. We can—try. One hand for yellow? Like this?”

“Exactly.” And he finds himself immeasurably grateful for James’s intuition and fearlessness—and for the fact that James can apparently read his mind. Perfect, again.

“Okay,” James says, “yes. Go on.” So Michael fits the gag into his mouth, and watches the length of it disappear, shining blackness obscene against those brilliant lips, forced open and wet.

James shuts both eyes when the blunt pressure strikes the back of his throat, as Michael buckles the straps at the back of his head. When long eyelashes lift again, the blue’s a bit distant, unfocused and clouded. Michael lifts eyebrows—still okay?—and gets an emphatic nod. Good clouds, then, the kind that’re golden and scarlet and painfully pleasurable. Excellent.

He takes his already upright cock in hand. Works himself to full hardness, gradually, drawing the moment out. James follows every motion, every stroke, eyes endless, a little dreamy. James, of course, can’t come, and his trapped arousal must be agonizing by now.

At this point Michael’s body makes the decision for him, and he comes like a force of nature. Spurts of milky white splash all over James’s upturned face, that straining throat, and splatter down to those freckled collarbones. James moans and sways in place, dazed and incoherent and ecstatic, lost to sensation, wracked with desire.

Michael leaves him dripping there, well-used and trembling. He cleans himself up, and lets a hand hover over the paper before taking it up again, settling back into bed, thoroughly ignoring the submissive figure on the floor.

It’s another test. James passes this one with glorious flying colors, kneeling there in abeyance, mouth wet with Michael’s climax and his own saliva while his cock tries to press its way out of the bindings. Even his hands remain absolutely motionless, though he could lift them if he wanted to.

Michael has the oddest impulse to thank God—ridiculous, because he’s a hell of a long way from the altar boy he’d once been, but there it is: he wants to express his gratitude, somehow, to someone, that James has come into his life. Pun intended.

“Good,” he says eventually. James blinks and comes back a bit as the silence breaks, as the praise registers. “You were very good, James. I’m pleased with you. Hold still.” James does, and Michael retrieves a warm wet cloth from the lavatory, crouches down to tenderly clean his face. He removes the gag, wipes away tears and come and stickiness and wetness around the stretched and swollen mouth, lets James turn his head and burrow tentatively into a kindly hand. James’s lips haven’t cracked, but they’re chapped, getting to the edge of rough. Michael uses the tip of his forefinger to apply a thin coating of glossy balm, and rubs it in while James blinks at him, awareness returning.

He lets James back up into the bed after, and puts an arm around him. “Better?”

James nods, exhausted but bright-eyed. “Yes, Michael.”

“You liked that? Being gagged, being on your knees, with my come all over you?”

“Yes. Can we…may I ask you for that again? Later?”

“Maybe,” Michael tells him, and strokes a hand over his hair. “If you’re good. Are you hungry?”

Ocean-spray eyes contemplate this, thinking even while James tilts his head into Michael’s hand, a tired kitten being petted. Appreciative of the reward. “Starting to be. Room service?”

“I’ll cook for us.” He adds, when James looks startled, “You did notice I could, last night. Tell me what you want, if you have any likes or dislikes or preferences.”

James opens his mouth, eyes sparkling. This is becoming a recognizable sign. Michael interrupts. “Answer the question, first.”

“So I shouldn’t say I’ve an interest in extra-large sausage?”

“Cheeky,” Michael observes, and slaps him for it, lightly but enough to be a reminder, to let James feel the impact across one cheekbone. The freckles go pink, more from the correction than the impact. With bound hands, James can’t easily rub away the sting, but doesn’t even try, only nods. “Sorry, Michael.”

“I don’t mind, but not when I’ve asked you to do something. I expect you to follow orders, James.”

James nods again, eyes a little brighter: tears unshed, transmuted into simple clarity, welcome comprehension. “Yes, Michael. So…breakfast?”

“Breakfast,” Michael agrees, and raises his eyebrows, and waits.

James considers for a moment. “You used most of our bacon last night. Vegetarian omelettes?”

“Are you vegetarian?” He’s never seen that tidbit in any interviews or articles or online trivia. It’s a surprise, though it does fit with the yoga, if not the bacon. He’s also attempting to process the pronoun. James has just said our.

“Oh…no. Not as such.” James shifts weight, flexes shoulders, stretches as best he can. “You should see me on vacation, with my gran’s bacon sandwiches, I can’t resist, and every once in a while I can absolutely devour a good burger, maybe with fried onions on top…but mostly I’d rather have the grilled cheese version. I try to be healthy. And nine times out of ten the vegetarian stuff honestly does sound better. I brought peppers, tomatoes, spinach…three kinds of cheese…I do love cheese, I make a fantastic cheese bread, with cheddar baked in…I used to work in a bakery, you know. I’m excellent in a kitchen.”

Michael, having come to the realization that James talking about food in that lochs-and-sunset accent, or James talking about anything at all for that matter, is essentially porn and consequently triggering bonfires of desire along his spine, interrupts with a hand curled around the nape of that freckled neck, getting James to go quiet and look at him before Michael can embarrass himself. He pets the fine hairs there with his thumb, and thinks determinedly about the lyrics to eighties power ballads and not the image of James in an apron.

In nothing but an apron. Bending over.

“You…I think I’d heard that somewhere…I thought you mostly did confectionery?” Oh, fuck, oh fuck, that’s not something a casual fan’d know, is it? Not that it’s not out there, it’s in James’s Wikipedia entry, for God’s sake, but that means he’s at least read James’s Wikipedia entry—

James cocks an eyebrow at him. “I did everything. In the shop, and at home; someone had to. And I’m good at…doing everything.” Then, while Michael’s brain scrambles frantically for words, “I am best with sweets, though. Molasses gingerbread, apricot tarts, lemon-raspberry cream cakes…I make my own whipped cream, when I’ve got time. Vanilla bean. With taste tests, of course.”

“You—”

“I lick it,” James purrs, eyes all laughing innocence, “off my fingers,” and Michael says “Oh for fuck’s sake,” and grabs his hands before he can demonstrate. And then, just to reassert control, flicks open both nipple clamps, no warning.

James gasps and tries to curl inward as the pain hits, twin swollen peaks no longer numb.

“Shh.” Michael cradles his cheeks, rubs thumbs over rapidly dampening freckles; promises, “You can cry, James, it’s all right,” and James does, though only a little, leaning into his hands.

“You can cook,” he murmurs, hand stroking through dark hair, “so I think I’ll ask you to help me, this morning. You can be my assistant, James. All sweet and innocent and domestic, and underneath your apron you’ll be wearing this—” A tap of his other hand over meaningful plastic; James sobs. “—and wrist cuffs, not fastened, they’d look like a fashion statement, maybe, to anyone looking…but you know, and I know, what they mean, that you belong to me…”

James shivers, breathes out, and rather unexpectedly relaxes into his arms, a sort of abrupt tipping-over into serenity; some combination of words and petting an unanticipated but not unwelcome trigger, then. Michael mentally reviews his phrasing. Something about the intimacy of the scene? About the titillating thrill of letting other people see but not comprehend what they’ve shared? About James belonging to him?

Testing, he wraps fingers around that elegant bared throat, not squeezing, simply letting the possession be a fact. James’s pulse speeds up, but his breathing’s steady; he’s unafraid, and the drowsy heat in those eyes is pure arousal. “I could fuck you in the kitchen,” Michael tells him, “could hold you down across the counter and take you there, and you’d never be able to bake anything again without remembering how it felt, to have me inside you, dripping out of you, while you begged me to use you more…”

James makes a sound that would be a sob if Michael’s hand weren’t heavy on his neck; the thought hangs in the air between them like liquid gold. “Please…”

“Not now.” Release, with a gentle pet along his back, his shoulders: easing him back up. James whimpers, tears returning, unashamed; Michael touches his cheek, his lips, holds him for a minute. So close; if James is this open, emotions and instincts unchecked and right there on the surface, then James isn’t holding back anything anymore. And Michael very much wants to see where James can fly, when pushed over the edge and given permission.

Right now, though, he’s said there’s a plan, and he should therefore carry that plan out. Besides, James will require the energy.

He permits himself one kiss to the top of that head, lips pressed into dark hair; the tears fade into a kind of quizzical calm acceptance of affection, curious but awaiting Michael’s explanation or lack thereof, submission at a voluntary and profound level.

“I said breakfast. And I’m not going to distract you around the stovetop. Not because I don’t want you. Because it’s dangerous. And I did give you an order, James.”

A lip-lick, a head-tilt. “To help you? I can do that. Ah…I didn’t…I do have a question.”

“Ask.”

“I assume you don’t want me to cook naked, but…I only brought, um, jeans.” With an eloquent glance down at shining plastic, tight around vulnerable flesh. “I don’t know…”

Michael raises eyebrows. “You were planning to sleep naked?”

“Not exactly? I thought, if it worked out with you, then…and if it didn’t I’d sleep in, ah, briefs, and turn up the heat…”

“Hmm.” He leaves James on the bed, hops to his feet, rifles through his bag. James may be smaller overall than he is, but Michael’s slimmer in proportion, and James has those lovely long legs, nearly the same length as Michael’s and hence so enticing for his otherwise miniature-Ganymede size. Besides, this pair of pyjama pants is silk and elastic; should be close enough. “Here.”

“…so I’m wearing your clothes.” James plucks them neatly out of the air with bound hands when Michael tosses them over, and grins. “Yes. Michael.”

“Yes,” Michael says back, and grins as well while James works to pull on the pants. James, naked and bound and marked with cane and hands and paddle, wearing his clothes. It’s a shame to have to unlink the cuffs at all, to reduce the level of binding—but there’ll be time for playing with greater restraints later. For now, for safety’s sake in the kitchen with sharp objects or hot cookware or food, James will have to be able to move freely.

They work together, in that kitchen, amazingly smoothly. Or perhaps it’s not that amazing; they’ve spent an evening and a morning getting into sync, learning bodies and rhythms, and James hasn’t lost the grace of following the odd command, when Michael sends him to get eggs or black pepper or milk. But the kitchenette’s miniscule and unfamiliar; he’d have expected them to trip over each other at least once along the way, though hopefully with a laugh.

They don’t. They cook together as if they’ve been doing it for years. James chops peppers in exactly the right amount and comes over precisely when Michael’s ready for them; Michael curls a hand around the nape of his neck in appreciation and hands him a tomato, and James flushes with happiness at the praise and steals a corner of the stove to flip golden-brown pancakes that come out lighter than air. The entire hotel suite fills up with the aromas of domesticity, sizzling eggs and onions and melted cheese and a dusting of powdered sugar and strawberries. And James looks up at him, nibbling a piece of strawberry from sugar-flecked fingers, and smiles.

“I told you about me. Where’d you learn?”

“My father’s a chef.” After brief mental waffling: “My parents run an inn, back in Ireland. Bed and breakfast, upscale but still sort of traditional, they wanted it to feel like coming home.” And that’s more than he’s ever told any other client. Personal detail. Irrelevant. Except for how much he wants it to be relevant. Wants James to know him, to see him, Michael, not the Dominant with the cane, or not only that, anyway.

James licks sugar from his thumb. Michael wishes the wrist cuffs were still linked, pinning his wrists together in unequivocal submission; but they’re gorgeous separated as well, soft-lined leather decorating expressive arms. The overhead light pools around them on his skin. “They sound lovely.”

“They are.” He stops, realizing; and wants, futilely, to apologize. It’s not as if the apology’s necessary—he can’t go back and trade his emerald-hued childhood for James’s parentless one, after all—but he should’ve thought.

“Maybe I could visit.” James eats another strawberry, contemplative and undisturbed by the tactlessness. “Would they mind?”

“Would they—no. Not at all. They’d adore you.” His parents have had quite a few celebrity guests over the years—Michael’d sent Ian their way at one point, and then just sat back and watched—and they know how to offer privacy when requested. They also have an unhealthy interest in his love life—the parts they know about—and though they’d refrain from interrogating James if Michael brought him home, Michael himself is always fair game.

“Wish I could say the same, but Gran’d probably refuse to let you in the door without two background checks and some sort of bribe.” James looks up, eyes dancing. “She likes good scotch, just so you know.”

“You’d…want me to…”

“Not necessarily. I love and admire my grandmother, don’t get me wrong, she was fantastic, taking us in when—but she’d likely scare you away for life.” And sapphire eyes slide briefly to the food, sitting forlornly on the counter; one hand pats the rim of a plate, as if in offering comfort to the hotel china James can find it for himself. “I sort of like having you in my life. I mean. That sounds terrifyingly codependent, doesn’t it. I just…you, and this…I like thinking that you’d be here if I called. Not just this weekend. I don’t know. I like cooking with you.”

Michael reaches over and collects that fretful hand into his. Says, “Any time you want to call, and I like cooking with you too,” quietly because he can’t quite believe it, and James nods.

Too much wistfulness shadows those eyes, though. Michael needs to banish it, as much as he can in the day and night and morning they’ve got left. He’s worked out, given that last lonely little insight, what James needs from him. It’d been that phrasing after all, earlier. About belonging, being wanted, having someone to belong to. Someone who’ll catch him when James needs to fall apart, and who can push him until no doubt remains, all questions swept away in the intensity of sensation. Sensation that Michael can give him. Hands, a cane, restraints, and command, and James knowing his place, where Michael wants him to be.

There’s love in there, of course. Inextricable now. James isn’t like any other client, not ever; James challenges him and makes him laugh and makes him smile and can keep up with him in every single way and even pushes him to be better, to learn all those new and intricate responses, to run ahead with blue eyes at his side.

So. Ahead, then. He turns his hand, slides it to James’s cuffed wrist, squeezes. James looks up at him, endless desire caught in the moment.

“Bring the plates.” Michael walks over to the dining area table. James lifts an eyebrow, and the question’s very loud—I’m not being your furniture this time?—but unspoken. Good.

He pulls out his own chair without ordering James to do the same; blue eyes waver, unsure. Again: good. He nods at the sofa. “Cushion. Here.”

It takes a second, but the blue lights up once more, and James comes back looking very nearly amused, cushion held in one hand. “If you’re still worried about my—”

Yes, but he’s not going to say so. “I’m making a point. Strip. Knees. Next to me.”

James’s expression's absolutely wonderful, tangled arousal and embarrassment mingling with just a hint of indulgence, as if he’s humoring Michael’s need to care for him. He thumbs the waist of the pyjama pants, pushes them down until they fall, then steps out and kneels on the cushion. Michael puts a hand on his head; James leans against his leg and gets comfortable on the cushion, kneeling, reconciled. “Are we having me eat down here, then?”

“Do you want to?”

“I’m…not sure.” A pause, but not a withdrawal; Michael lets him toy with the idea. “I think…I like being on my knees for you, Michael. I don’t know about eating breakfast down here while you eat up there. Different. Not as good. Not sure why, though.” A lift-and-drop shrug, a flicker of eyes down and away: the sharp-fanged flash of self-perceived failure, surfacing abruptly from the depths.

Michael twines fingers into exuberant hair; gets James to look back up. James seems comforted by the forcefulness of the grip. “I asked. You answered. And I do know why. We said it yesterday.” He tugs, enough to elicit a gasp; those eyes go dark with instant arousal, with hesitant hopeful belief in the reassurance. “You like serving me, James. Being useful. Being used.”

But it’s what they haven’t discussed, although they both recognize it as a need: equality, the certainty that both expectations and desires can be met and fulfilled on matching sides of the equation. Michael tugs again. “Submission, serving, doesn’t equal subservience.”

He waits; James needs a second, processing. And then smiles.

Michael could, and has, given the latter to clients, of course. The ones who want that experience, who crave it. He's not one to judge; pleasure comes in multitudinous forms, and he likes providing it. For himself, however, that’s never been what he’s sought from non-client partners. He loves the power of Dominance—but he loves the thrill of knowing down in his bones that it’s a shared power, a mutual exchange: he has control because his partner’s chosen to give it over, and his partner’s his equal in every conceivable way.

James is his equal. And he could make James kneel and eat on the floor at his feet, even as James flinches from the idea; but he doesn’t want James to be, to feel, lower than himself. He wants James to be an active partner, if James desires to be. Wants James to feel that equality as well.

He hopes he’s read this—read James—correctly. Hopes that James wants the same.

He loops a stray curl of dark hair around a finger. Reinforcement. “Say it.”

“What—oh.” A swallow, another lip-lick, unguarded excited nervous relief. Michael understands; James plainly likes the idea that Michael does understand. “Yes, Michael. That’s why, then.”

“Why what?”

“Why I can’t—why it feels different. Serving you on my knees, or being there because you’ve asked, instead of—being fed there, with a plate on the floor, as if I were…beneath you. As if you thought—I would if you did ask, but…”

“You’d not enjoy it.” He skims a finger over the closest cheek. James opens his mouth, pauses, but rearranges words and tries again without needing a reminder. “More complicated than that, sir—oh, that’s more or less the same point, isn’t it, I really can see why you'd rather I use your name, I swear—I think I’d…enjoy the part of it that was you asking, doing it because you asked…but the actual act…I’d feel as if I were being pushed away, being punished, honestly. That you didn’t want me beside you.”

“I always want you beside me.” The always is involuntary, slipping out before he can call it back; from the way blue eyes dance, though, he’s glad the word’s out in the open. “Say it one more time, though. So I know you know.”

“Submission,” James says promptly, eyes sparkling, “serving you—what I want—isn’t the same as subservience. Michael.”

Michael grins. The morning sunlight gets more vividly gold. The whole world’s flawless. Himself, and those words in that Highland-tartan voice, and his long fingers cradling James’s face.

“Yes,” he says, because he can. “Good. Very good, James. You’re a wonderful submissive. And I’d like you to serve me now.”

James makes an absolutely delicious sound, somewhere between a shocked inhale and a moan of desire, and quivers under his hand. And those lips shape an inaudible yes.

Michael grins more widely. Displays all those teeth at him. Knows that James is imagining each one on fragile skin. “Stand up.”

James does, a little weakly.

“Bring over the orange juice.”

James blinks, shakes himself slightly, does as instructed.

“Stay there. Until I ask for something else.”

Getting it, now; excitement rises behind the blue, leaping behind the waves, though what James actually says, teasing more playful than resistant, is, “I’m your ancient Greek cup-bearer, then?” Then, only a little too smug about it, poses perfectly beside him.

Michael says nothing, only tilts his head at the strawberries; James picks one up with amusement glittering in those eyes, though that emotion falters all at once when he holds the berry to Michael’s lips: it’s becoming too real.

Michael leans over and closes his mouth around the red sweetness, firm and leisurely; pulls freckled fingers into his mouth and sucks all the lingering juices from them; bites down, leaving imprints of teeth on warm skin. James catches his breath.

Michael lets him go, measured release. Says, simply, “Yes.” James nods, trembling.

Michael smiles. Slides a hand over a bare hip, proprietary as James stands there beside him. Lower. Kneads the curves of that round arse, where the heat’s faded but the bruises linger, a fraction of their former selves. He considers for a moment, then brings his hand down, sharply. The crack of it echoes; James breathes in, regains balance, doesn’t flinch, so Michael does it twice more, watching as the trapped cock tries to stir and rise beneath its cage, as a hint of wetness starts to shine in dark eyes.

James doesn’t ask him to stop, but he does, and snakes an arm around that waist to pull James closer. “If you’re wondering why, it’s because I like you this way. Wearing my marks. Feeling them. Feeling me. And so do you.”

A smile, through the tears. And James meets his eyes and feeds him another strawberry.

Michael establishes the rhythm smoothly after that; after every mouthful, he sucks fingers clean of crumb and oil, adds indentations of sharp teeth around tremulous fingers; after every other mouthful, he spanks James, hard or soft depending on nothing more than his whim; chews and swallows while James’s shaky hands bring another morsel to his mouth; and then said hands tease a powdered sugar fingertip along his lips, coaxing them open for the next bite.

The omelettes, when Michael remembers them, are firm and colorful with the wilted green of the spinach, the yellow and orange cheeses, the red of tomatoes and the pale transparencies of onion; they're speckled with pepper and paprika and seasonings, a delicate melding of flavors and textures. The delicious scent rises with a touch of steam as he cuts into the folds. Together, he and James have made a delightful meal, and it seems only appropriate to pull James onto his thigh to share a plate.

James is heavier than he looks; he’s compact, sturdy and strong and broad-shouldered for his height, but he’s no burden at all, and he only raises his eyebrows as Michael drags him down, keeping his hands to himself without orders otherwise. Tender buttocks settle gingerly on denim; James bites his lips and tries not to squirm. Michael pushes pliant legs wide apart on either side of his long thigh, and finds it an irresistible impulse to wrap his arm around James and scratch lightly at the insides of his sensitive thighs, to trace long fingers upward to tease swollen, red nipples, to tap his fingers just so: ptok, ptok, ptok, slow and steady on the plastic of James’s cock cage to make him shiver and gasp and grind his sore arse down, only to wince and fall still until Michael does it again.

James quivers. He presses into Michael’s arm, breath stuttering, but he obediently opens his mouth when Michael places a fork to his lips, and he keeps his eyes open as well, fixed on Michael’s, long eyelashes slowly lowering as the meal goes on. The pancakes have cooled somewhat by the time Michael and James get to them, yellow butter melted and amber syrup pooled; but once James slices into the top layer, curls of steam waft lazily upward before evaporating. They each have a fork this time, pancakes being what they are, and the last cake on the bottom of the stack remains almost as warm as when it left the pan.

Eventually nothing remains but a few strawberries, and contented warmth in Michael’s belly, along with the stronger heat between his legs. “Waste not, want not,” James murmurs, and, leaning forward for the little saucer of powdered berries, grinds his groin against Michael’s thigh and sucks in a breath, cheeks flushed and mouth wet where he can’t seem to stop licking. Michael wraps his arm more firmly around James, jostles his leg so that James’s arse rubs roughly across the fabric, and isn’t surprised when James leans back into him, head turning to brush soft lips against his temple, before he offers one of the strawberries, eyes ink-dark and intent and deep as old wells, unplumbed and depthless.

Michael finds his taste buds far more tempted by James’s overly sweet fingers, licking the inherent salt of his skin from fingertips coated with sugar, fruit juices trickling along the creases of his knuckles, the webbing between digits. And when Michael takes a long, final pull of his orange juice, tipping his head back with the last of it, James watches him, his own tongue flickering along his hand, his fingers, the tips of his nails. A bit of powdered sugar clings to his cheek near his mouth, and the stubble that had only begun to emerge the previous night glints brighter now, catching the morning sun.

That reminds Michael of what he wants to do next; and so once the plates are empty, he takes firm hold of James’s waist and stands up, slides James to his feet at the same time. Blue eyes blink and slowly grow more alert. Michael uses the tip of his middle finger to wipe away the smear of powdered sugar, sucks it clean with eyes half-lidded, watching James watch his mouth, mesmerized, those red lips parting in unconscious mimicry. Michael drags his finger free at last, the weight of it pulling at his bottom lip; James’s cheeks catch on fire. Smirking, Michael draws his shoulders back and cocks his head; he wraps his dominance around himself like a cloak, and James responds in kind, humor and lightness receding behind widening, anticipatory eyes.

“I left the dishes from supper to soak overnight. Wash those, and set the ones from breakfast to soak until later. Then meet me in the lavatory.”

“Yes, Michael.” James goes. Michael picks up pyjama pants and sofa cushion, puts the one back in place, and tucks the other back into his bag.

He heads into the lavatory, bringing in the tools he’ll need next: a strop, a straight razor, shaving cream, aftershave lotion. And while he waits for James, whose puttering in the kitchen he can discern by the clatter and clank of china and cutlery, he strips out of his shirt and sticks his hand down his pants to give himself a few long, rough tugs. He’d been hard all through breakfast, James’s burning arse and drowning eyes enough to drive him wild; the little noises James made despite himself, the tiny whimpers and under-the-breath moans as he rubbed himself on Michael’s leg, teasing himself and Michael at the same time; the gasps when Michael played with his sore nipples, tormented his imprisoned cock; and when they’re done in here, Michael will again take full advantage of James’s wide and mobile mouth, his hot tongue and lack of a gag reflex.

It doesn’t take too long before James trots in, eyes brighter now, hands loose at his sides and with a certain spring in his step. “Michael,” he says, and Michael nearly has to cup himself as his cock jumps. Just the sound of James’s voice, low and eager, nearly sends him over—he stifles a laugh at the absurd memory arising: on certain of those fan sites, a repeated sentiment announces that James could read the phone book, and people would pay to hear it. The distraction allows Michael to get control of himself. Although, now that he’s listened to that thistledown voice up close and in person, he might agree with those fans.

He lets a little ice coat his next words, “I’m not keen on beard burn,” while James’s eyes catalogue the items by the sink. “Hop up on the counter.”

James nods, then steps up close, sets one hand on the countertop and boosts himself up easily, with a fine ripple of muscle in his forearm. Michael stifles an admiring smile. He steps in between James’s legs, pushes sturdy thighs wider apart while blue eyes gaze up at him from under lashes, warm and bright.

“If I were a certain kind of Dom,” Michael murmurs, trailing his fingers along the light scattering of hairs on James’s chest, drifting down to the wirier curls of his groin, “I’d strip you of all of this, too.” He smirks into slightly alarmed eyes. “It wouldn’t be permanent, after all, and I can tell you,” James’s chest rises and falls faster, “that there’s a definite appeal to smooth, soft skin sometimes.” Michael noses into James’s ear, breathes into it and licks at the back of the shell. “And although I’ve never done it myself, for those who care for it, there’s a certain sense of the forbidden, a thrill to being so totally, completely naked. Exposed. Vulnerable.”

James groans, clutches at his arms, head falling forward with a thunk onto Michael’s shoulder. “Sir—sorry, sorry, Michael, that was just—reaction—you’re killing me. Entirely.”

Michael laughs out loud. “Maybe that’s something we can try later. Not killing you. I mean the first part. Leaving you smooth and naked under your clothes, because I want you that way, for me.” James narrows his eyes at him. “But for now,” and the laughter fades. “Still trust me?”

The hands on his arms tighten, while the blue gaze warms. “Michael,” James says. “Yes.”

Michael swallows, because he has done this before, but not with this man. Not with James, who, like others before him, is trusting himself to Michael’s hands, but whose life Michael wants to be a part of like no one else before.

And so, when he tilts James’s head back, when he strokes gently along cheeks and jaws and throat to learn the grain of his skin, the direction the astonishing ginger hairs grow, he breathes in and holds it for a four count before releasing it; does it again and once more, until his nerves are steady and his hands sure. Then he begins.

A bit of steam first—and James sits patiently, face tilted back and covered by a white hand towel, heated and wet to open his pores. He’s upright, shoulders wide, still save for the rise and fall of his breathing, open-mouthed and slow through the towel. A sense of peace wells up, filling the small room while they wait. Michael gently strokes expanding and contracting ribs; he leans down and takes first one puffy, reddened nipple and then the other between his lips, sucking at the hardening nubs, biting down lightly until James makes a desperate sound in his throat, and the muscles of his thighs flex.

“Eyes shut,” Michael says, pulling away the cloth. He shapes shaving cream in his palms, gets them good and wet, then applies it fingerful by fingerful to James’s face, rubs it in from where the sideburns begin, then forward with small circular motions, coating every inch of skin, careful not to miss anywhere. James breathes slowly, steadily through his nose, eyes moving about under closed eyelids, eyelashes dark crescents against pale skin.

Once James’s face is deep with foam, Michael picks up the razor. “You can open them.” Blinking against the restored light, James’s eyes instantly swing to his moving hand. “Don’t move,” Michael says, very firmly. He sharpens the blade on the strop, a steady whiskwhiskwhisk of bright steel on leather. James swallows, switches his gaze from the razor to Michael’s face. His fingers on the countertop tense, but no more than that, and something—some gleaming brilliance—shines in the backs of his eyes.

Michael doesn’t swallow—doesn’t evince any outward sign of his own taut nerves—and when he sees that piercing light in James’s eyes, those nerves fall aside, and the sense of peace he’d felt earlier returns. It’s not only peace; anticipation rides its edge, and Michael realizes he doesn’t have to worry about anything. He’s good at this; very good, the best, and James trusts him with good reason, because Michael will never, never hurt him.

And so he doesn’t. The sharp edge of the razor glides over James’s skin as if it were silk, and Michael draws it carefully, slowly across the plain of his cheek: to the edge of sideburns to leave an exact straight cut, to the curve of that gorgeous jawline; he scrapes lightly, delicately above and below red lips pressed tightly together above the strong chin; over the arched throat where stubble clings to that slim column, where a slip of the blade could bring pain or maiming or even death; but Michael doesn’t slip.

James breathes quietly under Michael’s steady hand; his throat moves in a gentle rhythm with his respiration; his Adam’s apple bobs once. Michael feels tiny puffs of air, his own face almost near enough to touch James’s. Intent on his work, he still notes how James’ breathing quickens; a few glances downward confirm that after five minutes of extremely close shaving, James’s knuckles have paled from his tightened grip on the counter’s edge, and his cock has darkened even further; even through the cage, he’s managed a drop or two of pre-come.

By that time, Michael’s done. He cleans the razor. Puts it and the strop into their case, along with the shaving cream. James’s pupils have expanded out so far his irises have become mere crystalline rims, sea-and-sky event horizons around endless, hungry night.

Michael re-wets the towel, gently cleans James’s face, pats it dry, then applies the lotion, marveling at the feel of silk and cream under his fingertips. He brushes his lips over James’s and after a moment, James responds, a drugged and uncoordinated lift of his arm. His fingers clumsily stroke Michael’s jaw, pull him closer, his eyes closing as their lips press together.

It is—James is— “Perfection,” Michael breathes, and allows, for a moment, their foreheads to press warmly together.

He steps back then, letting James’s arm drift down across his thigh, palm upturned while the dark gaze follows Michael, slow-blinking and dreamy. “James,” Michael says, loving the feel of the name in his mouth. “Come with me.”

James slips off of the countertop, bare feet smacking lightly on cool tiles. Michael observes him closely to see if he’s off-balance or unable to stand, but James only waits there, looking at him, steady and quiet and calm and expectant; his eyes shine like stars. Michael swallows, then turns sharply to head back to the bedroom, tries to ignore the way his trousers feel entirely too tight; how his skin tingles, how the short hairs all along his arms, the back of his neck, seem to want to stand erect. His whole body’s alight, feverish with want. For James. Who drifts in after him, silent steps over lush carpet.

A quick reach into Michael’s re-packed bag draws out a scarlet length of silk; he drapes it over his hand as he turns back to James, as he points to the floor at the foot of the bed. James doesn’t hesitate. He lowers himself to his knees, head tilted up and eying Michael’s tented groin; his pink, wet tongue slicks his lips.

“Good,” Michael says, firm-voiced. James’s wrists are still cuffed, so Michael pulls them behind him, checks quickly to ensure they’re secure and haven’t abraded skin or restricted blood flow. The tiny lock clinks against the buckle when Michael re-links them. James—briefly—tugs against the confinement before subsiding, sinking onto his heels and sighing.

He does smile very slightly, eyebrow tilting up, when Michael tucks a tiny rubber ball into his fingers. “Safeword? Er. Safe…ball. You know what I mean. Am I not allowed to talk, then? Even with no hand gestures?”

“You won’t be able to.” Michael holds his gaze. “If you drop the ball, we stop. Understand?”

James considers this. “Yes, Michael.” The smile grows. “I like the way you think.”

“Oh,” Michael says, “I know,” and James breathes out, amused, aroused, dropping back under as Michael skims a finger across his lips, along his throat. Where James’s pulse beats swift and steady and committed.

His arse is well-marked with red and pink splotches; and Michael allows himself to smack the ripe globes a time or three, sharp and fast, has to control his own breathing when James gasps and snaps his head up. It’s the perfect position for what comes next—and James doesn’t disappoint, freezing in place when the smooth silk falls over his eyes, when Michael carefully wraps it and ties a knot at the back of James’s head, trying not to catch James’s own chestnut silky hair—even so, a few strands work into the knot, making James jerk before he stills himself, hands still placid and loosely curled in the cuffs.

“How’s it feel?” Michael watches James’s face, traces a finger along the edges of the blindfold while James tilts his head, considering, flicks that pink tongue to wet his lips.

Then that thistledown voice grinds down to Scottish bedrock, deep and dark and unused in the light of day. “Good.” James swallows convulsively while his hips buck forward sharply, once, before he nods, nods again. “It’s really—it’s very good, Michael.” And he twists his head fast, angles upward to catch Michael’s hand, his fingers in James’s mouth—and bites down lightly to hold them in place, sucks hard until his cheeks hollow out. “It’s never been this good before,” he finally frees Michael in order to say. James sounds puzzled, surprised, amazed. His tongue flicks along his teeth, flirts with his upper lip. After a moment, he smiles, broad and happy.

Michael can’t stop himself now, because it’s too much to take, too much joy to absorb without acting—because it’s him who’s doing this for James, who’s giving James what he’s never had before—and will never go without again, not if Michael has anything to say about it—so he kneels down and kisses James, takes his mouth. He grabs James’s shoulders and pushes him backward, guides him down until he’s folded back over his own legs. Michael rests all of his weight on James, sucks on his tongue and denies him breath until Michael has to gasp for it himself.

Beneath him, held tight and confined, not even trying to resist, James inhales and exhales loudly, mouth wide and wet and so perfect that Michael won’t wait any longer; he moves up James’s body, straddles his shoulders, takes his cock in hand and plunges into that hot entrance, never mind the stifled squawk or the scrape of teeth, quickly covered, never mind James’s first startled struggle. Then James’s lips close, his tongue lashes and curls—he sucks and whimpers and grunts around Michael’s shaft.

The silk of the blindfold grows dark with his tears; he breathes hard through his nose while Michael thrusts and pulls back, hips pistoning without regard for bruises or pain; it’s what they’re here for, what James needs and Michael wants, and so long as James is willing to take it, Michael intends to have him, as brutally as needed.

He waits until he’s close, until James’s working mouth grows slack, worn out, his tongue slowing in its frantic assault on Michael’s cock. James’s flushed face darkens further with the need for air, his freckles vanished or turned to ink spatters against the harsh backdrop. Michael’s heart beats double-time in his breast; fire surges in his blood; his cock feels like iron, molten and ready to burst; and so he reaches down and carefully pinches James’s nostrils shut.

And then waits, still thrusting, still pounding into defenseless flesh, the tight, hot tunnel of James’s throat, brushing the uvula with every stroke. He feels the edges of teeth as James tires; not able to keep his lips wrapped around them; and Michael’s balls slam near-painfully into James’s chin and lips, so deep has he gone.

James starts struggling. His body heaves below Michael, shaking him; his spine arches and he groans, a panicked instinctive husk through the scant margin of space in his stuffed throat. Michael pants in his own shallow rhythm, and reaching down, slaps James hard on the cheek. James jerks beneath him; Michael knows what he must be feeling, knows the quivering immanence of it: James’s lungs will be screaming, his head light and dizzy, the lack of oxygen intensifying every other sensation, incandescently alive on the edge of the dark.

Total submission, even the air he breathes under Michael’s control. Pain and pleasure and the delirious liberating rush of overwhelming capitulation.

James doesn’t let go of the last-recourse rubber ball. No safeword.

The protests, the motions begin to slow. Might be simple acquiescence, James far enough under to’ve resigned even the subconscious struggle; might not be, though, and it’s been over half a minute, thirty-six, thirty-seven, and the physical demands can’t be helping.

He snaps fingers across James’s cheek again, testing. Gets a small whimper, a flutter of muscles in that throat. Okay. Still here. But too close; they’ll need to finish this now, which isn’t going to be a hardship, considering how ready his cock is for release.

“Still… with… me?” he gets out, one word per thrust, and watches James’s face with eagle eyes. The slightest sign that James can’t hear him, can’t listen and comprehend, and Michael will stop everything. Instantly. “James?” He stills himself, balls-deep and fingers still closing off James’s air. It’s been less than a minute.

“Suck if you can hear me,” Michael orders. Cold fear races along his nerves, and he catches his breath, preparing to jerk free, to release that grip, to stop everything.

But a tentative lick stops him; James’s throat tightens, and his lips whiten with pressure around Michael’s cock; a rough choke of a sound forces its way free.

“Good,” Michael pants, vastly relieved. “Good, you’re wonderful, James, you’re—”

And he lets himself come, buried to the hilt down James’s working, airless throat.

James has to swallow, can’t do anything else, and the desperate motions of that throat closing around him draw Michael’s orgasm out even further, a prolonged far-flung arch of ecstasy like he’s never felt. Himself, coming deep inside James, making James take it; and James is taking it, wants to take him, the way no one ever has, not ever; only James has made him feel this way…

James’s struggles have all but ceased, tiny movements still instinctive but more languid, a combination of pure elemental concession to whatever Michael demands of him and the encroaching onset of asphyxia. Michael holds him on that knife’s edge until the last possible second, every ounce of professional expertise coming into play to time it precisely right; then pulls back, hand lifting away, spent cock slipping out to rest over parted lips.

James lies utterly limp beneath him, breathing in small shredded gasps. He moans softly when Michael touches his face. Wetness—Michael’s come, saliva, messiness—smears his lips, his chin; Michael wraps a hand around the base of his cock, exhausted now but still semi-hard and sticky, and rubs himself over James’s cheek, nose, chin, throat, leaving all that newly-shaven skin filthy with it. James whimpers faintly, and tries to lick at him, uncoordinated and hazy as a kitten.

Michael considers briefly—James isn’t protesting, likely can’t at this point, but that folded-leg position can’t be easy on a once-torn tendon—and slides to his feet. He’s suddenly glad he’s left James blindfolded, because James does not need to see his Dominant wobble like a newborn colt in the aftermath of one of the best orgasms of his life, and it’s only one of the best because he’s already gotten to fuck James once, and that first time will be forever etched into his bones. He gets breath and balance back, and only then lifts James to a proper kneeling-up pose, and slips fingers into the knot of the soaked and so-useful blindfold.

James yields thoroughly in his hands, no resistance at all, head falling forward as if too heavy to hold up. He only manages to remain on his knees, Michael suspects, because Michael’s put him there: obedient, despite the crashing intensity of sensation.

He cradles James’s head in both hands. “Look at me.”

James’s eyelashes flutter for a second, then lift. The blue-black hue shines vivid and piercing as a winter-night sky: starlight and hushed serenity and the tingle of secret joy.

He doesn’t ask aloud whether James is all right. The answer’s yes. James smiles, not a large smile, only a soft upward curl of that eloquent well-used mouth.

“You were incredible,” Michael tells him, because he was, he is, “you are, you’re so good, James, giving me everything, all of you, being mine, the way you need to be, the way I want you to be.” James gasps as the words sink home, so Michael presses a long thumb over those lips, exerts force until James opens up and takes him in, nibbling, licking, mouthing mindlessly at this new invasion.

“Mine,” Michael says again, “always, James, from now on you belong to me, and I’ll take care of you, I promise.” He’s saying I love you. He wonders whether James will hear it that way too, and maybe James does, or maybe that promise, that certainty of belonging, is enough on its own; either way, James trembles everywhere and breathes in once, a small helpless sound, and that’s the last push they’ve needed, right there, tipping him over the edge.

James at the deepest level of subspace, Michael discovers delightedly, is sweet and compliant and trusting and rather surprisingly quiet—Michael takes note of this; he’ll have to watch closely, if James can’t speak up—and very, very tactile: James likes to touch and to be touched, as evidenced by the way he leans into Michael’s leg and rubs a cheek against Michael’s thigh. Michael strokes his hair; James sighs a little, and leans more weight on him. Then decides it’d be a good idea to kiss the inside of Michael’s knee, and calf, and, with what's likely yoga-related agility, ankle.

“Hmm.” Michael tugs him back upright; James gazes at him without argument, and runs his tongue over parted lips, breathing swift but steady, awaiting command or sensation or further use, anything Michael requires of him. His cock throbs beneath the plastic confinement, flushed and—Michael’s eyebrows go up—dripping, actually leaking through the open slit and leaving a spot or two on the opulent carpet.

He says, “Messy, James, and I thought we agreed you’d wait for permission.” He’s not sure James did come, or not exactly; he knows precisely how cruel this particular restraint can be and it’d be practically superhuman if James did manage it, but the words matter less than the tone at this point, as far as what James might actually process.

James looks up at him with far-off ecstatic eyes, hearing him from someplace shimmering and incandescent; and Michael reaches down and flicks fingers against that trapped and liquid tip, and James cries out softly, hips jerking with reaction.

His fingers come away wet. He holds them to willing lips. “Lick.” And James does, delicate and devout, cleaning his own desire from Michael’s skin.

James wants to be used, wants to feel more, to feel everything; well, they can most certainly do that, Michael decides. Everything, everywhere; and so, more exquisite torment, extending the need and the denial.

He pulls James to his feet, checks without bothering to be unobtrusive—James won’t notice—how easily that knee takes weight, determines that it’s fine for now, and pushes James face-down over the bed. James only sighs and rocks hips into the mattress, chasing the pain and the pleasure of it; Michael runs hands over him, continuous gentle pets from shoulder to flank to thigh, until he quiets.

“So lovely,” Michael tells him, words a comfort along with the hands, another anchor amid the waves of bliss, a string tethering kite to ground. “You, like this, letting me see this…thank you, James.” And James murmurs something that’s not a word and tries to lift a hand, forgetting that his wrists’re bound; he stops moving the instant the cuffs remind him, and settles.

Michael smiles. Reaches out in turn, and wraps his own hand around those seeking fingers. When he does, any last lingering tension in James’s body fades away.

He treats reddened skin and sore spots with care, rubs fingers over that glowing backside, heated by the imprints of his own hand. Kneads, massages to loosen already languid muscles; the pressure will deepen the hurt even while alleviating some of the stress. James moans into the bed, sound captured and sealed away by the protective sheets. Bound hands rest at the small of his back, contentedly poised on the brink of greater intensity, further use, inundations of splendor. Michael grins, and leans down and bites, sinking his teeth into the delectable swell, just because he can.

James groans, shuddering from head to toe; he collapses into the bed, motionless except for audible ragged pants of air. Michael kisses the new mark, laves it with tongue and warmth, until James whimpers, hips lifting a fraction and falling. “Shh,” Michael says, and kisses him again, tongue drifting lower, licking at him; fingers tug his thighs and the hot curves of his arse apart, spreading him wide, inexorably revealed. James’s hole twitches, clenches as it’s exposed; it’s dark pink and considerably less puffy than it had been, mostly returned to its former tightness. Michael’s only fucked him once, but brutally so, and in order to allow the pummeled entrance to recover, has rather neglected this part of him until now. He intends to remedy that inattention.

He drags his tongue along soft skin, tasting heat and a hint of shower-soap and clean sweat and the secret scent of James here in this most intimate of spaces; when he swipes his tongue across that hole, James quivers; when he begins to lick in earnest, James moans.

He opens James up with his tongue, with his fingers, sliding in; he twists and strokes and makes James wet, slick with it, hand wet as well, busy pushing in and stretching James wide. James lets out endless inarticulate cries and sobs and gasps, hands curling and tensing as Michael finds that spot and works it mercilessly, making him writhe amid the sheets. Wetness stains the bed below James’s cock; Michael grabs James’s legs and forces them forward, pushes James’s hips up until he can’t find any friction, nothing to rut against while Michael teases him. James cries in earnest from the onslaught of euphoria and the denial of release, but remains acquiescent and supple under Michael’s hands, lost in it now, no awareness remaining, only instinctive intuitive response.

Wet enough, open enough, and Michael pulls himself away even though he could keep James like this all day, and no matter how tired his own lips and tongue got, it’d be worth all the soreness—and dives for his bag while James whimpers at the cessation of touch, and runs back with his chosen toys. Two of them.

This particular plug he’s picked up is sleek and black and silicone. It’s short and thick, but more or less plain, no elaborate jewelry or embellishments around the end. James doesn’t need the enhancement. James is marvelous.

Michael’s brought lube even though James remains wet from his mouth, tight opening widened by fingers and tongue; but it never hurts to be careful. He coats the plug thoroughly, plies James’s hole with three slicked fingers until he’s confident nothing can catch, can scrape or tear. When he finally presses the tip in, James sighs and pushes back, face half-obscured by sheets, the one visible eye going softer, less focused, falling into euphoric dreams. Michael pauses to drop a kiss on the bite over a shoulder-blade; James lies quiescent and trusting beneath him, and he slides the length home, relishes the sudden pop as the shaft sinks in and muscles tighten reflexively around the slimmer notch before the outward flare.

It’s long enough—he’s chosen carefully—to just brush that electric bundle of nerves but not rub over it; he watches James realize this gradually, trying to move and shift and work it deeper, whining low in his throat when he discovers he can’t. The whines fade into small sobs after a moment, then dissolve entirely: acceptance, as James closes the eye and goes still but for intermittent miniscule tremors.

“Beautiful,” Michael tells him, and strokes a hand over his hip, squeezes the curve of his lifted arse. The heat’s fading; he’ll have to do something about that. “You’ll wear this for a while. To make you ready for me, later. I intend to fuck you tonight, James. Like this, on your knees, your arse in the air, begging me for it…so sweet, the way you ask. You know you need that. You need to be used.” He leans down, whispers into one shell-pink ear, “And I plan to use you. To keep you, and have you how and when I want you, and you’ll love every second of it, won’t you? Because you’re mine. My submissive, James.”

James breathes out, “Yes,” and Michael’s heart sings with it. The room, the wrinkled sheets and the pale gold-striped walls, the stoic chairs and tables, all echo the word.

Even now, James can surprise him; he’d thought they’d gotten those drowsy sapphire eyes deep enough to be nonverbal, but then he really shouldn’t be surprised, because everything about James is a surprise, and a brilliant one. And the affirmation still swirls in the air.

He touches a finger to those eloquent lips. Squeezes, with the other hand, again. “More? Harder?”

“Yes, Michael…” James’s voice comes through a throat worn ragged with harsh use, and he sounds, not precisely sleepy, but far away. Adrift, perhaps, immersed in the radiance. Michael’s been on the receiving end of another professional’s attentions twice—as a responsible Dom, he’d thought he ought to try, to know how his submissives might feel; he’d gotten off both times, satisfyingly so, but he’d also re-confirmed his own needs; he’ll never know what real subspace feels like, or become lost in those numinous infinite heights. He’s seen it, though, has years of experience to draw on. He's seeing James there now.

Dominating, controlling, owning a partner willing to take on that equal and opposite aspect of being owned, controlled, submissive in their shared private space; that’s its own kind of rush, icy and burning at once. It’s exhilarating that Michael can do this to James, for James, can hold him safe through the pleasure and pain and bring him out the other side, treasured and cherished and loved. Mastering himself as well as James, maintaining discipline while playing with fire, walking skillful lines between the good kind of collapse and the bad…

…well. Michael does love his role. And he loves James, who's currently demanding all of his skill and more: who’s made him laugh and made him smile and cooked beside him in the kitchen and teased him with that cheeky grin, who’s knelt at his feet, lain over his lap for spankings and the cane, trusted him so purely.

The battle’s been hard-won, for both of them. But this is victory. Everything else falls away, leaves only the quiet in-and-out of James’s breathing, falling into sync with his own, and the capitulation of Scottish-fair skin under his hand.

“Good.” He lets the single syllable encompass all those emotions. As if it can. But James smiles, a brief belated quirk of lips, as if he understands. And the room's toffee-hued and topaz-striped, warmth infused with light, around them.

The other toy he’s picked up is a suede leather flogger, the softest one he owns. He’s not planning to strike James with it—he could, he’s got excellent technique, and it’s unlikely to leave any marks other than faint pinkness on even that creamy and bruisable skin. He wouldn’t mind seeing James marked by the leather, by the snap of his hand; James, who’s so good for him, so capable of taking erotically-charged pain and pouring it into ecstasy, would likely say yes with enthusiasm. But at this time, at this moment, that’d be too much, even the slightest touch amplified a hundredfold. Though the sting of the leather wouldn’t register as hurt, it’d be sharp enough to cut in a different way: overstimulation, cruelty, a lack of care here at the heights where James trusts him unconditionally.

But James needs to feel more. Like the interestingly-flavored coffee or overly-sugared tea; like Michael’s hands running a sharpened razor across vulnerable skin, every nerve ending alive and singing.

So, then: more. Michael’s good at more.

He trails leather across James’s bare back, watches the following shudder, an eloquent ripple of muscles, desire beyond speech. James doesn’t move otherwise, lovely arse still lifted where Michael’s put him even though his face and shoulders press into the pillows, hands behind his back and unable to support his weight.

“Good,” Michael tells him again, “you’re being so good, James, staying right where I want you, letting me do this, anything I want to do with you, because you’re mine.” James whimpers quietly in assent and still doesn’t move, and so Michael brushes leather promises across the roughened pink skin of his buttocks, weightless and tantalizing. James lets out a small sob, caught somewhere between too sensitive and begging for more.

Michael grins. Flicks his wrist, just barely enough; the tips connect without any force behind the blow. James moans anyway. Michael does it again, and watches those hips jerk, instinctive thrusting of trapped cock into empty air. He won’t punish James for that; James isn’t responsible, isn’t in control of himself, not here.

When he flicks his wrist again, he lets the leather curl across James’s balls, drawn up so tight and vulnerable between spread thighs. James cries out, inarticulate and begging, and lifts his hips further, pleading not for an end but for a continuation. Michael has to pause for a second, to regain self-control.

He unfastens James’s hands, though only fleetingly; they’re lax in his, surrendered to whatever Michael requires. What he requires now is James on his back, legs spread wide and loose, hands re-fastened above his head and tied securely to the headboard—James sighs, eyes fluttering shut and then drifting open at that tangible realization—and the base of the plug darkly present where it’s penetrating that taut ring of muscle, holding James stretched and slick and teased by the length.

He skims kindly suede over the pale skin of parted thighs, places rarely touched by sun. James makes another quiet sound, and shifts his hips and resettles them, visibly enjoying the cool rasp of sheets on sensitized skin. His cock, caught in clear plastic like adorning crystal, releases one torturously slow drop after another, having forced a path  through the tightly bound shaft, the nearly blocked channel. Beads of pre-come glisten on the cage, itself trembling with James’s desperation.

Michael trails velvet leather up along one thigh. Between spread legs. Over the plastic.

James shudders everywhere as the touch resonates. Goes limp for a moment, lost in feeling; then trembles, licks his lips, leaving them as wet and glistening as the tip of his cock.

Michael brings the flogger down—not hard, again more of a kiss than a blow—on the soft skin of his inner thigh, leaving a whisper of pink. James moans, low and incoherent, sound pulled out of a tangle of endorphins and adrenaline and stimulation, everything Michael’s done to him, is doing to him now.

On the other thigh, making them match, fading roses over Scottish fairness. There’re a few scattered freckles even here; they disappear, blushing, in the pink.

He traces the suede over James’s flat stomach, noting the rise and fall of breathing; he won’t hit James here, over fragile internal organs, but the sensation and the threat will sink in, and they do. James’s head rolls across the pillows, uncoordinated, eyes half-open and very far gone. His body moves, lifting into every touch; he’s not asking for permission, not even aware of his responses as more than unthinking impulses, now.

Michael takes a deep breath. Goes back to those tempting thighs, a bit harder this time; the earlier color’s already faded. He intends for these to last at least a few moments, to build on the previous impacts. James not only doesn’t close his legs, but spreads them wider, wordlessly beckoning. Perfect, Michael thinks again. Says so, because it’s true. James sighs again, accepting that he’s pleased Michael, and closes his eyes, trusting, waiting.

James won’t feel pain, not this immersed in the euphoria; any hurt's transformed into a wave of rapture, endless and peaceful. Transmuted like alchemists’ gold in a crucible: all the toil necessary for the process, the sweat and labor and scorched skin a sacrifice to make it here, the place where the substance of earth becomes purified and sublime. Molten perfection.

Michael lets the flogger meander once more, sunbeam-light and consequently tormenting, over James’s straining cock. James cries, open-mouthed and begging and uninhibited.

Michael considers for a moment, then leans down and kisses him, hard and filthy and demanding, his tongue and lips and teeth conquering James’s sweet mouth and overrunning claimed territory; the angle keeps James from breathing easily, something of a bonus considering how much they’ve discovered they both like that particular expression of ultimate surrender. James kisses back devotedly, dreamy and artless through the intoxicated high of it, Michael’s mouth over his and Michael’s hand dropping the flogger, long fingers wrapping around James’s cock, heat and weight and pressure over the plastic. Michael nips at James’s plush lower lip, slides his mouth lower, sucks a bruise over the thin skin of James’s collarbone with a rough-edged scrape of teeth.

And James jerks and tenses and goes rigid beneath him, coming and not, coming from hands and mouth on his skin, coming in a wave that sweeps outward from the inside, the agony of the cock cage holding the peak in and paradoxically drawing it out of him, orgasm that’s dry as summer thunder and as all-encompassing, cock almost an afterthought as his whole body tries to fly.

He's sobbing in the aftermath, dazed and overwhelmed; Michael, despite also feeling fairly overwhelmed, flings arms around him and says whatever words come to mind: I’m here, you’re here, you’re safe, that was brilliant, I’ve never seen anyone so brilliant, James, you’re perfect, I love you—

He stops, horrified, after that last one. But it’s okay. He’s safe. James isn’t processing the words.

“Shh,” he breathes, and unfastens bound arms, gives back mobility; James doesn’t try to move, though, other than repeated spontaneous aftershocks, so Michael just pulls him close and holds him, rubs his back, strokes comforting fingers through his hair while continuing to talk. Reassurances. Tethers. Secure mooring.

He’s kind of shaky himself. He’d wondered if James could, hoped James could, but never expected they’d get there. He’s pushed James more than he’s pushed anyone else, ever—not necessarily in variety of toys or in creativity, but in terms of intimacy, demand and compliance and possession and submission. And James has matched him step for step, has amazed him, the entire way.

Right now James needs anchor, rudder, commander; Michael feels honored to become steady iron and balance and guide for him, bringing him back down, bringing him home. He strokes James’s hair again, loving the way sweat-curled strands cling like tired silk to his skin. “You’re all right,” he promises. “You’re all right, you’re amazing, I’m here.”

James murmurs a word that might want to be Michael’s name and isn’t quite; Michael smiles. James murmurs something else, and these two words sound like love you, and Michael stops smiling, because they hurt the way that only heartbreak mingled with joy can.

“Shh,” he says again, and settles a hand over the back of James’s head, cradles his skull. “You don’t have to talk. Don’t strain your throat. I’d like you to look at me, though. When you can.”

A slight pause; gathering scattered coherence, coming back to solid ground, perhaps. An exhale: some firmer footing, on dry land. “…Michael?”

“Still here.” Michael kisses his forehead, just above that left eyebrow. “You really don’t have to talk, y’know.”

“I know…I don’t mind…it’s not that bad.”

They might have to debate that definition later. But for now— “How’re you feeling? Anything sore?”

“Tired…kind of thirsty, actually…like I want to cry, but I’m not…I don’t know how I feel. Lighter. Sparkly. God. That was—” James does look up, then. And all that blue shines pure and wondering and enraptured. Michael’s caught in the endless sapphires. Never wants to look away.

“…that was incredible,” James finishes, hushed and reverent. “No good words. Too tired for words. Magical.”

“Magical, hmm?” He walks a hand lower. Cups the swell of James’s backside, warm but no longer burning, in his hand. “I did ask you whether you were sore. You didn’t answer.”

“Oh…you did? Oh, you did…sorry, Michael. Um. My throat, yes. Everything else…just tired, I think. Not from anything specific. Just muscles…protesting…I’m not sure I can walk. You’ve made me unable to walk. Possibly ever again.”

Michael raises eyebrows at him. “The hotel might object to you never leaving their bed.”

“Then you’ll just have to carry me back to your place and have your way with me.” James grins, weary and triumphant and bright with desire deliciously both fulfilled and denied. Adds, while Michael comprehensively fails to unearth words in the light of that grin, “I take it back, by the way, ah, something else does hurt. But not in a bad way. I like it. I like feeling this.”

“What—oh.” Of course, even before James twitches a hip, nudges his restrained cock—must be screaming by now, though the extent may not quite register even yet, as the afterglow lingers—into Michael’s thigh. “I like you feeling this too, James. It’s staying on. Until I say it comes off.”

“Yes, Michael.” James shuts both eyes briefly; when they open, they’re a fraction less focused, corresponding response to his Dominant’s tone. “I’m sort of cold. Not a lot. But if you want to know.”

“I do. Thank you for telling me.” He hooks a foot over the nearest ankle, presses another kiss to the corner of that mouth. “Stay here. I’m getting you water.”

“Yes,” James agrees, and melts into the bed when Michael gets up, even more so when Michael piles blankets around him. The cold’s a product of emotional exertion as much as physical; James needs more than just blankets, needs Michael’s presence as a reaffirming touchstone. But first water. James is thirsty. Aftercare matters. And James—

James matters. To Michael.

He comes back with water and an orange, hurriedly peeled and broken into sections. James opens one eye, then the other, and smiles. “Those were for the cake…”

“Cake?”

“Mmm. Citrus cake, with cognac and lemon-sugar icing…if you noticed the candied lemon bits, that was why…”

“Oh.” He works a hand under James’s shoulders, beneath the blanket-mountain. “Come here. How many did you need? The oranges.”

“How do you want me—ah.” James makes space; Michael slides into bed with him, and gets him tucked between legs, proprietarily. Holds the glass to his lips; James swallows obediently, and nibbles a piece of fruit out of Michael’s fingers. “I really only need two. I think there were three or four there. Unless you ate one.”

“Still three. Teach me your recipe, later? If you feel up to it.”

“Are you saying I might not?” Smiling, but the summer-twilight of those eyes shifts from afternoon to evening at the thought, as that talented tongue licks juice from Michael’s hand. Exactly where Michael wants him, just now: aware enough, present enough, to be able to sleep and rest for a while without awakening disoriented and unsettled; not all the way back, though, remaining balanced on the edge of the slope, where it’ll be easy to slide back down.

“I’m saying you might be distracted, yes. Finish it all.”

“I’m not really—”

“Are you arguing with me, James?”

“No, sir.” James winces. “I—no, Michael. It’s just my throat hurts a bit, and orange juice, and talking…”

“You need the sugar,” Michael points out, not saying anything about the slip because it’s genuine and because James is doubtless already kicking himself for it. The need for energy is generally the case after an intense scene, as after any sort of exertion; he knows that one from physiotherapy sessions, too. It’ll help, and so will the water. “Only two more pieces. I’ll eat the last two. Fair?”

“Yes, Michael. I am sorry about that.” James looks up, eyes solemn but clear and unhesitating. “I—the last time I tried, it wasn’t like this. It was—I got off, don’t get me wrong, the release was—nothing like this, not even close, but I did come, for him, when he made me—but it hurt. And he never asked about me, he never wanted to know…it wasn’t abusive, it wasn’t bad, it was…only kind of impersonal. No orange slices in bed. I felt lonely, after.”

“I’m sorry, too.” Very quiet, heartfelt, short because that’s all he can manage. He taps a fingertip, orange-sticky, over James’s lips. “I wish I’d been there. I’d’ve brought you breakfast in bed.”

“And made dinner with me in the kitchen?” With a smile, venturing back in to frolic through the waves. “You would. And I like that. This. If you were wondering why it’s been over a year, that was why, or about half of why, and the rest was because I was working and being too busy and that was a good excuse not to try.”

“What made you want to?”

“Honestly? I had time off and I knew I was feeling…you saw me, when you got here….”

Michael nods. He had. He remembers. And that James, tied up in self-inflicted knots and so tense the walls ached in sympathy, is very far from the James curled between his legs now, playful and open and talkative and content.

“And I asked Ian because, well, I didn’t even know where to start looking, after so long, when I didn’t want what happened last time. And Ian told me I should meet you. I owe him a chocolate-strawberry gold-leaf tart. At least one. Possibly two.”

I love you, Michael doesn’t say. The way you smile, the way you think in baked goods, and the way you give back your love to the world a thousand times over because you want to see the world happy if you can make it so; you aren’t even angry at the person who hurt you badly enough to make you shy away from what you know you want, you make me want to smile even while we’re just sitting here talking, and I love you, I love you…

He says, “Are you lonely now?”

James meets his gaze. Smiles. Takes the water out of Michael’s hand, sips, gives it back. Licks his lips and chases twinkling drops with his tongue. “No, Michael.”

“Good,” Michael breathes, and eases them both down into the bed. When he catches willing wrists, pulls them gently together, and binds them close, James sighs. He relaxes into the restraints, into Michael’s body coiling around his, fortress and wall and big lean-muscled spoon to James’s small sturdy one.

“Michael,” James says, near-soundless.

“Still cold? Blanket?”

“No, just you. I wanted to say…no, I’m not lonely. Not with you.”

“Good?”

“I’m happy,” James says this time. And Michael can’t speak, only holds him more tightly, enfolds him in arms and legs and love, his chest pressing against that freckled back. James’s bound hands nestle between them as a reminder, and long legs tangle amid encouraging sheets; once Michael can speak, he whispers back, “So am I,” and James leans into him, unvoiced understanding.

“Go to sleep,” Michael tells him, “you’ll need the rest,” and James yawns, “Yes, Michael,” and settles down, docile and obedient and also simply worn out by the morning’s play.

They both need rest. Michael doesn’t intend to fall asleep, not while he’s keeping an eye on his exhausted lovely sub, but he does let himself doze, wandering in and out, imagining, planning, testing and discarding and contemplating ideas. He selects a few possibilities for further exploration. Fiddles with some details—no stress on that knee, no stress on that bruised throat—and enjoys himself. He does like the planning aspect. The scene-setting. Tidy, and full of anticipation. After all, a good plan, well executed, is a source of satisfaction all on its own.

Chapter Text

Michael resurfaces to heat pooling on his skin, a blanket of light draping from the back of his head to his toes, where the sheets lie in a rumpled mass. Another source of warmth wriggles against his chest. Michael’s cock grabs his attention, already stiff, brushing soft skin, and he snaps his eyes open to see his erection nestled between the cheeks of James’s arse.

He blinks, taking in that glorious sight. Under Michael’s arm, James murmurs randomly, cuddling closer, his body spooned into Michael’s, still-bound hands loosely curled between them. Sunlight burnishes his fair skin and sparks fire in the chestnut and darker strands. Grey hairs lie scattered here and there, charming reminders of maturity, of a life lived to its fullest.

Unobserved, Michael presses his face into the back of James’s neck, breathes in a whiff of apple and the warmer scent of skin, a combination of the hotel’s subtle floral soap and a woodier, deeper fragrance. James hadn’t worn cologne—neither had Michael—but his own clean skin is—Michael inhales again—delicious, and the sweeter apple notes highlight the difference. Michael breathes in and out, slow and steady and content as drowsing fuzziness fades away.

Nice as it is, they can’t lie abed all day. It’s a little difficult to reach behind himself, but Michael isn’t willing to let go of his armful of Scottish gold. He gropes until he finds the tiny alarm clock, yawns, and squints against the early afternoon sun. Mmm.

His stomach sounds its own alarm, and he reluctantly pulls away from James, who turns his face flat into the pillow and coils up like a shy nautilus. They’ve slept away the end of morning, and the heat of the day spills in through the windows. They’re high up, where the air’s cool, but that only means they won’t notice themselves burning until it happens. So Michael rolls out of bed. Makes his way to the window and stares down, unabashed to stand there as naked as the day is long; he’s got nothing to hide. Eventually, after he’s had his fill of sun, he pulls the inner gauze curtains, enough to cut the direct light but keep its diffused brightness, its warmth.

He’s finally awake enough to remember what he’d thought of, right before drifting off with his nose in James’s hair.

Smiling, he moves into the kitchenette, calls down orders for lunch. They cleaned up while making breakfast, so only a few dishes remain, soaking in the sink; he grabs a fresh bottled water from the refrigerator under the counter and drains it in one long gulp, enjoying the sleek working of his throat as he swallows. James’s throat was raw earlier; Michael starts a small pot of milk warming at low heat on the stove, finds the little packets of chocolate and the sugar James had brought, then heads back into the bedroom.

Amid rumpled sheets, James’s ivory-pale skin calls to him, warmer and more inviting than any infinitely high thread-count. Michael pulls all the sheets down and spends a moment admiring his captive, lips curving up at the sight of fading swathes of pinkened flesh, the bruise forming on the back of a thigh, the finger marks and fading bites, randomly distributed signs of possession; his marks on James, because James belongs to him.

Michael finally rouses himself, seeks out the scarf he’d tossed aside the night before; bares his teeth and re-knots it and drops it just past the framing wall between sitting area and kitchen, near the table where they’d eaten. He plucks the steel hand-cuffs and heavy clamps and cane from the bag, along with another cock ring, this one worn but sturdy rubber, black and slim with snap fasteners for a quicker on and off. He drops the lot on the table and smiles down at them for a moment, feeling a stirring in his groin for the plans he’s made. For the pièce de résistance, he uncoils and lets fall over an armchair looping coils of blue silk rope: shibari something he’s prepared for, but hasn’t yet unveiled to James.

He suspects James has never been more than bound with cuffs and plugs, given his shock yesterday and lack of questions about what Michael has planned; it’s a level of…not ignorance, per se, but innocence, Michael would prefer to term it. And that means he can show James far, far more, guide him and tease him and teach him. The thought of how far they might be able to go together, James back under so very deeply and so exquisitely willing, makes Michael’s whole body quiver with desire, with sudden upswelling happiness.

He wants a shower, and James will want one too after the rough usage of the morning, come and lube and sweat dried to his skin; but James won’t be out of bed any time soon, at least not until Michael’s ready to let him up. He’s not. James in their bed is a captured prize, a treasure to be explored in full and at Michael’s leisure; and Michael wants James dirty and disheveled for now, feeling Michael inside him, on him, surrounding him utterly, marks and words, bone and breath, enfolded and pierced and pinned into place.

It’s the work of a moment to straddle James, to gently turn him to his stomach and remove the leather cuffs. James’s wrists, while bearing faint lines from the cuff edges, show no greater chafing. Beneath Michael, James stirs, shifts his legs and arms, yawns—all with his eyes remaining closed—then stills as his arms move freely. He drops them to his side, palms up, fingers loose. Perfect, again. The side of his face emerges from the pillow he’d stuffed it into; he winces, voice a ragged croak: “Michael?”

“I’m here,” he replies, torn between sympathy for that voice and wonder at how well James’d taken it, his mouth, his throat, his very air controlled by Michael’s body and Michael’s command. The power he’s granted Michael is heady, breathtaking, astounding; thrills run up and down Michael’s spine at the memory, and he rolls his hips roughly forward, rubs his engorged cock deep into James’s cleft.

“Oh!” James closes his eyes and wriggles, a smile gracing his lips. “Mmm, nice.”

“Thanks.” Lovely, that battered voice, but Michael doesn’t want to harm James, and the slowly heating milk will be ready in a few more minutes. So he thrusts again, grins at the sight of his cock, flushed and hard in the valley between pale, faintly marked hillocks. “It’s natural talent, you know.”

“Is that what—” Whatever James was going to say breaks off when Michael takes hold of one hand and the other, pulls them forward to rest palm-down on the pillow. “Don’t move,” he orders softly. “Don’t speak. Not a muscle, not a word. If I come back from showering to find you’ve disobeyed me, you’ll be punished, and not in a way you’d like.”

“Y—” James breathes, low and throaty, then seals his lips. “Mm-hm,” he hums, and winks. His pulse flutters in the visible temple.

Delight tempts Michael to lean down and kiss him there, feel the beat of James’s heart beneath that thin skin, but he climbs off the bed instead. “Letter and spirit, James,” he admonishes, and clucks his tongue. “Here, a little something to remind you of who’s in charge.” Michael waits until James’s smile fades, then sweeps down his palm. Two, five, nine fast spanks, loud and cracking hard across the lushest curve of James’s arse—and James cries out, restrains himself after that first startled jerk.

Tears flow down and his breath hitches, but freed hands never move, and Michael backs away, mesmerized by the rise and fall of James’s back, by his own handprints bright on lush mounds. He steps into the lavatory, stares into the mirror at the hectic scarlet flaring in his own face, cresting high on his cheekbones, his eyes half-lidded and heavy with the arousal that bounces his cock against his belly, smears thick drops across the flat of his abdomen.

A cold shower, then, to cool things off. Fast, so the milk doesn’t scald.

Afterward, Michael dons the hotel’s white terrycloth robe, quickly steps into the kitchenette to turn off the heat, and prepares a mug of steaming hot cocoa, adds a pinch of cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper. He can’t resist showing off. Anyway, James will approve.

He rests a saucer over the mug to keep in the heat and carries it into the bedroom. Casting a sharp glance at the bed, he grins when he sees that James has obeyed him, not moved an inch. Michael lets himself enjoy the sight, the feeling; smiles broadly where James can’t see. He sets the mug onto a cork coaster on the small table by the west window, the only sounds a small thud, the rustle of feet on carpet. James doesn’t move, but a sense of awareness comes through nonetheless—he’s paying attention, listening. Michael’s untowelled hair drips on his shoulders. Grinning, he moves toward the bed with silent footsteps and then shakes his head wildly, spraying water everywhere.

James gasps and his shoulders spasm as if he wants to leap out of bed—but he stops. His hands, clutching at the pillows, relax again. James settles back down, but a faint line spans his forehead, and he sucks his upper lip in between sharp teeth. Muscles flex along his back, under spattered skin. His eyes stay closed tight.

“Very good,” Michael tells him, sits down beside him on the bed and soothes that worried line, runs his forefinger lightly across the captured lip until James sighs and releases it, his frame losing tension.

“You’re doing so well for me,” Michael affirms, and will re-affirm as often as James needs to hear it. He strokes his palm along James’s back, the broad stretch from shoulder to shoulder, the smooth wings of water-speckled shoulder blades and the elegant jointed dip of his spine. He drags his fingers down hard enough to indent, to leave a trail of whitened flesh behind, and watches the color fill the wake of his passage. He presses his fingers into James’s cleft, uses both hands to spread him and lets the buttocks bounce back together, supple and firm and lightly reddened at the lowest curve. Michael moves his hands lower, presses his thumb to the base of the phallus and nudges it firmly.

James murmurs and lifts his arse into the pressure. “M—” he begins, then catches himself and subsides once again.

“Lunch’ll be here in a few minutes.” Michael rises stiffly to his feet, takes a breath and leans down to grabs James’s ankles. He hauls them wide apart, exposes James ruthlessly. The plug punctuates the luscious slopes of James’s arse, accentuates it and draws the eye inevitably to all that naked vulnerability.

Michael’s mouth runs dry as he follows the pink seam from the stretched and straining thin-rimmed ring of muscle. He drags his fingernail across the soft and swollen perineum to the dangling balls, tightening slowly in their lightly downy sac, split apart by the bar of the cock cage. Michael taps two fingers firmly against delicate testes to watch them quiver and twitch, to watch James tremble and moan, skin shivering in one long ripple.

Below, half-hidden, James’s much-neglected cock remains bound up tight, flushing dark with blood where it swells and presses outward against unforgiving plastic. Michael jostles the cage. Drags it forward and backward, side to side, not enough to harm, but more than enough to hurt, to squeeze and twist over-sensitive, too-tender flesh—James’s spine arches and he keens, desperate and wanting: he pushes his trapped cock back into Michael’s grip and groans, begging inarticulately in that tattered, thistle-scratched voice.

It’s an effort not to comply, to take James even deeper, to push him in a way he doesn’t yet realize he wants, that he can take. And Michael wants to see him take it all. Wants to see ocean-eyes bright with tears, dark with pain; wants to sink together into the abyssal depths and bring James back again, alive and whole and brilliantly shining, ablaze with the unknown fathoms of himself, plumbed and conquered.

But. Only so much time remains to them here and now. Michael won’t risk pushing James too far, too soon. What they’ve found in one another—it’s worth every moment of patience and care he can muster, if it’s true, if it’s real. If what they feel is more than compatible biochemistry and a terrifically good scene, then they’ll have time, later, to discover what they can do, what they can build, what they can be, together. Michael wants that, very much.

And he believes—it’s more than a hope, he’s sure of that—that James does, too.

So he pinches James’s soft inner thigh quite hard. “Hush. Be still.” Pinches again until James whimpers and obeys—except for a distinct wriggle that spreads his legs further apart. The smile baring Michael’s teeth widens. “Tsk,” he clucks, watching James’s face, the part of it he can see: James is practically plastered to the pillow, mouth open wide, every breath rapid and loud. His ribs heave, and sweat rises along the length of his flushed back, the heat of his body perceptible.

“I thought you were going to be good for me,” Michael growls. And pinches again, both hands at once, just to see the skin blanch, to see his marks freshly painted on the pale canvas.

James’s breath hitches. He nods, licks his lips, nods again.

He’s absolutely beautiful. Michael soothes the pinches, brushes them gently with fingers and thumb, leans down and kisses each one. “So be good,” he whispers into the delicate skin behind James’s knee. “Be good for me,” he licks into the sheened dimples above James’s buttocks.

Someone knocks at the door.

James stiffens, and the one visible eye flies open. His fingers curl into the pillows above him.

“Shhh,” Michael chides, “Keep your eyes shut.” He waits until James obeys, sighing, tongue flicking out to wet his lips. Michael teases his mouth, strokes the plush, swollen tissue. “It’s lunch,” he says. “I ordered before you woke up.” James relaxes almost at once, tentatively presses the closest knee against Michael’s thigh, where he’s sitting beside him on the bed. It’s disobedient, but Michael lets it slide. He curls a hand around the limb, plays with the hairs, dark and soft; rubs them down along the grain, upward against; pets James and soothes him, feels a sharper smile emerge with his next words.

“I think I’ll have lunch served on that little table by the window,” he proposes. “Of course, the waiter would have to bring the dishes in; it might take several trips.” James twitches; his fingers flex; his mouth opens only to clamp tight, and he stills himself before completing an abortive movement to hide his face. His arms and thighs tremble perceptibly.

“You’re so beautiful,” Michael observes at the second knock. “Anyone would be thrilled to see you like this, such a gorgeous submissive.” The tremors increase visibly. “It could be that the waiter’s a fan of your work, too, James. Imagine if I left the room for a moment—just a moment to fetch my wallet for a tip.”

Michael traipses his nails over flexing muscles in those long thighs, closes his hands tight and vicious around them, feels the pressure in his thumbs, the webbing, his palms and the joints of his fingers, fingertips digging in. He listens intently to James’s rapid breathing, excitement or fear or a vertiginous mix of both—but no words, no drawing away in the least; that knee still presses against Michael’s leg—pressing harder, even, as if seeking reassurance. He squeezes James’s thighs again, continues speaking at the third knock. “If the waiter has a smartphone—you know everyone has one nowadays, James—then pictures of you—like this—could hit the internet in less than two minutes.”

James’s cock wriggles; the muscles in his back ripple, and James gasps over and over, skin flushing hot from head to toe. His balls draw tight, pressing against the base of the cage.

“Out there, you belong to the world.” Michael tightens his grip, releases it, moves his hands—beginning to ache just a bit—to the enchanting dip of James’s waist, damp with sweat and so lovely to curve around with broad, long palms and strong fingers, although Michael can’t span it…yet. One day, perhaps, he’ll introduce James to corsetry. Michael himself loves the feel of a corset; the extra discipline it imposes, the perfect posture that can aid in intimidating the most aggressive of submissives; the sense of fighting that external control even as it constrains his breathing, making him work harder for his own control—and self-control is one of the backbones of his life. He also will freely admit that he loves corsets on his subs, for many of the same reasons.

He pictures James in one of his favorites. Black leather and tight-drawn laces, waist pulled impossibly small, a paradox of masculine strength and elegant curves and naughtiness, pert arse begging to be spanked and then fucked as Michael’s hands tug the laces tighter, as James fights for each breath and moans with each thrust, bent over the bed that way, corset on and cock trapped and hard with want, and Michael’s come running out of him, down his shaking thighs…

“They’d eat you alive,” he murmurs, “anyone with eyes in their head, who had you here, like this…” He stands up abruptly, takes his touch—hands and leg—away from James. Rough and fast, he forces James’s thighs that much wider—painfully so, even for yoga-flexible joints—until James’s pelvis rises with the angle—just a few inches above the bed, but enough to expose his trapped and vulnerable cock and balls, his thoroughly plugged hole to anyone who might walk in. Then Michael flips the recessed toggle on the base of the plug and rolls the tiny dial to the third notch—and stands back and watches with pleasure while James’s breath whooshes out and his whole body jerks in reaction to the mild vibration.

“Ah, ah, ah—” James squirms in place, hips and thighs shifting minutely—he’s trying to get the head of the blunt device to do more than brush his prostate, but as before, it’s futile. Michael presses a hand beneath the folds of his robe, where the shower’s quelling effects are being thoroughly nullified by the sight of James’s helpless writhing.

He bends down to press a hot, sharp-toothed bite into the uppermost knob of James’s spine, just below dampening hair. Steps away reluctantly, leaves James there, open and bared, staying in place because Michael’s put him there. Breathes in the air, the scents of lingering sex and rising arousal, feels the heft and weight of his own lungs expanding, moisture rising in his mouth. “But in here, you’re mine.” He lingers in the doorway, staring avidly. “And I don’t share.”

Then he hurries to the hotel door before their lunch decides to go away.

He won’t truly risk a client’s privacy, unless that’s a specific request, and those are rare; he doesn’t care for public exposure himself, on a personal level and because he knows what it would do to his other career. The thought of it, however, always provokes and excites—the risk adds to the sense of danger and pleasure that bring men and women to his feet, to experience the thrill, the humiliation and fear of being taken, controlled, forced and exhibited—their fantasies brought to life—with the explicit assurance that they are safe, protected, and cared for all the while. It’s the duality of the scene that many clients crave, and James’s actual celebrity only increases the potential for threat.

The young lady with the serving cart has started back down the corridor when Michael opens the door, but she tosses him a small, professional smile before returning, and pushes the silent-wheeled cart inside and—after a raised eyebrow at the visible signs Michael’s left about—sets it by the table. “You can charge it to the room or pay now,” she informs him. Her eyes dart once toward the half-open bedroom door, but she maintains a straight face. James has, evidently, chosen well with the location.

“The room, thanks,” Michael says. He checks the contents of silver-domed dishes, then initials the receipt, not that anyone’s likely to compare his scrawled MF to the pseudonym—Nicholas Turner—that James signed in under. “Here you go.”

She nods, smiling with a touch more friendliness this time, before taking the signed receipt and folded pound notes as she turns. “Thank you, sir.” The silver domes on the cart reflect Michael’s faintly flushed face back at him as she leaves. Locking the door, he settles himself at the dining table, sprawls his legs wide and shivers just a bit as dry air wafts along his calves, thighs, groin. It takes only a moment to stroke himself to hardness; he puts the cock ring round himself and snaps shut the tightest row of studs: no chance now that he’ll come before he intends to do so.

“James! You can get up now.” He hardens his tone, face turned to the side so he can listen closely. “Use the lavatory if you need to, then bring me the mug on the table in there.” He pauses, doesn’t hear anything. “You can tap or clap to get my attention, but I don’t want you straining your throat to speak, understand?”

Half a second later, a single, firm rap—perhaps on the bedside table—answers him. Michael picks up the glass of water with the meal; hides his grin in it. Then calls again, letting the words roll out from his chest: “Stay on your knees. Oh, and James? Five minutes.”

Stark silence from the bedroom. Then, rustling fabric, a few thumps amid fainter sounds—toes dragging over carpet?—followed by a low smack of flesh on tile, accompanied by an exhalation. But no rap, no tap.

Michael doesn’t look around when the toilet flushes, when water runs shortly afterward, when the shuffling sounds resume. He spears a bit of bacon and tomato and olive from the salad. It’s a good presentation, two or three kinds of lettuces dark and pale green and crisp, and caramelized onion, the bacon peppered, the olives tender and firm. The other bits of vegetation—sliced yellow and red sweet peppers, bits of avocado and squash—look as appetizing as the peeking chunks of meat—grilled turkey, shreds of striated prosciutto. The ribeye steak is well-browned, marbled with thin layers of crisped fat and steaming where he slices into it to reveal the pink center, cooked just past the point of bleeding, so tender his fork cuts through the meat handily. Michael puts the lid back over the steak to keep it warm while he attacks the salad.

He keeps an ear out, tracks the progress of quiet thuds and shuffling—and within another moment or two, the hair on the back of his neck lifts just a bit—the awareness that he’s being watched.

James just makes it, with only a few seconds to spare. Michael allows himself to look down, to see the concentration on James’s face as he balances the full mug in both hands, tongue caught between his teeth—and it’s that pink tip between parted red lips that drags a hungry and completely unexpected moan from Michael’s own watering mouth.

Bright eyes dance up to meet his own, and those plush lips quirk upward; James beams brilliantly at him, wordlessly proffering the mug. Only the mild buzz of the vibrator breaks the silence; James’s color has heightened, face to throat to chest, and Michael can see it creeping down his neck, his back. James’s ears glow bright red.

“Thank you,” Michael finally manages. “That was very good of you, James. Good job not spilling it.” James drops his gaze, one shoulder rising in the tiniest of shrugs, but his mouth tilts up at the corners, the skin around his eyes crinkling at the praise.

Michael takes the mug, removes the saucer-cum-lid and presses the rim to James’s lower lip. James’s eyes darken, eyelashes drooping a bit; he smiles with gratitude, almost beatific. The cocoa has cooled so it’s no longer steaming, but the mug’s thick sides are still hot. When James dips his head to drink from the tilted mug, he swallows easily. Michael watches his expression, the slim line of his throat, cartilage moving rhythmically as the liquid goes down, but sees no evidence of discomfort or pain. Still, he has no immediate plans involving James’s throat, although his lips, the tongue licking away a bit of paler brown foam where it’s collected at the edge of his mouth: these he intends to use very soon.

In the meantime, he lets James drink at his own pace. Eats his salad. He makes no mention of giving James anything, and once James has emptied the mug, Michael takes it away, sets it on the table.

“Alright?” he asks. “Hungry?”

James nods.

“Then be still for a minute; after that, you’re going to crawl under here and suck me.” A tiny crease form between James’s eyebrows, but he doesn’t hesitate or even start to speak. He watches Michael closely, and when Michael shows him the clover clamps, his eyes widen and his mouth falls open; his breath catches in his throat and he sways forward.

“Let’s warm you up a bit first.” Michael lays the clamps over his thigh where James can see them. He spends a moment simply rubbing his palms across the breadth of James’s chest, feels the thump of his heart, the light scattering of wiry hairs, soft under fingertips; flattens his hands over the firm swell of muscle and drags them across the intercostals, fitting his long fingers between ridges of muscle; at the moment, James may be thinner than optimum for his height and weight, but what is there is healthy muscle and clear skin, a pleasure to the eye and to the hand. When Michael draws away, James sways after, but he’s breathing steadily, eyes calm and sparking, corners of his mouth curving up.

Then Michael presses his thumbs lightly to James’s nipples—a little bruised, darkly pink and half-hard; he rubs down harshly and back up, reddening the skin. He grips both nubs between forefingers and thumbs and watches James’s face while he squeezes, leans in and licks at James’s mouth when he gasps; nips at the fullness of his lower lip. A twist and a second squeeze, and James’s nipples grow more malleable, stretching as Michael begins to pull. The delicate tissue nearly glows with heat by now, tumescent, over-sensitive; tears roll down James’s cheeks even though he keeps his hands firmly on his thighs, palms up and rigidly open. Michael bends down and sucks each nipple in turn into his mouth; sucks as hard as he can before tightening his jaws and pulling back fast, scraping his teeth tightly enough to make James yell.

By the time Michael stops, James’s eyes have gone glossy with tears; he’s panting; a sheen of sweat coats him head to toe; and the expression on his face says he’s sinking fast. Michael sweeps up the clamps. They tighten if the ends are pulled, and do not loosen at all; they attach to one another by means of a heavy chain; and a thick metal ball dangles from its center, a heavy-duty jingle bell that slides up and down the chain and tolls a low, dense chime.

“James?” Michael checks his eyes again, rubs his thumb gently along the crest of a heated cheek. “Are you with me?”

A slow blink, followed by James dipping his chin just enough to call it a nod.

“I’m going to put these on you now,” Michael tells him, showing him the clamps again. “You’re going to suck me, James, but only the head of my cock and my balls. Nothing deep, not until I think your throat can handle it.” He waits, but James’s eyes have fixed on the clamps, and he doesn’t respond. “James, if you can’t answer, you can’t play.”

That pink tongue slides out, slick and supple, laps at red lips, withdraws as James raises his head. Dilated eyes show barely a hint of blue; and he moves slowly, lethargically, as if his mind’s so far away it’s taking a very long time to send and receive messages. Michael waits, patient and familiar with a submissive’s drop into their headspace—though James is special, James is different, James is James, and goes down oh so sweetly and so easily now that he’s Michael’s, like nothing Michael’s ever quite seen before, the familiar become wholly new—but he won’t move forward unless James not only agrees, but understands what he’s agreeing to, and can safeword. In fact…

“James, tell me your safewords. You can speak this once.”

A nod, a little more sense of presence; James opens his mouth, brings his languid gaze up to meet Michael’s, and smiles, thrilled with what he sees, if the radiance of it is indicative. “Green,” he husks out, and his fingers wiggle slowly. “Yellow.” A bit more clarity arises. “Red.” And those eyes gleam, drop to stare greedily at the waiting clamps. “I’m very green, Michael.”

Michael nods, sets his thumb to James’s mouth, presses on that luscious bottom lip until James sucks it in, mouths at it, pulls back to let it slide out, kisses the tip. “Good. That’s good, James.” He watches James’s face as he sets the heavy clamps to reddened, abused flesh, as the first one closes brutally tight on a swollen nipple; he doesn’t give the pain time to set in before crushing James’s other nipple in the second. They’re not coming off, not without a damned hard pull, and anything less will only increase the hurt.

James’s breath whistles through his nose as he clenches his jaws, shoulders bending inward, eyes screwed shut; it takes a few minutes for him to look back up, wet-eyed and desperate; and a drop of pre-come squeezes from his cock, drips through the cage.

“Shh,” Michael takes the cane in hand, points it under the table. “Crawl. Suck. And James. Every time I hear that bell, I’m going to cane you.”

James takes a measured breath. His whole body trembles, glistens, his mouth a shining invitation to sin and debauchery. He goes to hands and knees for the three or four steps it takes to obey. Tentatively, he places his fingertips on Michael’s thighs, and Michael knocks him back instantly—the bell chiming out loud and long. So much for an easy beginning; Michael peers down along his body under the table, ranges James’s position, and lets the cane fly.

James yelps; then soft hair brushes Michael’s inner thighs. He closes his eyes and stifles a groan at the tentative lick to the underside of his leather-ringed, stiff cock; he’s not going to come, but James’s mouth is a terrible, terrible torment. Michael controls his hands; eats, but can hardly taste the vinaigrette dressing, chews mindlessly on seasoned croutons, oil-softened and completely forgotten by the time he swallows—he won’t even know later what flavor they were, because the majority of his focus rests squarely with the hot mouth and swirling tongue caressing and teasing and even nipping—that surprise pinch jolts through Michael so hard his knee jerks up and hits the bottom of the table.

The chime sounds, covering his pained gasp; Michael switches fork for cane and administers a sharp blow to James’s shoulder. He’s answered by a penitent kiss to the head of his cock. James licks a little faster, slides tight lips forward to toy with the frenulum, presses the tip of his tongue in a slow pattern around the bisected flesh, taut and hard under fragile, incredibly sensitive skin, soft as velvet over the iron of Michael’s cock.

It’s all he can do to suppress a groan, to not slump down boneless with lust and arousal and let himself slip past his self-appointed limit; to fuck James’s mouth again regardless of potential damage. But he keeps his feet firmly planted, forces his spine rigid and upright, puts aside the empty salad plate and pulls the steak to him. If his fingers fumble the silver dome and his reflection’s mouth opens and closes like a guppy, that’s fine. He doesn’t mind looking foolish to himself, so long as he gives his clients—gives James—the stern visage they—James wants and needs.

And Michael wants to give everything to James. Everything he’s ever wanted, or never even knew he wanted. Michael wants to be the one who lights up James’s eyes, who brings out that scintillating joy and the broad smiles that mean he’s utterly happy.

The ribeye is delicious. Tender, running with hot juice and thick mushroom gravy, still wafting up curls of delicious-smelling steam from where it’d been kept warm by the cover, which unfortunately clangs and drips condensation onto the waxed surface when Michael drops it—because James is thrusting the tip of his tongue into the slit of Michael's cock, and sucking hard all around it.

Michael has to force himself to chew and swallow the tender bites, while James presses the backs of his upper incisors to the corona of Michael’s cockhead. He delicately closes his jaws; he holds Michael as captive as the cage holds him; and he lips at the slit, sucks at it, twists his head to lick down below again. The flat of his tongue laps and laves until he reaches the leather cock ring. The wet warmth vanishes briefly, then re-appears: James presses closed lips to the taut-skinned scrotum tucked up close and bound to Michael’s rigidly shaking cock. He opens his mouth and breathes. In, out, again and again—slow, moist puffs that leave Michael’s most vulnerable bits warming and cooling with every exhalation while James's nose and cheek nudge along his shaft.

Michael’s own throat feels dry as sawdust when he chokes down another bite. He sucks in a mouthful of icy water, notes with glassy eyes how his hands tremble on the utensils; his fingers slide down the beading water on the outside of the glass, smearing it much as he’d smeared James’s face with come earlier.

James closes in. His lips curl under to cover his teeth; the smooth round ring of his mouth stretches wide across the surface of the quivering sac. Michael stares blindly ahead, elbows flat on the table, while James surely must be unhinging his jaws like a snake to encompass the engorged whole of Michael’s testicles; and Michael’s fingers clench white-knuckled around his motionless knife and fork when James’s tongue, pressed flat in his mouth from the heavy mass, pushes and flicks wherever he can touch. And then he starts to suck.

Michael’s cock throbs and the muscles in his groin tighten excruciatingly: if not for the cock ring, he’d be shooting all over James’s face this instant. His cock dances against a hollowed cheek, is tickled by wet hair as the tip slips under James’s ear. James grants not the slightest mercy, ceaseless in his attentions; warm lips tighten and release, the hot tongue gliding over and lashing at that wanting skin, teasing short, soft hairs. Until the cushioning lips recede; until teasing teeth scrape ever so lightly and close around the delicate bundle ever so gently; James sucks in a breath through his nose, and gently releases Michael’s balls with a slow glide of his lips and a final kiss.

He pauses, breathing heavily for a moment, before turning back to Michael’s cock. James seems to have forgotten Michael’s command, because he moves his head inward, presses further between Michael’s thighs, his mouth enveloping Michael a little more—

And the bell rings and rings with his forward motion, granting Michael license to move. He gladly grabs the cane and grabs James’s hair to hold him in place; he stares hungrily below the table edge to see blue eyes eager and barely lucid; he lights brilliant stripes of color along James’s flank, his arse, the long outer length of his thigh. Michael trembles himself as the hot streaks of red flare up, and he gasps with the pain of his cock trying to force fluid through its tightly confined base; as it swells even more against the leather cock ring.

James appears to have forgotten about the bell, too; his wide shoulders bump Michael's thighs, and that hot mouth sucks Michael’s cockhead as if James’s life depends on it.

Michael drops the cane. Closes his eyes, breathes. Opens them, surprised to see an empty plate before him. He can barely remember starting, much less finishing. He winds the fingers of both hands through James’s thick hair, and clutches tight while James moans around him. James tightens his mouth; lashes his tongue frantically across the underside of Michael’s cock. Michael leans back in his chair, slumps down far enough to shove himself deeper into James’s mouth, not all the way, not nearly, but enough to stuff his cheeks, bulge them out with the constricted movements of his tongue side to side. Michael’s eyelids flutter with ecstasy. It’s an effort to hold James in place without thrusting, without going deeper, but he does it. Lets James work himself up, work Michael up, both of them restrained and unable to come.

The line between James’s closed eyes vanishes, his whole body lax with his hands dangling at his sides, not touching himself even though Michael hasn’t specifically forbidden it. He’s debauched and gorgeous and utterly abstracted, distant even as he performs the most intimate worship.

He’s flawless, right here and right now. Michael pants, grunts, forces his voice to obey him: “Eyes open,” he demands, and nudges James’s cheek when he doesn’t immediately respond. “James,” he pushes, bucking his hips, bringing one thumb up to the edge of an eye to feel the soft skin at the corner, crinkled from how tightly James has them closed. “Look at me.”

And he does. Slowly lifts tender eyelids, long lashes sweeping up and down as he blinks—Michael breathes hard at the sight of him: a despoiled saint with those heavenly blue eyes blazing black with lust.

“Are you with me, James?” Finally, a slow nod, or at least the start of one, James’s head trying to move, unable to do so with Michael’s hands so firm in his hair.

“Good,” Michael says, low and harsh. “You’re amazing, James, so perfect for me—” A hard rush of want gags him; his groin muscles spasm and clench and twist his hips; Michael tears his hands from James’s hair and clutches at his cock as his body rebels—for the first time in years—tries to come without permission; his own body!

A tiny spurt of fluid paints itself across James’s astonished face, white strand of pearls splattering his lips, his tongue where he’s still licking at the underside of Michael’s desperate cock. His eyes grow huge, dark as night, flaring with stars gone supernova, and he groans, bends down over himself and presses both hands between his thighs.

Michael nearly moans at the sound, the sight. He shoves his chair back, drops to the floor and grabs James’s shoulders, drags him out from under the table and presses him flat on his back, pushes his thighs down, crouches over him and strokes his arms, his sides, drops down until he’s breathing in James’s air, enclosing him in a cage of limbs, surrounding him completely.

Michael shrugs off the robe, gropes in the fallen garment until he finds the cage key in the pocket. Dimly, he’s aware that he’s on the verge of losing control, but he doesn’t care—he’s got to have James now, now, right now. Earlier, he’d prepped himself in the lavatory, expecting this moment sooner or later; the moment has come, and he’s not waiting any longer. It’ll hurt him a little, but it will be so much worse for James; and that only makes it better for them both.

It takes three tries to get the key in; James squirms, whines deep in his throat, eyes avid and hot and gleaming; lost and mindless with pain and desire until they slam shut, his mouth opening at the same time. Michael works the cage off; it’s difficult, because James’s cock is already filling out, catching in the mechanism, making it awkward to extract his balls, hard and tight and swollen. Michael curses under his breath, orders, “Hands down, James! Be still, be good for me, understand?” but gets nothing back—not for a long time, almost too long—if he has to stop now, has to make sure James is okay, can still understand and consent—the moment will be gone. Michael’s fingers hesitate on the cage, nearly free, his eyes intent on James’s face.

And it comes, finally, the faintest hint of a nod; those hands that kept reaching for Michael’s shoulders, his sides, his hips, slowly drift down as if gravity has ceased to work—they tremble, flex, come to rest on the carpet, nails catching in the thick pile. An eyelid slides upward a fraction of an inch, blinks slowly over a sliver of blue-rimmed-black, crystalline and wet with frantic tears as the skin underneath reddens, James’s cheeks flushing, his whole body straining and wet. The scent of his arousal, of Michael’s own, rises up thick and heady and mouth-watering.

Michael could cry from the relief of getting that response, but he’s too busy holding James down once the cage comes off. James’s cock unfurls like a fern, skin red and fragile with creases, and he cries out, loud with pain, bucking hard against Michael’s grip. “H-h-hurts,” he stammers, tears flowing in earnest, his throat working, working, swallowing and gulping down moans and grunts and hitching breaths. Michael closes his own eyes; too much to handle, if he didn’t still have on his own cock ring.

It takes too long to regain control; but Michael does; he does. His cock ring comes off easily—snap fasteners are wonderful inventions—and Michael palms himself with one hand, thumbs his own head to feel the burn.

He’s got James’s cock by the base, fingers wrapped tight around the thick shaft; and he settles the ring around that girth; seats it firmly at the base below the testicles, drags it tight against the weight of cock and balls heavy with need, and snaps it shut, the clicks of metal on metal sharp against heavy breathing, his and James’s both. It’s unforgiving and harsh, but it will stop James coming unless he’s actually Superman in disguise. Which Michael wouldn’t put past him; surely no one human could be this perfect.

James shouts when the ring binds him tight again; bucks into Michael’s hand, thrusts against the tight circle of his fingers and palm. Michael’s mouth goes dry at that; but he wants more.

He pushes up, twists and stretches around, searches on the tabletop until he finds the heavy steel hand-cuffs. Turns back, grabs James’s hands, puts them together in front of him and binds them, notches them tight enough to bite, but not enough to cut off circulation. James relaxes a hair, a fraction, with the restraint, Michael’s hand still fastened hard around one wrist. Michael reaches down with his other hand and finds the plug, spins the dial until it clicks the highest setting.

James convulses. His spine arches hard enough to lift his hips, and Michael still astride them. His shoulders and neck press into the carpet; his heels dig in deep; his ribs heave like bellows and the muscles of his chest and sides flex; the tendons of his throat cord taut while his lips part wide—and soundless—unable to do more than suck in lungfuls of air that turn into sobs. His veins stand out like ridges.

And his cock juts up harder than stone, shaking in Michael’s hand. Michael thumbs the fluid that’s beaded up despite his tight hold, despite the constricting ring. He lowers his arse, guides James’s shaft between his thighs, has to push aside his own cock and balls to finally fit the red and dripping head into himself. Eases down, biting his lip, because the lube’s in the lavatory, and what he’d applied earlier isn’t—quite—enough; but it’ll be worth the pain to take James’s cock as he’s taken his gorgeous mouth, his luscious arse.

The thickness of it burns, as he expected. James groans under him, water drumming beneath the earth, dark and secret and endless; he hiccups and Michael can’t help but laugh, nearly drunk with pleasure. He grinds down, guiding James’s plunging shaft; pulls up and pushes down again, adjusting to the girth and heft of it, hot and hard within him. He breathes in, out. He reaches down and drags James’s hands up to hook around Michael’s neck.

“Fuck me,” he gasps, sinking. He grabs James’s face, stares into dissolving lucidity. “James, I want you to fuck me, d’you hear?”

James thrusts his hips up, slams them down, simultaneously tries to get away from the vibrator and pull it deeper, tries to drive into Michael at the same time. His thighs flex and strain, frantic contrast to Michael’s slow and steady descent. It’s magnificent, taking James into himself, wide and solid and indisputably present. When Michael finally pulls his hand away from James’s cock and seats himself fully, the rim of his hole rubs against leather, and the heavy humming motor of the vibrator drives its sensations right through James to Michael. They both freeze; Michael grits his teeth not to cry out his pleasure as he begins to ride James without mercy.

He finds the angle he needs; shoves himself down to slam his prostate along the straining girth, pulls up to slide the thick head into that swollen spot. His thighs burn with the up and down, his hips pump; his mouth’s gone dry because he can’t stop swearing under his breath. He meets James’s every frantic thrust with his own, imagines the bruises they’ll both have and drives down harder; twists to pound James’s cock into that place again and again; feels the white-hot intensity of orgasm beginning to rise through him, spark along his nerves, flash through his arteries and veins, can almost see the glow of heat on his slick skin.

Michael’s cock bounces against his sweaty stomach, rigid and wet with pre-come, smearing where it taps and twitches; he’s got James’s shoulders under his hands, holds him down while James digs blunt nails into the back of his neck, clutches short hair. Michael’s fingers drive in like talons; and the thought occurs—James does yoga… exactly how flexible is he?

“James,” he growls. Viciously pinches the skin beside a—God, still clamped—nipple when James doesn’t answer. That snaps open clouded eyes, blurred with sweat and tears. “James, get your mouth on my cock.”

James’s mouth opens and closes, lines creasing his forehead. He blinks and shakes his head as if waking from a dream. “James!” Michael snarls. He grabs the chain this time, gives it a good hard yank; James’s agonized shout rings in his ears. But James bucks even harder, pushes his chest forward to scrape across Michael’s, rubs rough and swollen nipples hard against him, making it worse; and his flame-blue gaze scorches, incandescent as dying stars. He clenches his arse so tight that Michael’s eyes roll back in his head, caught in that blood-hot channel, surrounded by clutching, insatiable heat.

Michael’s lips and cheeks stretch almost painfully into a white-sharp grin: savage, ravenous. He wants nothing more than to hurt James—the way that James wants to be hurt—again. Wants to force that deep heat up from submissive depths, wants to bind it close, entangle James in that tumult of agonized sensation, his whole self laid bare and open to Michael, belonging to Michael. It’s a struggle now not to snake his head down, set his teeth into James’s slick-skinned trapezius, mark him hard and visibly, and repeat as often as necessary, so everyone will know who he belongs to, forever; to whom Michael belongs in equal measure.

But he can’t. Not now; maybe not ever, given James’s career; and Michael lets the frustration burn through him, lets it growl and snap: “Do what I say!”

With a pained grimace, James raises his arms from behind Michael’s neck; reaches between them for Michael’s eager cock, pulls it a little away from its desperate twitching taps between their bodies, thick and sticky with pre-come. James bends his neck—bends his back—leans down and down his own body—and stretches out his tongue, almost reaching. He grunts, pushes harder, gains an inch, two—enough to press his forehead and nose into Michael’s sternum, try to catch the bobbing cock in his wet, red mouth. He brushes it once, twice with pursing lips, coils his tongue to pull it toward him. Michael feels so proud his heart could burst; he hadn’t actually expected James to be able to do it—but only to try.

“My God,” he whimpers, anger transmuted into pure lust, staring down at the top of that dark head, feathery hair curling and dark with sweat. “James, you’re a miracle.”

James gets his mouth on Michael’s cockhead. Breathes on it, hot and fast. Closes his lips, tightens them, moans around the mass in his mouth and stiffens even more, the length of him surging inside Michael. He whines and sucks harder, curls one hand around Michael’s cock, the other fingering full, aching balls crushed between their bodies. His eyes aren’t visible, but his breath rushes loud and frantic through his nose as he thrusts and twists and fucks his way into Michael’s body.

Michael crushes James’s forehead into his torso, feels the rasp of teeth on his cockhead and that’s it: the end, game over. He comes like a geyser into James’s mouth, overflows tight-wrapped lips and trickles down his chin and neck, drips onto both their bodies until his cock begins to soften; and he keeps James there. Makes him keep sucking, mouthing the over-sensitive head, James’s back straining visibly, muscles jumping, his whole body looking exhausted and tortured beyond enduring.

James hasn’t come.

“Mine,” Michael whispers into tousled waves, “mine, you’re so good for me.” He kisses James’s temple where the pulse races fast and hard. “No one else will ever get to have you like this.” He sucks in air, feverishly kisses the top of a scarlet ear. “I want to chain you to my bed and never let you out,” he rumbles, “I’d keep you safe and sound and stuffed with my cock every hour of the day.”

James shudders and moans; his voice is liquid pitch, and his bound hands flutter up, fasten themselves to Michael’s on his own head, tighten and thread through his fingers. “Yours,” he says—or tries to say, muffled and garbled around Michael’s cockhead, filling his mouth like it was meant to fit there. He’s trembling violently, and he’s still thrusting his hips, erratic pumping, tired and weak; the whine of the vibrator becomes audible as their breathing slows.

Michael reluctantly lets his—and then James's—cock slip loose from their newfound homes. They're both going to spend lots and lots of time that way from now on. His whole body feels loose and weightless, deeply satisfied in a way he hasn’t felt before; as if his orgasm with James was more than just an orgasm, more than just physical satisfaction; and that’s true. He knows it. He feels it in his bones; there’ll never be anything as good as what he and James can have, can be.

Clumsily, he helps James lie flat, shifting to kneel at his side. He slides his hands down damp ribs and a heaving belly, coils his fingers into wet curls and pets the stiff and flushed and leaking cock; he strokes James’s balls gently, traces his finger down the perineum—then taps the plug, once, twice, before stroking the recessed dial down to low, toggling off the power. James exhales with relief, and his whole body slumps down as if his bones have turned to water.

He won’t be getting up anytime soon. Michael pets him a little longer, catching his breath. He finally thinks he can stand. Before he does, he leans down, presses a tender kiss into each of James’s closed eyes, kisses his come-covered mouth until James kisses back, until he can suck at his own taste on James’s tongue, sweep his tongue along enamel ridges and the hard roof of James’s mouth, claiming every part of it for his own.

James relaxes into him completely, curls a hand around Michael’s leg at his side. “Yours,” he murmurs, dreamily and distant. “Michael.”

Michael nods, words caught in his throat and eyes dampening, growing hot. “Mine,” he repeats, and kisses James again. There’s clean-up to do, but first things first: the clamps have got to go. James opens his eyes a bit when Michael rubs fingertips over stretched and swollen and reddened skin; anticipatory tears are already flowing. Michael pets James’s chest, holds his gaze. He unlocks both clamps at once and tosses them to the side, immediately grabbing James when he collapses helplessly into Michael’s side, sobbing.

“It’s good, it’s fine,” Michael soothes. He rubs taut shoulders, finding the bruises from earlier already rising. “James, you don’t know how well you’re doing, you’re fine, you’re perfect.” He lets James fold into his lap; presses kisses into sweat-matted hair and damp skin. “You’re so perfect for me,” he whispers, awed and wondering, into the tender shell of an ear, and rubs a hand up and down the length of a trembling back while James clutches at him and buries his face in Michael’s stomach.

“James, love, so many people would have had to use their safewords. They wouldn’t have been able to take what you have, what you’re still feeling.” It’s true; and Michael works a hand down to cup James’s cock, still bound, but finally allowed its full measure, no longer crumpled into that tiny cage. Michael needs to pay it some attention, allow James a little rest and relief after getting so close, yet not permitted to reach the peak.

And with that thought, someone knocks on the door. Michael sighs, kisses James again when he stiffens.

“Stay here,” he orders, wrapping command around him, a sheltering blanket. “Don’t move, don’t speak, don’t think.” They’re right out in the open, but it doesn’t matter; no one’s coming inside. He curls his hands around James’s tightly-cuffed wrists, squeezes hard until James looks up, disoriented and saucer-eyed.

Michael kisses him, pats his hair. “Wait for me.” He puts a snap into his words, lets his fingers bite into James’s chin. “Do you hear me?”

James nods, licks swollen lips and nods again, more thoughtful now. He keeps his wrists together, fingers laced tight.

Michael finds his robe and pulls it back on. He reaches the door by the second knock. “Step back, please,” he says through it, and sticks his head out. The same young lady purses her lips at him, eyes him up and down, and holds out her hand, palm up. Michael opens his mouth. Closes it. “Be right back,” he sighs, and ducks into the room, finds his wallet and takes out a somewhat larger collection of notes.

James watches him with forlorn oceanic eyes, but doesn’t move a muscle, still folded on the floor, hands pressed to his chest and fingers spread as if it’s the closest he can get to a hug. Michael hurries, passes over cash, initials the receipt, receives a smirk, and pulls the cart into the room and locks the door.

“I ordered your lunch to arrive later,” he explains, and bends down to help James stand. James clings to him, shaky on his feet and skin cooling rapidly. Michael guides him to the bed again, settles James under sheets and the blanket, swaddles him head to toe. He runs back and drags over the cart, picking up the key to the cuffs on the way, and then settles down beside James so that their sides and thighs press tightly together.

"Give me your hands," he orders, and closely inspects proffered wrists. The steel has left vivid impressions where it dug deep into thin skin over bone; those bruises will last considerably longer than the already-faded marks from the leather cuffs. As long as the bites on James's shoulder will remain, hopefully. Possessive pleasure coils through Michael's body, fires along his nerves until he has to clamp his hands around James's wrists, hold him tight and immobile and his, reveling in the willingly trapped pulse under his fingers. Eventually he lets go--he has to--and loosens the cuffs by two notches, enough to allow a little wiggle room. James curls his fingers through Michael's.

After a moment, Michael reluctantly leans away to bring the serving tray to rest over their legs. It’s radiating heat, but that feels good under the protective layers of fabric, and it will help James recover. “I didn’t know what exactly you might want, so I ordered a few different things.” He points, in turn: “Corn chowder. Tomato bisque with soft bread. Some chocolate pudding, a serving of bread pudding.”

James sighs, leans his head on Michael’s shoulder. He taps the back of Michael’s hand once.

“You like that? We can order something else if you’d rather; you can speak now.” More touching. His other hand over James’s over his.

“You remembered,” James answers after a second, voice bruised wild honey over nettles, “what I said, about vegetarian options, and sounding better, didn’t you…” When he swallows, his face pinches briefly; but that doesn’t change the warmth in the next words. “Thank you. And I want all of it. I’m absolutely starving.” He glances up, catches Michael’s eye, grins a little. “Must be the excellent workout routine you’ve designed.”

Michael kisses him. Can’t not kiss him. And when he reaches for a spoon, James looks at him, assessing. Reaches out as well, laying fingers over his before he can pick the spoon up. “I can feed myself. You’re tired, too, Michael.” He offers a smile sweet as milk, kind and fond and affectionate. “This is a lot of food, though; we’d better share.”

And he brings the spoon with its safely-conveyed cargo of tomato bisque to Michael’s lips.

They eat like that, feeding one another in turn, and halfway through the meal Michael slides his free hand down between James’s legs to tend to his tormented cock. Soup and murmured conversation accompany fingers wrapping loosely, stroking gently to calm desperate heat; food revitalizes while touch comforts, until James is content and calm and his erection has subsided a bit, pulled back from the edge. Until his pulse has slowed and the flush of his overheated body fades back to stardust freckles, pink welts on pale skin. Magical, Michael thinks, recalling James’s word choice. It’s true.

After lunch, James is sleepy and full of good soup and bread pudding and cream, disinclined to move from the clutches of protective blankets; Michael nudges him with a foot. “We need to shower. You need to shower.” Then, thinking out loud, “James?”

“Hmm?”

“You…” He stretches out under the blankets, tugs them up so that it’s just him and James, enclosed in their own fabric-swathed miniature world. Rests a hand over James’s stomach, tracing freckles, tracing the path he’d picked out with ribbons of leather, before. “You don’t have to answer…it’s just me asking…want a stomach rub?”

“Was that honestly your question?” Blue eyes dance, summer afternoons beneath billowing white silk-cotton blended threads. “Yes, if you’d like. Seriously, though, what? I’ll probably tell you.”

Michael scoots a bit closer, and lets his hand indulge itself, gentle soothing caresses while James’s body digests lunch. “You said it was a lot of food. Are you—this's probably about to sound really fucking condescending, I’m so sorry, but, um, I’m sort of—you know what I do, right, Ian told you—”

“When you’re not fucking me into oblivion?” James lifts a lazy eyebrow at him. “Physiotherapy, Ian said. Very hands-on. Very good, too.”

“Right…yes, so…if I say you look too thin…”

“Oh.”

Michael holds his breath during the following introspective little pause, and the sheets glare at him accusatorily for slipping so far out of role and into personal attachment.

James looks right at him, one corner of that mouth edging up. “No, you’re right, I am. I know. I’d put weight on for Dirt—the last film, not out yet, you won’t know it, but I had to gain a few stone and I did it for the role, it completely got me in character, but I didn’t feel good—I was eating just fuckin’ horrible fried crap and drinking half a bottle of whisky a night—”

“What.”

“Well, maybe every other night. But anyway. After we wrapped, I only had a couple of weeks before the Scottish Play, and I had to be in the best shape of my fuckin’ life for that, I don’t know if you saw it or saw any reviews, but—”

“I saw it. Your closing night.”

James stops to grin at him. “What’d you think?”

Powerful. Evocative. Tragic. Astounding. “Brilliant. Stop deflecting. What happened?”

“I stopped eating and made myself work out eight hours a day.” James sighs. “Don’t tell me it wasn’t healthy, I know…but it worked. And I don’t mean I stopped eating. I extremely like eating. But I got used to not eating much, and then with all the rehearsals, all the performances…you know how sometimes you’re just too exhausted to look at food…”

“So what you’re saying is you haven’t been eating.”

“I…well, I’ve been trying. After we closed, last week…I went home and slept for two days, got up and made cinnamon rolls, and managed to eat half of one. Lots of small meals. Nothing too rich. I have been trying. Does that help?”

“I think so.” He leaves his hand resting on the closest hip, over a treasure-splash of vivid freckles. They twirl exuberantly under his hand, when James stretches happily beneath the weight. “Thank you. For telling me. It wasn’t an order; you didn’t have to.”

“I know.” James smiles again. “I wanted to. You—I wanted to.”

“Shower,” Michael says, because it’s that or I love you so damn much I think my heart’s plotting ways to implode, and reaches over to remove the heavy cuffs, “If you feel up to it. And we should change these sheets.”

“Oh.” James glances away, obscured by a fall of sheet, a shadow. “Yes, all right. I can get up, Michael.”

They sit up, both wincing for similar reasons—it’s been a while since Michael’s chosen to have anyone fuck him, and James remains deliciously, thoroughly plugged by that trustworthy vibrator—and toss away the sheet. Michael says “Wait,” and leans over to kiss him, firm and faithful and steady. “I’m glad you told me. I want you to—I want you. I mean. Not just on your knees or in cuffs. I want you to know that.”

“Oh,” James says one more time, eyes surprised and elated and so very very blue, “perfect, then, because I know it’s been a good scene and I know I feel good on my knees for you but I also like cooking with you and waking up with you and so I’m pretty sure I want you too,” and kisses him back. It’s understood: it is a good scene, and there is a connection, and it’s hard to make rational judgments amid the intensity, and now’s not the time to make promises about love.

That doesn’t mean the love’s not real. Just means they’ll need to take some time outside of this weekend to figure it out. Delayed gratification; and they’re both in favor of that, after all.

They wander into the shower hand in hand. Michael coats fingers and sore skin with lube, slick and sleek; gently, incrementally, eases the switched-off plug out of James’s quivering body. Leaves the rubber cock ring—manfully resisting the urge to trail his knuckles along that quiescent length—and catches James when shaking legs abruptly give out.

“Sorry,” James says, “You keep having to catch me, I should—Michael—” and puts his head on Michael’s shoulder, eyes shut.

Michael supports him in one arm, and flips on the water with the other hand, then shies from the brief spurt of cold water until it heats acceptably, not too hot for smarting flesh. “Don't. I’m kind of proud of this. Of you. Of you not being able to stand after I’m through with you.”

And James, lovely, challenging, wonderful James, raises that eyebrow at him again. “Oh, are you through, then? This soon?”

“So you are all right.” Michael puts a rather relieved hand on his shoulder. Guides him to his knees in the shower. “Clean me. With your tongue.”

Blue eyes sparkle excitedly up at him, then descend in submission; James leans forward and licks at Michael’s half-hard cock, tongue earnest and dedicated, swiping up every last clinging trace of Michael’s spent orgasm from tip, shaft, base, curling his tongue around Michael’s balls, thorough and enthusiastic. Michael can’t hold back the groan as his body tenses, and he feels James’s smile against sensitive skin.

“Would you like—” James blushes, but asks the question anyway; a sincerely interested offer. “What you did to me, with your tongue, earlier—here—” Fingertips venture up Michael’s thigh, into that intimate crease, where he’s still stretched from the thickness of James’s gorgeous cock. “I could…I would like that, I think.”

So would Michael, very much. “So would I. Very much. But…not now. Not because of you,” he clarifies hastily. “Because, um, lube. You wouldn’t enjoy—hang on, have you ever done that before? With anyone?”

The blush extends even further. “No, Michael.”

“But you would, for me…” He puts out a hand, combs wet hair back from that upturned face. James gazes at him, kneeling at Michael’s feet under the steady shower rain. “No one’s ever used you properly, have they?”

He knows the answer’s no. Which is why the reply, when it comes, sends a bolt of fantastic electricity all along his spine: when James breathes, still gazing up at him, “Only you.”

“James,” Michael says, no words left at all, only that name, and puts the hand into his hair and holds him in place, tilting his head back under the water, so that he has to open his mouth as Michael’s cock rubs across his lips.

James coughs and splutters and tries to breathe; then calms, that sudden swift fall into grace that’s so impossibly beautiful, and licks fervently at Michael’s cock when he can, and lets himself go limp in Michael’s grip when he realizes that’s what Michael wants, tip sliding back and forth over slack lips, leaving them swollen and full. Michael doesn’t fuck his mouth, or his throat—won’t undo the previous care—but leaves him in no doubt of who belongs to whom.

The answer’s of course both—he belongs to James equally as much—but James needs to feel this. To feel himself, under Michael’s possession.

James trembles when Michael lets him go, in part from trying to inhale through water and the weight of Michael’s cock, and in part from the inundation of emotion. Michael pulls him close, lets James bury the tears in his hip, and leaves a hand resting solidly on the nape of his neck, a reminder.

They do eventually appropriately shower, sliding against one another, staying close even though the stall allows more than enough room for two. James whimpers at hot water on chafed nipples; Michael murmurs soothing words and tilts the spray so it won’t hit him directly. Michael bends James over and cleans him thoroughly, checking once again while he does, but there are no signs of injury from such comprehensive use; James tilts his head sideways to look back in reply, grin bright and mischievous.

Then he cleans Michael in turn, pronounces him uninjured before returning to face him with arms wrapped round. Dancing eyes watch Michael’s face while flirtatious fingers stroke in tiny circles to “assess sensitivity”—before Michael grabs both hands and holds him still for a nip at rose-red lips. James smiles widely once he’s freed, plucks the soap from the shelf and proceeds to scrub Michael’s back and front, and even drops down for his legs and feet, grin turning a bit shyer at that. Michael pulls him up and kisses him everywhere, just because; washes that luxuriously cheerful hair, which makes James all but dissolve into sheer sensual bliss while Michael’s hands knead his scalp, earning positively pornographic sounds.

“Really,” Michael says, vastly entertained, “what happens if I give you a full-body massage, then?”

James sighs, “Marriage proposals, probably.” Michael laughs. Then flinches, wistfulness fortunately kept inside and not where those well-pleasured eyes can see.

“Come on.” He gets James out of the shower and back to the bed. “Sheets.”

He catches blue eyes glancing at him while they flip off messy sheets and spread out new ones; James catches him glancing the next time and grins, and Michael laughs for no reason at all, for the wonderful ridiculous domesticity of the moment. Himself and James McAvoy, surrounded by canes and paddles and handcuffs, in a hotel room, changing sheets.

James's matching laugh's all spiced-cocoa merriment, rich chocolate infused with exotic heat; it stops, though, as Michael pushes him down on the bed and brings back instantly recognizable plastic. “Ready?”

“I…” James bites his lip, looks down at himself, no longer burning with urgent need, but still bound, still fuller and a bit stiffer than will be easy to maneuver into the cage’s cramped space. Then looks up, gaze trepidatious but not precisely objecting. “I don’t know…it hurts, Michael. Can we…I don't know if…”

“Are you asking me to stop?” He stands beside the bed, looking down. This is important. “You know which words you can say. Tell me now.”

“Yellow,” James whispers. “I just—talk to me, for a second. I’m not saying no, I can—I need a minute.”

“Of course. And thank you for being honest.” He sits down, too, on the side of the bed. Takes James’s hand in his. No cuffs, not for this moment. “I told you once already. We’re not here to hurt you.”

“Not by accident, you said.” James smiles, a faint lifting of lips. “Tell me something about you? It doesn’t have to be anything big, I’m just…interested. In you.”

“Something interesting…” He plays with those broad welcoming fingers, in his. In interviews, on camera, they’re always in motion, sweeping expressive gestures that invite the whole world into the conversation: oh, you get excited about this film, that book? So do I, want to talk about it, want to be friends, maybe then neither of us will ever have to feel lonely…

He could refuse. He could retreat into professional distance. He could treat James like a client, any other client.

He does none of those things.

“…I can play the accordion. And guitar. I spent a year or two trying to be in a band with a friend, when we were, oh, seventeen or so. We played a grand total of one show.”

“With the accordion?” James watches Michael’s fingers as they toy with, maneuver, manipulate his own. “I’ve never met anyone who knows how to play an accordion. You’ll have to serenade me.”

“I’m not terrible—” He plays with James’s thumb, bends it in, uncurls it. “—but I’m not exactly a prodigy, either. You may regret asking.”

“Never,” James says, looking up, “not ever, Michael,” and it’s not about the accordion, and Michael kisses those fingertips, and James smiles again.

“Ready?” Michael asks, very gently, and James nods. So the ring comes off—James gasps and quivers—and the cage goes on. It’s more painful now, more difficult to compress that firmer thickness, though Michael works at it patiently while James gnaws his lower lip until it’s visibly swollen, and breathes hard through his nose, hands gripping his own thighs as he lies still and pliant and wet-eyed, suffering gorgeously under Michael’s hands. Once it’s done, once James’s cock is locked away, trapped and cramped inescapably, Michael brings out another vibrator, this one longer and thicker and altogether more menacing in its knobs and curves. James cries out as his cock throbs with renewed distress, as the heavy length forces its way inside him, slick with lube but still too large; Michael wants him to feel it.

He brushes tears from both cheeks with his thumbs, flicks the vibrator to its lowest setting—James sobs everywhere, eyes enormous and trapped in too much sensation—and leaves those wrists unbound for now, settling James into bed. James does need rest, that’s part of why they’re here, so he flips on the television, pillows James’s head on his thigh, and skims through channels.

News. Football—James makes an interested sound, and Michael pauses, but James adds drowsily, “Not now, I can’t pay attention,” and that’s of course both true and the point, so he moves on. American sitcom re-runs. One of James’s early movies, an adorable modern-day fairy-tale love-story. James’s hair hangs down, inexplicably straightened, and he's singing amazingly badly and his presence fills the screen, larger than life and instantly alluring.

Michael pauses again. James wakes up enough to protest, “Oh, come on, no, not me, and not that part, I actually can sing but they told me to sing badly, don’t tell me you’ve seen this, please,” and Michael puts eyebrows up and says consideringly, “Well, I won’t tell you…” and James groans and tries to hide his face in Michael’s leg.

Michael turns up the vibrator to the third setting. James gasps.

“No arguing with my choices,” Michael informs him, and James whispers, “Yes, Michael,” eyes dark, every last bit of him slipping back into the depths, into wholehearted unprotesting submission.

Michael, who has in fact seen Becoming Penelope three times, puts on Top Gear instead, and, when that finishes, the original Highlander. James hums along with the theme song, vaguely, still distracted; when Michael realizes that’s what he’s doing, he can only respond by singing along too, until James wakes up a bit more and joins in with merry eyes and actual words.

And that’s how the end of the afternoon passes, diffuse setting-sun light through the gauzy curtains and their voices mingling around a Queen soundtrack and sheer improbable delight scampering through Michael’s veins: this is real, this is happening, James lying at his side quoting lines with Sean Connery, James whimpering every time Michael toys with the vibrator embedded in his body or spanks him for fun, James in his bed and in his heart and sharing confidence and confidences and here with him in every possible way.

As evening sets in, the air begins to cool; a cold front’s moving closer, icy weather frosting the windowpanes. James will need to be kept warm. Michael considers the suite’s fireplace—not terribly big, but it looks functional, conveniently situated such that it can be seen and felt in both the bedroom and the sitting area—then disentangles himself from the bed and his submissive for a while.

James wakes up naked and blinking and confused. “…fire? Oh…”

“I have excellent survival skills,” Michael says. True, though this particular fireplace only requires an already-provided log and a switch-flip for lighting the gas. He refuses to admit to this. “Warm enough?”

“They told me there was a fireplace when I reserved the suite, but I didn’t think it worked…” James appears entranced by the lick and curl of flames into dark air. That’s not a surprise, not really; it fits him well. Sparks and fire and passion and red-gold heat: that’s all there for Michael to see.

“Oh, and yes, warm enough. Impressed, even.”

Michael snorts. “You weren’t before?”

James grins, then sneaks his tongue out to run over that lower lip, pretending contemplation. “Oh, I don’t know…starting to be, a little…what else’ve you got?”

Michael grumbles a few words under his breath, then leans down and turns the vibrator to high all at once, skipping the in-between settings. James screams. Tries to curl up around his cock, as it fights to fill and spurt between his thighs, as the toy buzzes relentlessly over his prostate.

“You did ask,” Michael says gleefully, watching James sob and twitch on the bed. “What did I tell you about being cheeky, James?”

James can’t answer, still sobbing, delirious. Michael turns the control back down, second-lowest setting, and pulls him upright. Taps fingers over his cheek, somewhere between a gentle pat and an intentional slap, bringing him back, grounding. “James?”

“Michael,” James whispers, broken, begging, “I’m sorry, please, I need—I can’t—this hurts, I need to come, please let me—”

“No,” Michael tells him, and leaves him there for a minute, while he himself runs to the kitchenette and stares into the refrigerator’s chilly depths for a while, seeing nothing, regaining stable balance with the help of the appliance. Christ. James is so beautiful. And James hasn’t, despite the pleas, used his safewords.

He takes a few breaths. Walks back toward the bedroom, bringing a glass and James’s scotch, an absolutely opulent thirty-year-old Glenfiddich. He hates to think of how expensive that must be; and he pauses in the bedroom’s doorway.

James is famous. James can afford to spend upwards of four hundred pounds—best guess, based on Michael’s decade-old bartending experience; he’s certainly never bought this specific one—on scotch for a special occasion. James is a fucking movie star.

Michael’s reasonably well-off, definitely comfortable, and not unused to working with cinema-industry clientele—but James lives in a whole different world, one full of red carpets and camera lights and glitz, one that might as well be another planet. And those differences lurk right there in one liquid-gold bottle of expensive alcohol, dangling from his hand.

I’m interested, James had said. In you. I like waking up with you.

What are we doing, Michael wonders hopelessly, and stares at the scotch. It sloshes around unhelpfully in its heavy glass confines. No good ending for this story. No predictable one, anyway. The fairy tale about the physiotherapist and the film star, about the professional Dominant and unpracticed submissive, isn’t in anyone’s time-hallowed repertoire.

But. He looks through the doorway at James. Who hasn’t moved, half-buried under blankets, the firelight flirting with the cinnamon sprinkles along one bare arm. James appears sleepy and cozy and content. James is content. With him.

He’s given James something no one else has, something no one else can. He’s in love with James, not the remote untouchable silver-screen version, but the real-life human person breathing quietly in their bed. He knows, watching James sigh and drowsily shift position, teased by the vibrations, lulled by the heat, that this is good. And those uncertainties, those specters of potential arguments and inadequacies and doubts…

Those all fade away, not banished out of existence but conquered and made simpler by pancakes and confessions and shared showers and Freddie Mercury sing-alongs.

He walks back into the bedroom. Sits down on the bed. “Are you awake?”

“No. One glass?”

“Mmm,” Michael says, “we’re sharing,” and pours two fingers, not enough to get either of them drunk even without said sharing. He won’t play with any sub if either his partner or himself ends up truly intoxicated; that’s a hard-and-fast rule. That doesn’t mean they can’t have a sip of something, especially if James went to the trouble of buying it.

James props himself up on an elbow. The fire crackles lazily. “I can’t actually sit up, you realize, Michael.”

“You’re good enough like that.” He takes a drink. The flavors burst across his tongue. Ripe fruit and sherry. Dark chocolate and oak. Seductive woodsy sweetness, an enchanted forest. “…holy fucking God.”

James looks far too amused by this. “Good, then? When I told you I was drinking whisky every night, I meant cheap whisky. This was… I felt like being decadent.”

“I approve of you being decadent. Where’d you even get this?” He takes another sip. The tastes blossom across his tongue, and burn on the way down, smooth but intoxicating. “Did you spend your annual income on it?”

“Not even close. I thought you said sharing.”

Given that unsubtle hint, Michael tips the glass against mobile lips. James swallows, grins when Michael lets him pause for a breath, swallows again, runs his tongue out to catch the last drops.

If I kiss him now, Michael thinks, he’ll taste like this. Like blackberries and chocolate and aged wood and fire.

On the wings of that thought, he has to. James submits readily to the plundering, all soft little moans and cries and sweetly interrupted pleas for more, interrupted by Michael’s mouth closing over his, Michael’s tongue plunging in to lick up the last traces of expensive alcohol. Michael’s right hand shoves the glass onto the nightstand; with his left, he turns up the vibrator again, until James sinks into quivering incoherence in his arms, entire body helpless with need.

“Shh.” Michael strokes his back, his hip, coaxing him back from the precipice. One more offer of scotch, carefully rationed; he doesn’t mind James being very slightly tipsy, and they’ll have food shortly in any case, but that’s as far as he’s willing to go. James drinks obediently, eyes drifting shut, powerless against the continuing tremors.

That second drink, combined with continued leisurely drawn-out kisses and the ceaseless stimulation of the toy, leaves James prettily flushed and wanton in his arms, supple and needy and craving Michael’s touch, arching up greedily toward him, trying to hold on when Michael lifts confining arms away. “James,” he says, letting a touch of steel back into his voice, a warning; and James subsides, letting go of him a bit too promptly.

A reminder, then. James isn’t far enough under that that wasn’t on purpose, not with that instant reaction and that wicked glint surfacing through the sea-waves; Michael shakes his head, gets up, eyes his submissive on the bed. James looks back eagerly at first. Then, as Michael’s expression doesn’t change, the blue gets darker, more unhappy, comprehending the displeasure.

Michael’s not truly angry—James wouldn’t be James if this weren’t constantly fun—but that’s part of the game; and so he waits, until confetti-burst freckles vanish in a wash of pink, until James lowers those spectacular eyes and breathes, truly meaning the apology, “Sorry, Michael.”

“Yes,” Michael says, “you know you deserve to be punished, James, for that,” and James looks up, and Michael doesn’t smile but can’t help the suggestion of it in his return glance: they’re all right. Or they will be, once he re-imposes discipline.

He orders, thoughtfully, “On your stomach, hips up,” and James scrambles to obey, maintaining grace even in those hurried movements. “Don’t move.”

And he goes back out to the other room. He does have something in mind. Something James had seemed to appreciate the evening before, shortly after they’d met.

When he comes back, he says, “You can look,” and the inhale’s audible and shocked, but not, he thinks, in the least opposed.

He grins, showing teeth. Doubles the belt, and snaps it through the air. “Only ten. And I want you to count.”

“Yes,” James whispers, eyes huge. “Yes, please, Michael—”

“Good. Stay still. If you move, I may miss. And it’ll hurt.” He catches the tiny gasp, at that. “I mean it, James. This is for you, because you deserve it. It will hurt. So don’t move, unless you want it to hurt someplace I’m not aiming.” James will, of course, enjoy the hurt. That’s fair: James did apologize.

“Ready,” he says, standing by the bed, running a hand over quivering buttocks, bruises from yesterday beginning to fade, about to be viciously reinforced. “Tell me.”

James breathes, “Green.” And Michael’s grin increases, and he lifts his arm, and swings.

James doesn’t—quite—scream. But the “one” comes out shaky, quavering in the air. The line where leather’s met flesh glows vibrant and red. All those muscles clench, involuntarily. Excellent, Michael thinks brightly, that’ll only mean James is tormenting himself more with the vibrations; and swings again.

James’s voice becomes progressively more torn and anguished with each impact, rips widening in the Scottish tartan; his backside turns scarlet and hot to the touch, but he doesn’t ask to stop or employ any safeword, no red or yellow for instant cessation of scene. He only moans, crying freely between hits, tears staining the pillowcase the way the belt’s staining his arse with color. His whole body seems to loosen and go pliant under the blows.

Michael stops at nine to lean down and murmur into one delicate whorled ear, “Mine, James, you belong to me, and I’m doing this to you because I want to,” and James shudders all over but remains valiantly in place, trying so hard, and Michael loves him for that.

One more, and James sobs out, “ten.” Michael drops the belt and falls onto the bed and pulls him close. Holds him, rubbing his back, telling him he’s been good, he’s been marvelous, he’s taken it so well and they’re good and he’s forgiven, he’s perfect, so remarkable…

James cries even more at that, but it’s reaction, catharsis, and Michael holds him through it, brings him back with words and caresses and gentle kisses. James looks up, finally, and whispers, “Thank you,” and Michael’s heart swells in response. He kisses those lips once more, tasting salt, and says, “I’m so pleased with you.” James sighs and relaxes against him, drifting, overcome and enraptured. Michael gets up after a while and collects the cooling cream again; massages it into new lines and marks and bruises, and James relaxes even more, fulfilled and completed.

James can in no way help prepare dinner. Michael reaches over to find his phone, and searches through saved contacts for a few seconds. Ah. That one. James does like curry, that’s come up in at least two interviews, and Michael feels exactly zero guilt at this moment for knowing what James likes. He places the order, calls down to let the front desk know to expect the delivery, and puts his arms back around James, reaches down to toggle off the vibrator.

Twenty minutes, the boy had said on the phone. So: twenty minutes to cuddle James, to coax him back up, to at least get him able to—Michael checks the clock, mentally swears, because he’s not actually sure they’ll have time before food—to make his check-in for the night, as Michael needs to do his own.

Holding James at the moment takes priority. So that’s what he does, as the storm gathers in the night outside. The rain’s not started yet, but it will. It’s impending. But the impending’s kind: it wants him to know, wants him to keep James safe and protected even from itself.

So he will. As long as James wants him. Hopefully, potentially, always. He promises that, to himself and to James and to the rain.

James awakens bit by bit, tear-streaked and sighing softly when he shifts position and the fresh belt-marks make themselves known. But he’s serene in Michael’s arms. And wondering exultation lies vivid behind blue eyes. Which crinkle at the corners with another smile when Michael brings out the familiar leather cuffs, when James extends his arms for binding.

“Hi.” Michael wraps his hands around James’s wrists as his body’s wrapped around James, doubling the sense of possession, of protective encircling of freckles and glorious eyes and trust, and kisses the smile, undemanding, only confirmation: I’m here, you’re here, we’re here together. “Up to talking?”

James considers. Shrugs one shoulder, both eyebrows. Maneuvers a hand up to brush his throat.

“Sore?”

This gets a nod. “Okay,” Michael says, “don’t move,” and slides out of the bed—piles blankets around all the freckles—and comes back with water. James takes a sip, then another, and finally looks up. “Better. Thank you.”

It’s not really—he can hear the snags in wounded tartan—but before he can say anything, James adds, “I meant exactly that. Sore. And better. In…a lot of ways.” And hands the water back, smile turning more bashful with the admission, but sincere.

So Michael just says, “Good,” and sits down beside him. “I ordered food. About…twelve minutes, now. Do you feel up to checking in? What time did you tell him?” He considers that question, then amends, before James can even open that mouth, “If you’re going to say you didn’t give him a time, we had that discussion yesterday. Call him.”

One foot pokes out from under the blanket-hill to nudge Michael’s thigh, but softly, no force behind it. “Yes, Michael. I would’ve anyway. I said after dinner, probably, so it’ll be a bit early, but he won’t mind.”

Michael wraps his hand around that sturdy ankle. James doesn’t protest, only grins. “Holding on? By all means.”

“Are you warm enough?” The energetic glimmer of fireplace heat suffuses the suite, but the rain’s beating with all its might on the walls and windows. The drops fling themselves at the glass, wild and fearless and full of feral joy.

“I’m all right, I think.” James yawns, stretches, balances on an elbow, cheerfully naked but for leather securing willing wrists, plastic over tender flesh, the dark hint of the vibrator hidden deep in his body. “Comfortable. You?”

“Happy,” Michael says, and the answering sparkle in blue eyes feels like a kiss. “Yes.”

The rain sings to itself, the thunder stepping in for backing vocals, beyond the windowpane and the drawn curtains. Inside, the room’s an oasis, caramel-cream wallpaper and flame-warmth and bare skin.

Michael hops up, finds James’s mobile—and something else, mostly just for the sheer fun of it—and comes back. James looks, laughs, approves, “All right, then,” and sits up, coiling legs under him, taking pressure off his no doubt throbbing backside. “What’re you asking for, precisely?”

“Just the one.” He snares James’s left wrist. Loops the black cord—not as long as the folded blue silk rope in the other room, but that won’t matter for this particular exercise—through the fastener of the cuff. Then ties the other end to that headboard, among those inviting wooden curlicues. Made for the purpose, as far as he can tell.

James eyes his wrist. Gives it an experimental tug. “So…you want me literally tied to the bed, naked, while I make my check-in call?”

“Yes.”

“Oh.” James studies his wrist again, darkening with rings of bruising from the steel cuffs. Swallows. “…oh.”

That’s comprehension, in that sound. James could reach over with the other hand, untie himself, get up. Could say no, or red, or yellow, and be untied by Michael’s hand.

James does none of those things. The rain, with infinite exuberant force, applauds.

“I could’ve tied your ankle,” Michael suggests. Curious. Interested in the reply.

“You could have, but I’m sitting on that leg.” James tosses his phone into the air, catches it one-handed. “I suppose I should make this quick, if we've got twelve minutes.”

James, evidently, isn’t bothered by the idea. Michael makes a mental note—underlined twice—of this fact. Also of the tiny indicative pronoun shift: that leg. James knew he’d meant the unscarred one; had answered accordingly. Reading his mind. That closely attuned.

James pokes at the phone. Then looks up, with an absolutely wicked light in blue eyes. Taps the speaker button.

“You did not,” Michael says. No client’s ever done that before. Points to James, for the surprise.

He wonders what that means. What James is thinking. If James isn’t thinking like a client.

“I did. Meet my friends. Well, one friend. Well, Benedict.”

“Hello?” says the voice on the other end, all worried British drama-school richness. “James? You’re early, are you—”

“Hi,” James agrees happily. “Just letting you know I’m safe and alive. Michael told me to do it now.”

“Michael asked you if you felt up to calling now,” Michael observes. “You could’ve said no.”

“Please don’t tell me you’re calling me in the middle of intercourse,” Benedict wails, “and also, hi, Michael, I like your phrasing there, you seem like a decent guy, or at least sort of a decent, um, indecent guy, you know what I mean, no you don’t, I’m going to stop talking now, James, you bastard, I was making a sandwich and now I’ll never be able to make sandwiches again without thinking of your sexual escapades.”

“Excellent,” James says brightly, “and we’re not in fact in the middle of intercourse—intercourse? seriously?—but I am tied to the bed at the moment. Just so you know. What kind of sandwich?”

“I hate you so much,” Benedict says. “Chicken salad. Ruined forever.”

“Come round next week,” James offers. “I’ll make you a better version. Mine. With walnuts. Michael can come too.”

“I can?’

“He can?”

“What good is my being in London for a month if I can’t feed you? Both of you. You know I’m doing the radio-play thing for the BBC the next couple weeks. Neil Gaiman adaptation. Brilliant. I even have an actual nine-to-five work day, because we can’t stay after hours in the building.”

“Um,” Benedict says, while Michael’s still processing this revelation. James in London. James recording at the BBC. James only a quick Tube ride or even quicker motorbike jaunt across the city.

James inviting him round for chicken salad and meeting a friend.

“Um,” Benedict says again, and the embarrassment’s audible over the phone, “yes, of course, yes to you cooking anything ever, but, ah, James, you did say radio, and, um, your voice—you sound—”

“Like I’ve been engaged in…intercourse… involving my throat?”

“Oh God.”

“I have. And I’ll be fine for Monday. I know I will be, okay?”

“How do you—never mind. I’m getting off the phone, go have your intercourse without me, call me tomorrow when you get home. Give me a week before you expect me to look chicken salad in the face again. I don’t want to know what you mean when you say walnuts. Night, you two.”

“It wasn’t even a euphemism!” James yells at the phone, laughing too much to be deciphered on the other end even before the call ends. “Proper walnuts! Edible!”

“I believe you,” Michael says, laughing too, “and you’re terrible. Genius, and terrible. You said…you’d want me to meet your friend.”

“I did,” James says, “I do,” and the laughter flows over into some other emotion, quieter and truthful and more profound, echoed in the meeting of eyes.

The knock at the suite’s door interrupts but doesn’t shatter the radiance. “Be right back,” Michael says, with reluctance, and gets up. James murmurs, “Be right here,” and tugs at his captive wrist again, not in protest but for emphasis. Michael swallows, and goes to answer the door.

He pays for the food. Seems fitting, somehow. James handled the room and the weekend; this is only fair. And besides…

…besides, whispers that unavoidably self-aware voice in his head, this way it feels more like a date. Shared.

James seems a bit too chilly, when Michael gets back to the bed; at least, the free hand’s pulled blankets up, and he’s shut his eyes, though they open the instant Michael’s presence registers. “Thai?”

“You like—how do you feel about Thai curry? Not too spicy.” Too close. Too relaxed. Too easy to know more than he ought to, about James—about his client. The lines’ve stopped being clear some time ago, and if he’s really being honest, he can’t regret the blurring.

James seems about to say something, then, but decides against it. He answers, though, so Michael can’t ask. “I feel excellent about Thai curry. This is from that corner place over by the British Museum, isn’t it? I have boundless excellent feelings about that place.”

“It…is, yes. Are you cold?”

“N—a little. I don’t know. Not cold exactly. I wanted…” James blinks, laughs distractedly, shrugs with both eyebrows. “I really don’t know. To be touched. And now I want curry.”

“Hmm.” He sets everything on the side table for the moment. Sits down. Leans in and cups James’s face with one hand, assertive but not aggressive. Inarguable truth. “Still mine. Tied to the bed, where I put you, where I want you. And I do want you, James.”

James breathes, in and out. Blinks again. Those eyes shine more like oceans than before. A glimpse of wetness left behind by receding waves on the shore. “Thank you, Michael.”

“No need.” He kisses parted lips swiftly, just because he wants to; James kisses him back, waves finding their cadence again, enthusiasm returning after the minor ripple.

“But I don’t want you to be cold, and we need a table. Floor? By the fire?”

A nod, and so Michael flings blankets onto the carpet to make a nest, a sanctuary of wool and eiderdown and chenille. He sets take-out containers on the brick base of the fireplace—it’ll be a serviceable temporary table—before freeing James from the bed. James makes a small unhappy sound, which stops the instant Michael re-fastens the makeshift leash around his ankle and to the nearest bedpost. “Oh, you were serious!”

“Very. Still green?”

“Emerald,” James says, and stretches his leg unfairly high over his head, until the cord pulls taut and Michael’s mouth goes dry, “jade, peridot, and some varieties of tourmaline. What did you order? For future reference, I do like spice.”

“I thought you might. I also thought your throat wouldn’t.” He runs through them: vegetable curry, yellow curry with potato and carrot and coconut cream, standard Pad Thai, pineapple fried rice, and a few extra boxes. “I sort of…asked them to box up the meat separately. I mean, it’s not, y’know, actually vegetarian, because they cook everything together—except that one, that’s the green curry, no meat—but you said you weren’t actually vegetarian, either. I just sort of wasn’t sure. How much you wanted. That one—no, the one by your elbow—that one’s chicken. That one’s beef.”

“You’re wonderful.” James conquers a potato, drenched in curry-spice, with skillful chopsticks. Then a piece of chicken. “You didn’t have to. But thank you.”

“Still no need.”

“I mean you, ah, don’t have to in the future. If we…share Thai food again.”

“I like sharing Thai food with you,” Michael agrees, and pushes pineapple rice his direction. The fire showers the night with sparks in celebration.

When they’re mostly finished, he finds his own mobile—leaves James on the floor, tethered to the bed, while he gets up to fetch it; sees the amused-incredulous-excited expression, and smiles to himself—and calls Steve, after asking whether James would like to say hello. James considers, inquires as to how much Steve already knows—the answer’s only that James and Michael’re spending the weekend together for sex; Michael won’t jeopardize any client’s reputation by admitting gritty bedroom-kink details, and especially not a celebrity client—and then decides it's only fair.

This decision turns out to be, at least with regard to Michael's future sanity, terribly unfortunate. James and Steve bond instantly, mostly over obscure London bookshops and Michael’s tendency to be protective of his clients. “He wouldn’t let one of my stuntmen go back to work for three weeks!” Steve announces, and James commiserates with, “He had the Thai place separate out the meat for me even though I’m only sort of half-vegetarian.” Then they both agree that Michael’s utterly adorable and in need of someone who’ll take care of him for a change.

“I’m right here,” Michael complains, and James pats him on the leg. “Of course you are. Adorably so.”

“James,” Steve inquires, “any chance you might be unoccupied, oh, year after next? And can you sing, because I was thinking about a musical, something I’ve not done before, maybe London in the nineteen-eighties and the punk scene, and I thought I remembered you did sing, in that Shakespeare thing, not the current one but—”

“ShakespeaRe-Imagined,” Michael contributes. Then has no good way to kick himself for the slip without blue eyes noticing.

James lifts one expressive eyebrow at him, but answers Steve instead, and somehow by the end of the call they’ve all agreed to work on a project together, Michael onboard as some sort of kinesiology consultant, while James will sing and wear black leather and studs and a tongue piercing on camera. Michael will quite possibly never survive the first wardrobe fitting, let alone the whole filming process.

After they hang up on Steve, he goes to find that opulent scotch again. Necessary, considering.

James shares the glass with him, taking dutiful sips every time Michael holds the drink to his lips. Then lounges contentedly beside him after they’ve finished, firelight playing over luminous skin and caressing each individual cinnamon sprinkle on that flat stomach. Michael, jealous of the reflected flames, has to trace each freckle too. Every one.

James grins, head propped on one hand in a pose that should be awkward but apparently isn’t, allowing him to follow the path of Michael’s index finger across his skin. “Counting? Won’t work. New ones every time I’m in the sun. Even bits of me that aren’t in the sun.”

“Not counting. Just exploring you.” His finger meanders over the curve of a hip, the latticework of ribs—still too thin, despite well-developed musculature—and back down: sensitive inner thigh, smoothly flexible knee joint—not the scarred one—and a powerful calf, darkly haired and masculine and enticing. He plays with the arch of James’s foot for a while, learning all of his shapes, even here. James makes a seriously? face at him, but doesn’t object, and equally doesn’t twitch.

“Every part of you belongs to me,” Michael informs him, “and if I want to spend an hour admiring your toes, I will. Not ticklish, at all?”

“Used to be.” James wiggles said toes invitingly. “I like belonging to you, I think…My sister used to thoroughly revel in that advantage over me, when we were kids. And now I’m an actor. Can’t afford to be ticklish, these days.”

“Hmm.” That’s a reminder, one his brain doesn’t like to dwell on. James is an actor. With all that entails. On-screen kisses. Nudity. Sex scenes.

Then again, Michael himself enjoys giving his clients whatever they happen to need. He’s in no position to judge or to object. He’d certainly never demand that James keep to an arbitrary standard when he’s unlikely to quit his own second profession.

Nevertheless, the irritation lingers. Not the sharp prick of a rose-thorn; more the dully tender spot after the point’s been pulled out. James is his. And Michael…

…Michael belongs to James, just as much. Michael’s been—not ruined for any other client, but made aware that there are clients and then there are masterpieces, once-in-a-lifetime partners. James is Michael’s other half; deep down in his soul he knows that if James asked he’d say yes, he’d give everyone else up, he’d keep himself only to James forever.

James doesn’t ask that, of course. Wouldn’t ask that. Only met him the day before.

What James does ask is, “Are you? Ticklish?”

“No.”

“Yes, you are.” One freckled hand sneaks up his hip. Trails, feather-tantalizing, over his ribs. Michael does not twitch, through a heroic act of will.

James smirks. “You so are.”

“I am not.”

In answer, those fingertips flutter over his skin. Michael utterly fails to not let out an undignified and un-Dominant squeak, and James chortles with delight. “Knew you were.”

“Yes, well,” Michael retorts, “you’re tied to the bed with my vibrator inside you and I’m planning to fuck you until you can’t walk, after this, so don’t be smug about it,” and James just grins at him, all self-satisfied cheeky happiness, so Michael has to kiss him.

After James has been left deservedly breathless and quivering with unfulfilled desire, cock dark and beading liquid in its cage, mouth loose and red and wet, Michael leans down and murmurs, “I don’t lose control in front of my sub, James, so don’t push me; and yes, all right, I am."

James starts laughing again, aroused and magnificent and entirely at Michael’s mercy, tied to the bed and bathed in the glow of the fire and the fading exotic-spice scent of curry and coconut cream. They’re still a little too full to do anything about that arousal, though. Michael sighs, unfastens James from the bed, nods at the decimated take-out boxes. “Clean up. Then show me your cake recipe?”

“Orders?” James touches his own lips, fleetingly, as if trying to memorize Michael’s presence there in every possible way. “And yes, of course.”

“Not exactly an order. Or—it is if you want it to be. But I’m helping you with clean-up. And maybe with cake?”

“I like you giving me orders.” James flushes becomingly and glances briefly away. But he looks back up, letting Michael be witness to the genuine desire in the blue. “Though I also like you asking. Sometimes. When we’re not—when it’s not—when it’s just—you know what I mean. Come on, then, you can help me with lemon zest…”

They drift into the kitchenette hand-in-hand. Michael helps with lemon zest. Listens attentively as James explains each step, smiling, leather-cuffed wrists graceful with skill and self-assurance. This bit involves simply mixing ingredients and tossing them into the cake-pan, no open flame, so no clothing required; bare feet on the tiles and traded kisses to shoulders, throats, gesturing hands.

Lemon flavoring, candied orange bits, a splash of kumquat juice—Michael raises eyebrows; James raises them right back—followed by the usual baking standards: eggs, flour, butter, sugar. James ends up with flour on his cheek, left there by the back of a hand swiping at misbehaving hair; Michael takes that hand and licks every last trace of orange-infused sugar from each finger, sliding his mouth down over them one at a time, all the way to the base. James wobbles on his feet, and nearly forgets the last egg.

Pan in oven, timer set for forty-five minutes; citrus glaze conjured in the meantime out of that cognac and sugar and more tropical juice. James blushes and admits, “It’s not supposed to be quite this sweet, but I sort of like sweet, so I tend to add extra sugar.” Michael picks up a spoon and drizzles glaze across James’s hand and licks it up, leisurely warm sweeps of tongue. James breathes in, watching, pupils dilating as his fingers curl reflexively.

Michael considers this reaction. “It won’t take too long to make more of this, will it, and we’ve got forty minutes...”

“Yes," James says, "please.”

And they toss a second batch in the fridge before ending up back in the blanket-nest by the fireplace, James re-tied to the bed with hands cuffed neatly behind him, the two of them playing with sugared alcoholic sweetness and naked skin.

Michael brings the spoon, makes James swallow sugary syrup when fed by hand, when the cool metal presses into the back of his throat and tilts; James’s eyes go wide and dark and melting. Michael licks bright citrus from James’s nipples, purple and pink with bruises and magnificently sensitive, while James moans, senses dissolved in pleasure and rough-edged hurt and overwhelming liquid flavors and the ceaseless twinned melodies of the rain outside and the fire within.

Michael pulls James to his knees, traces a sticky finger over his own cock, and uses the spoon to coax dreaming lips further apart. Fucks James’s beautiful mouth, not hard or deep but enough that he’ll feel it, and James does, crying softly but licking and sucking at him even more greedily in response.

Michael groans, and doesn’t quite let himself come but does thrust more sharply, just once, down that earnest throat. James chokes, coughs—not quite prepared for the force—but opens up readily for the invasion. His cock visibly strains beneath its confines, struggles to swell, excited even further by the frisson of pain.

The cake timer goes off. Of course it does.

He pulls away. Leaves James on the floor, quivering with the aftershocks of emphatic use and unfulfilled need. Before he gets up, though, he makes sure James is all right: soft kisses, gentle words, caresses over trembling flushed skin. “I’m here,” he promises, “coming right back, just getting your cake, one minute,” and kisses panting lips once more.

To which affectionate gesture James breathes, very faint, “our cake, Michael, not just mine,” and Michael’s laughing when he steps out to the kitchenette.

He drags on his shirt for the short trip. Finds and uses the nice-but-not-too-nice potholders provided by the hotel to carefully reach the cake out to cool on a rack, then turns the oven off. Everything’s perfect; and he runs while stripping off the shirt, literally runs, back to the bedroom. Back to his submissive. Back to James.

He does have plans. The blue silk cord looped over the back of a chair—James either hasn’t noticed or hasn’t wanted to push him by asking, or just possibly wants to be surprised—and the heavy hand-cuffs and the metal gleam of the ring gag all remind him as much.

“James,” he says. James stirs enough to open eyes in his direction.

“Up,” Michael orders, waits for a semblance of a nod, for James to clamber to his feet, to stand silently with hands loose at his sides, gaze dark and acceptant of whatever might be commanded of him. Michael curls a beckoning finger.

James moves closer. He’s beautiful, bare feet on plush carpet, side-lit by glowing flames that turn his skin into a golden map of their journey together, the bruises and bites and welts transforming innocent sun-speckled ivory into an artist’s canvas. He stops in front of Michael, and looks up with those half-lidded, wanting eyes.

“Mouth open.” Michael places one hand over the upper part of James’s face, blocking his view. With the other, he fits the wide ring gag into the stretch of that mouth, pushes it gently behind teeth until it locks into place, forcing James’s mouth open to its fullest extent, even a fraction of an inch beyond. His jaws will ache later, to join in the chorus of Michael’s other claims on his willing body. “How’s that feel? Will you be all right?”

“Nod or shake, I don’t want to hear a sound from you,” he adds hastily, and James nods, presses forward into the cup of Michael’s palm. His tongue flexes in its open cavern, unable to settle. Michael leans in and traces his own tongue along those stretched lips. “You’re going to stay like this for a while,” he says, “and I’ll keep balm handy, but let me know if you get thirsty. If I think you’ve earned it with your obedience, if I’m sufficiently pleased by how you use your mouth and your cock and your arse to please me, then I may choose to allow you something to drink.”

Under his hand, James’s jaws try to flex with a breath sharply drawn, and his tongue flutters; he sways into Michael’s hold and a shiver ripples through him. He nods, nods again.

“I may not.” Michael slips his forefinger into James’s mouth, traces the ridges of teeth, flicks his nail at the restless muscular tongue trying to wrap around it. “I’ve been so good to you, James. I let you come last night—made you come, I should say. That was lovely, but an indulgence; and I think you don’t want me to be soft on you. Do you? Want me to be soft on you?”

Michael presses his hips forward, lets the evidence of his arousal brush against that trapped cock; he can feel the heat of James’s need through the plastic. James shakes his head, slow and languid, and presses back until their thighs brush.

Stepping away, Michael removes his hand from James’s face. James sways after, eyes still closed, and Michael spreads fingers wide against his chest. “Be still.” James nods again, licks his tongue around the wide rim of his mouth. His breathing quickens audibly, awaiting command.

“Do you trust me, James?”

Another nod, vigorous.

The scarlet silk, rinsed and dried from the morning’s use, looks lovely where Michael wraps it carefully round James’s head to blindfold him. Michael removes the cuffs, smiles at the whimper that follows. James has made it clear that he loves wearing bindings, the marks of possession; he loves being secured and enfolded into stern, caring Dominance.

“You’re mine to do with as I please,” Michael growls into the tender whorl of an ear. He drives talonlike fingers into the meat of James’s shoulder, drags them down the line of his side, across the more tender skin beneath his arm, over the rippling skin of his ribcage, turns his hand to brush the backs of his nails harshly across the vulnerable belly and ends with his fingers wrapped around the cock cage, twisting it hard. James groans, knees buckling him into Michael’s waiting arms. He grabs James roughly and drags him across the floor, lets him stumble but never fall, corrals flailing arms—wavering between reaching for him for balance and warding off potential obstacles—and pins them to James’s side until James lets himself relax into Michael’s hold, lets himself be handled, led.

Trusting Michael. Michael’s heart feels like it might swell out of his chest.

He navigates them the short distance to the dining table—he’d cleared it during James’s nap after lunch, leaving the dishes on the serving tray outside the hotel door for staff. He turns James around to face him, pushes him back ungently so that his thighs bang into the side of the solid furniture. Bends him backward until he overbalances, until he lands hard, head thumping down lightly and bouncing once. James cries out, but Michael catches both hands and slams them flat on either side of him, loud slaps on the wood. “Not a sound, I said!”

He notes with satisfaction how James’s hips twist with the sudden pressure of the plug deep within him, how he squirms with its weight and spreads his legs, thighs pressing down to raise his arse up. Michael wraps his hands around James’s hipbones and shoves him down flat, then reaches down to flip on the vibrator; flicks it to high and watches his submissive scream and writhe and buck into his punishing grip—while those hands push against the tabletop, white-knuckled and spread wide, but never moving from where Michael’s put them. Still not moving as he releases James, then slaps both hands hard across the inner surfaces of now-obedient thighs, slaps again until they’re red with palm prints, with the ray-like lines of fingers.

James’s spine arches with his struggle to stay in place, to comply, to obey. His shoulders drive into the wood as he tries to endure the drilling pressure in his arse; the muscles of his chest and abdomen twitch, the long muscles of his thighs jump; the cording tendons in his neck lead like arrows to the lovely lengths of his clavicles and the glistening hollow between where sweat starts to gather and run.

It’s a strong table, sturdy, fearless, antique as the bones of this hotel that James has chosen for them: withstanding all that time can throw. Good. Michael has plans.

He thinks, from the sly curl of fire-and-lamplight in carved thick oak, that the table’s heartily on board.

Michael pushes sturdy thighs farther apart over the glossy wood, pushes until James cries out again and the resistance becomes that of ligaments instead of will. “Stay there,” he commands, voice gone dark and deep and dangerous, and James’s whole body trembles, his sob eclipsed by the hard buzz of the vibrator.

The silk rope feels like clouds should, running through Michael’s fingers. He’d left it in the chair earlier so he wouldn’t have to leave James for any length of time, and he may never admit to James that he’d bought this particular color only after Sir Ian’d come to him with James’s request. He owns a variety of ropes for a variety of purposes, but none that'd felt right for James. And he’d wanted to see James in bound submission, to see that moonglow skin striped with color and knotted into artful shapes, begging and panting while on display like the most valuable of treasures, hidden away for Michael’s eyes only. So he’d searched online suppliers, visited specialty shops until he’d found just the right texture in just the right color—the crystal sky-and-sea horizon of James’s eyes, large and beautiful and more perfect than anything has the right to be.

Michael wraps his hand around James’s knee, the one scarred by an injury that should never have happened, and that Michael will ensure receives the best of care from now on. He runs his palm up over dark, curling hairs, teases the thicker patch at James’s groin, tickles hopefully at James’s navel—still no luck there—and sets the rope down long enough to boost James a little more into the center of the table, so that his knees dangle over the edges evenly with no strain on the joints; it’s only his thighs that should burn with the painful stretch. James whimpers, loud and helpless through the ring, but moves as Michael urges, no hint of reluctance.

His cock jerks, forces the tiniest spurt of pre-come through the harsh confines of the cage; it’s dark red, almost purple from hours of repeated teasing and denial. But it’s what he wants; he has his safewords, his gestures; and Michael is keeping a close eye on him.

“Arms under you.” Michael leans in to help when James tries to comply, guides him into the desired position: James leaning backward, arms under him at an acute, painful angle, nearly parallel to the table and shoulder-wide apart, palms flat with wide-spread fingers white-tipped on warm, dark wood, straining for support and balance. His spine’s arch at its zenith hovers only a finger’s length above the table, but that’s enough to thrust out his chest and torso into charming convexity. Michael nudges James’s head backward, too, until it hangs over the table edge, stretching the enchanting length of his throat, displaying the vulnerable, bobbing Adam’s apple as he swallows repeatedly, sweeping his tongue through his mouth in order to capture saliva, prevent it from dripping free.

His mouth’s at the perfect height to take Michael’s cock. A wide and open hole for him to fuck, like James’s other hole, presently occupied by Michael’s toy, since Michael unfortunately can’t be in two places at once. His cock leaps when he imagines the impossibility: himself sinking into that working mouth and throat, and at the same time, plunging deeply into James’s eager, gripping arse. Michael bites his lip, and tightens the muscles in his groin, presses the heel of his hand to the base of his cock to quell the impending flood. It takes a moment. Watching James breathe and lick and tremble doesn’t help at all.

He distracts himself briefly by bringing in a short bolster from the arm chair to rest under James’s neck. He doesn’t want to hurt James, after all. Just use him. Thoroughly.

The steady buzz of the vibrator seconds his emotion from where it throbs inside James, whose pelvis seems almost separate from the rest of him, twitching and jerking as it tries to both draw the vibrator in more deeply and escape its unrelenting stimulation.

It’s a sight to drive a man to drink. Michael retrieves the key to the cage from his bag, lays it on James’s shaking belly and picks up the rope. It rustles so softly, so discreetly as it falls loose in loop after loop, fibers shining and fine, and it coils so gently around James’s ankle as Michael fastens it to the closest table leg, nearly the length of James’s foot away from his actual foot. He winds blue spirals upward, knots a loop just under the curve of the knee, just over, comes to the central point between James’s thighs. The cock cage gleams, gloating around contained flesh. It’s a cruel device, and it torments its captive wonderfully. Michael taps it. Admires the colorful bruises outlining its shape—from his own added tortures over the weekend, from James’s cravings for more: more sensation, more stimulus, more pain, driving him toward his own limits—as yet undiscovered.

He taps again. Harder. Jiggles the plastic, then traces that outline, finger barely touching hot, dampening skin and hair.

Michael and James will find James’s limits together. Or the lack of them. It’s thrilling, to imagine there may not be any, no end to what heights they could attain, together.

Beneath Michael’s hand, James whimpers what might be a garbled syllable. Inarticulate, of course, but he’s been forbidden to vocalize. It’s not a safeword; that much is clear. Only a sound, perhaps Michael’s name.

Michael stops what he’s doing. “James.”

The whimpers continue.

Another gag, then.

The scold’s bridle would be too much, but the phallus from this morning will be sufficient. Michael crouches down by James’s head, pets his cheek to get his attention. “If you can’t be quiet, I’ll leave you like this all night. You won’t get to come, and I won’t, either.”

James’s throat works. He struggles to nod against the bolster, the strained position of his shoulders and neck. He presses his cheek into Michael’s fingers.

“Good,” Michael says, and kisses an ear. “But I ordered silence.” And he slaps James’s cheek hard enough to rock his face to the side.

After a moment of watching James cry—tears soaking through the scarf, that lovely throat swallowing repeatedly, hitching sobs he tries to suppress—Michael works the second gag into James’s mouth. Slowly. Inevitably. Until it’s hilted deep, lodged firmly into the back of James’s throat, wedged in until the base’s rim lies flat against the metal of the ring-gag.

Air whistles through James’s nose. He coughs. But he doesn’t try to speak, doesn’t shake his head; and the hard-strung line of his shoulders eases. Peace, in the eye of the storm.

Michael goes back to the rope.

He wedges a coil beneath the rim of the cage, encircles the base of cock and balls both. Drops the bulk of the rope on James’s belly, drags the key’s teeth down the dark line of hair there and over his pubis, then unlocks the cage. Squeezes James’s cock tight in his hand—squeezes harder to hear the pain in that ripped-velvet voice, breathless and muffled and sending desire cascading through Michael’s body; his cock beats wetly against his abdomen and his balls draw up tight and hard, bunching and twitching. It feels like the best kind of anticipation, arousal building minute by minute, but controlled, denied by nothing more than willpower until he reaches that perfect, fever-pitch moment of release.

The cage clatters to the tabletop, lock rattling, and Michael rhythmically clenches his hand tight and tighter around James’s cock, tortures it with pressure and fingernail edges digging into delicate tissue. He binds the rope higher, watches it compress already abused flesh further, squeezing taut, purpling tissue into only a lengthier, even more constricted confinement.

James’s breathing has gone shallow and rapid. The scents of sweat and arousal mingle and rise; Michael breathes deeply of their shared excitement, mouth drying with sheer want. Tremors course through James’s body, continuous ripples of cinnamon-ginger freckles over firm muscles, lean flanks, soft skin begging to be bitten, scratched, marred with pleasure and pain, with Michael’s passion and Michael’s possession. Because it’s a truth, discovered in a day and a night and in the clear depths of James’s eyes, echoed in Michael’s heart: James is his. And he is James’s.

They belong to each other, and Michael will give James exactly what he needs, what he didn’t even know he wanted, save in perhaps his darkest dreams, those depths barely even scratched by previous explorers, who’d given James a fouled taste and nearly ruined him.

Michael blinks, hides away the triumphant grin—James hadn’t been so easily discouraged, had returned, had come to Michael, and Michael’s so amazed and proud that he can’t hide the glee that’s crept onto his face. He turns a careful eye toward James’s respiration, the deep flush darkening his face, his throat, his chest; keeps an equally sharp watch on the fragile bits of James he’s treating so harshly. This level of restraint can’t be maintained for too long, the potential for damage too great. But for a few minutes, James will suffer as he’s never suffered before.

The yet unbound length of James’s cock bulges more the higher the rope coils; his balls have been driven down into the bottom of their sac, the skin of it growing shinier and darker, the organs within outlined more and more clearly as the space grows tight. And James’s cockhead’s gone purple-blue, enlarging and hardening with the trapped blood being driven into it by the pressure below.

It was sensitive before, but at this point even the stroke of a feather would feel like boiling pitch.

Michael has a feather. It’s at home, with the rest of his toys and tools.

Michael has a tongue, right here.

He applies it.

James’s body stiffens as if he’s been shot. He croaks around the gags, free heel banging against the table leg before his leg kicks out uncontrollably; broken cries and grunts rise from deep in his chest, his breathing gone loud and fast and shallow.

Michael tongues the whole hurting mass of James’s agony, lashes at the frenulum, scrapes a canine into the slit and then stabs it with his tonguetip; he takes it into his mouth and bites down firmly around the corona; sucks, sucks, sucks until his cheeks hollow and James goes completely limp, until James collapses onto his arms and his leg dangles motionless, and the only sound is the whistle-hiss of desperate breaths through flaring nostrils.

And the vibrator, buzzing away at its insensate host.

Michael pulls away, steps around the table, sets his fingers to James’s throat; James doesn’t move a muscle, completely out of it, limp in kindly hands. Michael checks his pulse, the rise and fall of his sweat-soaked chest. Gently, he works the phallus out as slowly and carefully as he’d put it in, strokes hair away from James’s face where tears and sweat have glued it; tenderly kisses covered eyes; he tastes salt and he tastes James and he feels briefly like a complete bastard; but he'll never deny his own pleasure at seeing James endure this, taking all of the pain and turning it into inexpressible beauty. Because his hands have been free the whole time, and he could have stopped Michael with the twitch of a finger.

Michael supposes he’s well and truly wrapped around James McAvoy’s little finger, too.

Once he’s cleared James’s mouth and throat for easier breathing, Michael begins to uncoil the rope. Blue silk falls in supple folds onto James’s belly and groin. Michael doesn’t try to wake him; pins-and-needles will do that well enough as blood rushes back to fill in all that compressed tissue in his cock and balls. The skin looks fine for the most part, though tiny abrasions from the cage appear aggravated, visible even amid the swelling rush of healthier color—oxygen-deprived purple-blue of the head flushing cherry red along with the pressure-blanched skin of the bound shaft. The marks from the rope coil up James’s cock—splendid, dark indentations in tender flesh. They’ll linger, as will the ache, though not for longer than a few hours, half a day at most.

Methodically, Michael re-wraps James’s cock with looser and fewer coils, enough to tease with their gliding, silky-soft loops. He does the same to the stretched tissue at the base of the testicles. Unconscious, or near to it, James is unable to control his response, and his cock quivers wetly, dripping with an unsteady trickle that isn't—quite—coming. Not that Michael will punish him for that lapse, insensible as he is, and driven beyond reach at the moment. Michael does intend to see if James can control himself. Friday night, Michael’d cheated a little, made James achieve orgasm on command by jerking him off, and while James had wanted to obey, it wasn’t clear that he could have on his own. And as hard as he’s tried to be obedient and to please Michael, failing to control his orgasm—one of the basic tenets of discipline—would make him doubt himself, and Michael can’t bear to see that in those willing and earnest eyes.

It’s simple enough; teenage boys learn to wait, and James is no boy; but wanking when it’s convenient and discreet isn’t the same as coming on command. So even if James can’t succeed on his own—if—Michael will enjoy teaching him, as slow and gently or as hard and fast as needed.

But he wants to see the warm glow of triumph in joyous eyes, wants to have James able to obey that most intimate demand, command, able to offer up his release as well as his suffering under the domination of even that primal drive.

Michael finishes wrapping James’s other thigh and half his calf, binds him to the second table leg before bringing the rope up across the stretch of his body to slide around the opposite shoulder. He handles James as gently as he can, lifing him up to get the rope under him, over, back under and over again, trapping his arms at his sides and framing bruised nipples. James does bruise so prettily, fast-rising color against tender, cloud-pale skin. Michael thinks about bringing out the simple clamps again, but decides against it; they’ve already played with those, and besides, Michael can drive James quite mad with only his hands, his mouth, his cock. Or his words, for that matter. He is very good at what he does.

And the last step, now. Michael moves the bolster, props James’s head on his leg and carefully coils loop after loop of silk around that slim column of bite-marked throat; starts at the base and keeps going until the whole length is swathed in ocean-blue, not tight enough to interfere with breathing, but snug enough to feel with every shift or swallow: a substitute for Michael’s long, strong fingers wrapping round vulnerable flesh.

James’s face twitches; his lips tighten and pale as he re-discovers the ring forcing his mouth open. A soft “uh,” escapes and he shakes his head sharply, as if to clear it—and then he grunts and shifts his hips frantically: the vibrator’s still going strong. “Uh!” he manages.

“You’re all right,” Michael tells him, pets his shoulders and the width of his chest; James calms, heart beating steadily, a strong rhythm under Michael's hands. “You’re fine, James.” He caresses a nipple, toys with it until it hardens, pinches lightly to tease. “I’m going to fuck your mouth, and you’re not going to come. Understand?”

A nod. James licks Michael’s fingertips where he’s tracing thin-rimmed lips with balm, soothing and softening delicate tissue. Michael bends down and kisses James’s ear, nibbles on the cartilage where it’ll sting, closes his teeth around the lobe and holds on long enough to hear James’s breathing speed up; he lets go instead of biting. A faint huff emerges from James’s open mouth; whether of relief or disappointment, Michael can’t tell.

He pads away silently, returns from the kitchenette with a bottle of water. The cap guard snaps loudly, and Michael spills a little over James’s belly, fills up his navel. He grins as James shivers and huffs again, wriggling—definite protest, that, his nose wrinkling adorably.

Michael pets James’s damp hair, cards his fingers through it. He’s hard, has felt nearly continuously aroused even before knocking on the hotel door last night; and bending James over the table, playing with James has made his own cock ache, stiff as iron while his balls feel near to bursting; he has to pace himself if he wants to fuck James the way he deserves to be fucked, not spend himself all at once.

Using James’s mouth to milk himself a bit will be lovely.

“Thirsty?” he asks, and James nods. James’s cock has revived from its torment, swollen and jutting up toward his belly like the leaning tower of Pisa with blue scaffolding all around. “If you can keep from coming, I’ll allow you to drink.”

He positions himself at James’s dangling head, straddles his face, and rubs the dripping head of his cock over reddened cheeks. He slaps it lightly against James’s nose, and then begins to feed himself into that forced-open mouth. Goes in steadily, slow and inexorable. James breathes around him and his tongue flutters, until it’s flattened by Michael’s girth; it laps at what it can reach anyway, and Michael sighs when he hits the back of James’s throat. He pauses to let James breathe, in and out once before he pushes forward again, until he’s fitted himself to the root in the ecstatic flexing heat swallowing him down. He closes his own eyes at the sensation, pets James blindly on the cheek, feels himself through that thinned skin and muscle. He lets his groin muscles relax minutely; allows himself a brief spurt of release; James moans and bucks and swallows even harder, taking Michael’s come into himself.

A smirk paints itself across Michael’s face. “I didn’t say what you’d get to drink,” he teases, and James grunts a definite surprise-shaped sound and greedily licks at every inch of Michael's very appreciative cock that he can. Michael laughs and lightly slaps a well-filled cheek; he breathes in sharply as the slap transmutes to a delicious tap to his own hard shaft.

Michael doesn’t thrust; he keeps his motions slow, measured—while James sucks as best he can, lips stretching over the ring to brush Michael’s shaft while the smooth, warm walls of his cheeks brush its sides. Michael slides in and out without resistance; and James bobs his head as much as he can, trapped as he is between cock and bolster; but he’s trying hard, and that’s enough for Michael to spurt again, minutely, to release a slow rivulet down James’s throat to make him gag and cough. Michael doesn’t pull out; he waits to see if James recovers, and when he does, Michael rotates his hips, changes the angle of entry and fucks in a little faster, a little deeper, until his balls bounce against James’s nose and cheek.

Eventually, he withdraws enough to rest his tip on James’s upper lip, lets James dazedly catch his breath while Michael tries to even out his own. Even while he wills his body to wait, he can’t stop watching James’s face, or at least, that portion of it which can be seen through blinding silk and Michael’s cock. He’s deeply flushed with arousal and with the way his head hangs down, and his expression says that he’s had his ice cream cone stolen and wants it back…right…now. He flicks his tongue longingly against Michael’s slit, slick with saliva, cool where it’s exposed to air.

That naked desire is almost enough to persuade Michael to come straight down James’s throat.

But he’s planned to do that in another orifice entirely, and has no intention of changing course mid-stream. As it were. Er. Michael stares down with besotted eyes at James, so luscious and so willing, and apparently also infectious with terrible puns. He takes a deep breath, firms his stance, gets back into the scene proper.

“Good,” he praises, coats his voice with molten honey and glides gentle fingertips across James’s shoulders, warm and damp and utterly content amid the anguish and the bliss. “I’m very pleased with you.” James glows, an unsubtle ripple of pleasure running through him, and he laves his tongue firmly all over the head of Michael’s cock.

Which Michael glides forward, letting out a breath as he watches. The muscles in his belly jerk as he pushes the full length of himself into that wet heat, his shaft rubbing against smooth, tight walls, the head wide and relentless against James’s involuntary reflexes trying to clamp down, halt his invasion. He strokes the bound, stuffed throat, the immobilized jaw, the tear-and-come-stained cheeks; ruffles spiky-damp hair and bites back a groan when James swallows hard around him.

“You’re so good,” he manages. “So good for me,” he gets out of a mouth run dry. James’s lips wriggle, and he presses his forehead into the vee of Michael’s thighs, Michael’s balls bumping against his filtrum and nose, tiny little thrills of sensation. It’s far too tempting, the pink-red stretch of lips, the restless tongue, the teeth held out of the way; Michael sways forward, cups his heavy scrotum and squeezes lightly, closes his eyes as his knees want to buckle with the anticipation washing through him. Methodically, watchful of James’s labored breathing while his own speeds up, Michael begins to work his balls inside, too. Because he can. Because James is letting Michael use him however he pleases; has given, is giving possession of himself, all of himself to Michael.

That trust is more of an aphrodisiac than any fantasy James McAvoy that Michael’s jerked off to, ever.

James’s hips rise, thrust against empty air. The muscles of his arse flex and clench around the plug, and the long, lean muscles in his thighs jump and ripple. His warm breaths stutter over Michael’s cock, little sounds of desperation breaking free. Michael gently maneuvers past forcibly parted teeth – oh, and James is curling his lips inward to cover them anyway. Michael hisses between his teeth, entire body thrumming with delight. Once the first one’s in, the other goes in almost effortlessly, and Michael has to stop at the sensation of, of expansion, as if his sac is trying to fill out James’s entire mouth—pressing into his palates, soft and hard, pushing at his cheeks, trapping his tongue in the bottom of his mouth. James’s nose bumps into Michael’s perineum; he bobs his head deliberately, presses deep into that soft, taut tissue while his tongue tries to lick everything at once.

It feels marvelous. All of Michael inside James; filling every crevice, fucking him fore and aft and surrounding him, enclosing him in a net of Michael’s rope, Michael’s device, Michael’s body…Michael’s will, binding and irrevocable. Save only by James—James, who could revoke consent, could lift a hand, could struggle in truth, and Michael’d stop everything, undone at a breath, a movement.

James doesn’t stop him. Michael has to lean forward at the thought, support himself on the table, breathe past the sudden impact of it like a blow to the chest.

James constricts his mouth, or at least, squeezes his cheeks inward, shoves his tongue up, tightens his throat all along Michael’s shaft. His breath wheezes in and out, and the sounds he makes: grunting, gulping hard around wildly sensitive flesh, over and over…

Michael gulps in air himself, eyes closed and mouth gaping until he pulls himself together. “So noisy,” he manages, guttural, as if the words have to pull themselves from his viscera. “If you can’t silence yourself, I’ll have to do it for you.”

After a moment of sudden stillness in that body below him, frantic tremors shiver and course through James, his muscles contracting, his cock jerking heavily against the loose blue coils, pulling at his balls while his hips thump on the table and he whimpers near-mindlessly.

Michael rests his hands on James’s shoulders. Kneads firm muscles; then sweeps heavy palms down that sweat-slick chest. Brushes tightly erect nipples, closes his fingers around the purple-welted peaks until the webbing offers one last pseudo-pinch as his hands pass over. Bending sharply at the hips, he rests a bit more weight on James, mindful of the arch of that stuffed throat. Michael shifts his supporting grip down the slope of expanding and contracting ribs; he doesn’t move his lower body while he can’t see James’s face, but keeps both ears tuned to the low moans James can’t or won’t stifle, and for which Michael will find some suitable punishment. Preferably involving his hand and James’s arse.

He lets his elbows bend, drops his hands back to the table beside James and lowers himself until he’s resting the weight of his upper body on James. He feels the rise and fall of James’s torso, their bodies aligned with no space between, James’s lungs slowly compressing beneath him and his ribs jerking, rising again; his breathing gets louder, reedier. Michael stares at the quivering, frustrated dark red cock before him, prevented from slapping itself against James’s belly only by the loose swirls of rope wrapping from base to just over half its length.

Michael is taller than James, though not by too much; and while he’s got James exactly where he wants him, he means to take advantage of the opportunity. James’s whole body’s flushed and wet with arousal, heat rising from his skin, an almost palpable sensation of sheer need flowing between them.

It’s the work of a second for Michael to brace himself and take James’s dripping cockhead into his mouth. He breathes in deeply, feeling his chest expand, feeling it press against James, whose arousal steams up from his body, filling Michael’s nose; Michael’s cock twitches as he sucks in another deep breath. Closing his eyes, savoring the twin sensations of being engulfed and wrapping his lips around James’ straining tip, Michael tightens his hold, twists his hips once. And sucks.

James moans around him. James bucks. And James spurts a hot jet of come against the roof of Michael’s mouth, splashing it down the back of his throat.

Michael sputters, coughs when it tries to go down the wrong way. James makes a distressed sound from back between Michael’s thighs, and falls silent at last—save for the vibrator still mercilessly fucking him.

Michael slaps James’s flank twice, hard. He pulls off, licking his lips for the taste of James there, eyes the milky tip where James has managed to bring himself under control again, with only a few beads of liquid trickling down onto the rope. An apologetic tongue swirls against Michael’s balls.

Michael’s back and abs are beginning to strain, so he props himself up with one hand while checking on James, whose belly and chest heave for air beneath him. He slowly straightens, feeling the beginning of an ache in his spine, and stands there over James, now all kitten-licks contrition and the warm press of damp hair against Michael’s thighs, movements weakening as his oxygen depletes.

And he hasn’t made the first attempt to draw away, to tap fingers or shake his head. It’s enough to make a man weep with joy.

The darkening hue of James’s face indicates he’s coming close to his limit; but Michael judges he can last a bit longer; and with both hands cradling James’s skull, he rotates his hips in a small circle, thrusts as deeply as he can as slowly as he can, just to savor the slide of hot, squeezing muscles all along his cock, the weakening stroke of cheek and tongue and wriggling lips around his balls—the absolute rush of power in dominating another so utterly, someone given over to him for his pleasure and his use without restriction—it’s the darker side of games like this, to take and to use and to own. Completely. Without limit.

Within reason, though. Within the bounds of agreements, contracts.

With the willing permission of a partner who can match him whipstroke for whipstroke.

With James.

Who’s starting to choke and fight now, arms pushing against the ropes.

Michael eases his balls free with one hand and pets James’s scarlet cheeks with the other; James gasps and gags and begins to cough, searching for air. His eyes under the silk are watering profusely, the fabric darkened and smeared, and Michael’s lust roils through him, sharp and aching and near-irresistible; James’s submission is a fantasy come true, but they both need a moment.

James begins to relax under Michael’s massaging fingers, breaths ragged and still too fast around Michael’s cock, now pressing only at the roof of his mouth, but still in him. It would like to set up shop there, and Michael finds himself inspired; at some point in the near future, he’s going to commission a lifecast of his cock. Maybe two.

For a second, his mind wanders: James hogtied on his belly over Michael’s lap in Michael’s bed, lips wrapped round Michael’s life-size cock while the other stuffs his hole full, and Michael jerking off all across his cane-striped arse.

A rough cough pulls him from that very pleasant imagining. Quickly, he reaches for and re-applies balm to James’s lips. The air in the hotel is crisp and clean and dry, and effectively wicks the moisture from skin and membrane. Michael reaches for the water bottle, not as cold as it had been straight from the refrigerator, but still cool and fresh-tasting. He presses it against James’s cheek, holds him through the jerk at the unexpected cold touch.

“Water?”

James nods around him, forehead wrinkling a bit. Michael trickles it in around his cock, jumps at the cold on his own too-enthusiastic flesh; and appreciates its aid in controlling his arousal. He gives James time to swallow, lets him have half the bottle before James turns his head slightly away. “All done?”

Another nod. Michael finishes off the bottle, then withdraws fully. He crouches down, spends a little time with that captive mouth, cool now and tasting of Michael’s come—and a little of James’s own where it lingers in Michael's mouth. James’s tongue wrestles with Michael’s, upside down and artless and eager.

Michael takes the tip between his teeth and holds it; and he watches James’s cock tremble and jolt in its nest of blue ropes.

“Don’t come,” he reminds, and teases that tip, too, stretching one long arm down James’s body to thumb it roughly while biting softly at James’s captive tongue, nibbling at soft, full lips.

James gasps and grunts and doesn’t move a muscle.

After another moment of teasing, Michael hops up onto the table and straddles James. He arranges himself so their cocks rub together, the rope as delicious to him as it slides between them as it must be to James, who lifts his hips to meet Michael’s.

“Shhh,” Michael whispers, and lifts up, just enough to reach down between their bodies. He gropes past bound cock and balls, presses his fingertips into the soft, taut skin of James’s perineum. He slides them further, replaces them with his thumb as he wedges his fingers to shove at the plug’s base. James gasps; James pants heavily; James’s shoulders rock against the table as Michael pushes it inward, held from full entry only by the wide flare of the base. He reverses course, tugs the vibrator. It’s been hours since Michael put it in James, so what oil remains has grown a bit sticky. Tacky to the touch. Enough so that the hard shaft resists leaving its cozy shelter, judders and jolts until he stops with it halfway out, while the muscles in James’s thighs flex and rub against Michael’s, his belly jumping and chest heaving with his heavy breathing and helpless moans, body flushed from face to groin.

Michael’s teeth shine, predatory.

He pulls the nobbled shaft out further against the resistance, enjoys the heavy tingle it sends through his hand and forearm as it buzzes, higher-pitched now that it’s partially exposed. James rolls his head from side to side, tongue lashing, and his cock slides against Michael’s, exquisite teasing. Michael wriggles the plug, uses a little more force, drives it in to the hilt. Pulls it out again, and waggles it in a circular motion, changing angles. Presses it back inside James’s clinging hole while James squirms and pants and releases breathy little sighs, and pushes his hips toward Michael.

Begging for more.

So more he shall have.

Michael leaves James where he is for a moment, heads back to the refrigerator for something he’d left there early on, unsure if he’d use it or not. But James is well-primed now. James can handle this.

After a moment, Michael returns with a papery-skinned ginger root and a paring knife and latex gloves, and when he re-settles himself atop James’s groin, he forces his own cock down until the head nestles under James’s balls. The vibrations rising through taut flesh rush up into his own, and he grits his teeth, flexes his groin muscles, and holds, holds, holds. The stimulation and the clenching meld into a delicious mix of anticipation and frustration, arousal curling up through his belly, heating his blood, dripping out of him with every bead of sweat.

The sharp scent of the ginger rises; James’s nose twitches. At this angle, Michael can only make out his expression if he leans up, so he doesn’t bother. Either James recognizes the smell and knows what will happen; or he does, and doesn’t. Either way, Michael’s going to have a lot of fun with that incredibly over-sensitized arse when he takes the plug out and shoves the peeled, pale orange root in.

James’s trembling increases markedly.

Michael laughs, drops the paring knife to the chair and delicately rubs a thin strip of ginger over the winking slit in James’s cockhead. Presses in a fraction of an inch, a quarter. Half an inch—gently, so gently—he's not at this time forcing the tiny hole wider—until the majority of the sliver vanishes from sight, only a bulge left at the end preventing it from being lost within. It's just over two inches, the damp length of ginger filling that narrow, fragile channel. Michael presses it down firmly while James pants and shivers. Only a taste, only a preview there, although later…

He removes the plug next, twists it gently free to leave James’s hole clenching and unclenching, used now to being open, filled; Michael considers briefly reaching in to clean James out further, to rid him of any remaining lube, as it will block the effects of the ginger. But the plug itself is nearly dry, so it should be fine. And they’ve only the few hours of the night and the morning remaining, so there’s not time for the hours, the days of torment Michael can provide later, when their time can be measured in weeks instead of days.

If there is a later. And if there isn’t…

Then Michael will have these memories seared into his heart. Forever.

A finger inside the clamping entrance to check for blood, tears, damage, and he finds nothing, freeing him to move forward. Michael rests a hand on James’s thigh, strokes his thumb up and down the long muscle, the smooth skin and dark hairs, the little patches of cinnamon-cream freckles. He hums under his breath a little to calm them both, unhurried, waiting for the juice seeping from the pared root in James’s cock to take effect.

Below him, James’s breathing slows a bit, evens out. The lines of his body relax minutely. Silence hangs expectantly, a sense of serenity in having endured, having weathered successfully what Michael asked, what Michael demanded.

“D’you know what that was you were smelling?” he asks. James nods, and Michael wishes he could see the expression. Next time, he’ll have a mirror at hand. “And do you know what else ginger is used for, besides cooking?”

A headshake, diffident.

“Punishment.” Michael’s teeth shine with his grin, even though James can’t see it. “I did ask you to stay quiet,” he reminds. “More than once.”

James shudders. He presses his thigh into Michael’s caressing hand, twists it a bit back and forth a bit, as the rope allows. Michael bends down to kiss his chest, between the ropes, over his heart. “You’re forgiven, James.”

And then James goes rigid. Ah. The first touch has sunk deep enough now. Burning inside; well, James does like pain, does like spice; Michael’s smile curves sharply, a thrill of lust arrowing out from his groin while his cock thumps against his belly.

What can be seen of James’s face twists into distress. And his pelvis jerks upward, down again, and Michael has to use both hands to press him flat. “But the punishment stands. Lie still.”

And when James complies, restraining his hips to minor jerks while his skin ripples with pained shivers, Michael keeps one hand on his hip, driving him down hard enough to leave finger-shaped bruises. And with the other, he begins to work the damp, spicy-sharp ginger root—the length of his hand from wrist to middle fingernail, thicker than two fingers and knobby and crooked—into James’s hole. It’s reluctant, resists his entry, clenches down hard against the probing tip. But James has been too open for too long, and Michael is well-versed in coaxing shy subs’ bodies. And bluntly, James is his, and James will take what Michael gives him.

The ginger at James’s cock has him stiff as a board, not that he wasn’t already, but now he’s dripping even more, pre-come trickling like sticky milk down the sides of his shaft, the head a wet mess, and droplets flinging themselves with every twitch to spatter Michael and James equally. The silk’s stained and viscid itself, and James’s balls look like ripe plums, dark and shiny and swollen, jammed up against the base of his cock, wrapped like gifts with ocean-blue ribbon.

Michael’d carved a notch all around the base of the root so it wouldn’t get sucked into James and necessitate either awkward attempts to retrieve it or an even more embarrassing and awkward trip to a hospital; and by the time James has stopped fighting the burn and is valiantly trying to lie still under Michael’s hand, the last bit of its insertable length pops in. Muscles furl back tight around the notch; Michael takes his hand away and peels off the gloves for later.

Removing the rope from James’s legs is the next step. He has to move to do that, so, “Be still,” Michael commands again, edging the words with a hint of anticipation. He knows what’s coming. James swallows, nods. His tongue flickers out to wet lips where he’s already licked away the balm.

It’s not as easy as it would be were Michael simply reversing the way he’d bound James, but he doesn’t want to unbind arms or throat. So it’s more a matter of repeating the initial order of knots, but untying instead. First James’s ankle, then the table leg, then uncoiling and unknotting as he moves up trembling calf to knee to shaking thigh. Michael lays a kiss into the hollow of James’s knee; he’s trying so hard to obey, to be good, but what’s a sharp stinging tingle of heat in his cock is about to multiply fivefold. Depending on how sensitive he is, maybe tenfold.

And Michael still expects complete obedience, or at least for James to do his best. He kisses James’s knee where the scars ridge the skin. “You can do this,” he says, loud in the room’s silence. “James, I have complete faith in you.” And then, because this is going to hurt and he’s not a complete bastard, “Don’t move, but if you need to scream, I won’t hold it against you.”

James whimpers, wordless, trepidatious, not tapping out.

Michael smiles at the wariness in that sound, the outright fear and the undertone of excitement, the medley of a submissive being thoroughly mastered and overwhelmed, trusting that he’ll find something glorious beyond the pleasure and the pain.

For a second, he presses his forehead into the soft, inner flesh of James’s thigh, shifts to kiss the bruises peppered there. His own cock taps at his abdomen, drawing his attention back to his task. He’s just risen to carefully unwind the rope from around James’s cock when the ginger in James’s arse kicks in.

James cries out, a rasping gurgle of a strangled shriek, saliva flying as his head strains backward against the pillow, as his body arches and his cock thrusts against Michael’s hand. As his skin, flushed and paled and flushed again from face to chest and even lower at times, suddenly shines with sweat; color floods down the length of him, pink washing down to his hips and cresting there in a hot white tide—

As come crashes out of him to splash his chest and his throat, even splattering his face, his open mouth—the tiny ginger plug flung loose and away—as Michael watches with his own mouth open in surprise. Not that it’s not beautiful, watching James come, and come from Michael’s attentions. But not from Michael’s command, or even James’s conscious control, either.

Michael is disappointed, not for his own sake, but for James’s; James, who’s trying so hard, and will likely consider this a failure. But it’s Michael’s failure; he’d judged how much James could take, and he’d judged wrong. He stops what he’s doing at once, steps around the table to James’s head and lifts it up. Removing the pillow, he rests a hip and leg on the table, then scoots toward the center while gathering up and supporting James’s upper body—his lower half still partially bound, immovable.

James slumps against him, unresisting, exhausted, with those covered eyes overflowing. James turns his head into Michael’s stomach. James moans, inarticulate and miserable with the burn of the ginger, but it’s bearable; it is, and James still hasn’t used his safeword gestures.

So Michael hurriedly unlatches the gag, removes it and tosses it aside, hears it clink-thud somewhere behind him. He works his fingers through drowned scarlet knotting and drops that, too. James cries out a bit as his jaws fall out of their forced stretch, but he’s shaking, already apologizing, hot tears and saliva wetting Michael’s skin.

“‘m sorry,” he mumbles, sea-floor rumbles from a bruised throat. He presses his face into warm, slick muscle. “I’m so sorry, si—Michael, I mean, I’m so s—”

Michael cuts him off with a kiss. “It’s all right,” he murmurs, bending down, trailing his lips from the mess of James’s mouth to his cheek, to his nose, to his eyes closed tight. He has to say just the right thing, find exactly the right words, the right touch and expression. He has to.

“I don’t expect perfection.” He gently presses his chin into James’s shoulder, holding him close with arms wrapped tight. “I only want you. Human, imperfect, you. Do you think I never came too fast in a scene? And me the Dom?” He nudges his nose along James’s ear, lips at the lobe, kisses the sweat-damp curls behind, slides down and kisses a tear-splotched cheek. “If we got it right the first time, what would be the point of trying again? Perfection means an end of things, James, and we’re only at our beginning.”

“But I wanted—” Muffled, congested.

“You wanted to obey. To be good.” Michael feels James’s fingers curling along his calf, that reach for touch, reassurance via contact. James nods, curling up against him, lips brushing his belly.

He whispers, hoarse but clear, “I wanted to obey you. To be good for you.”

Joy cascades through Michael’s body, a thrill of lightness suffusing his mind and tingling outward through every limb; like fire igniting in his fingertips where he’s stroking, holding James. He strokes James's unruly hair, tightens a hand amidst dark, damp curls and bends that elegant neck back, not roughly, but enough that he can look into James’s eyes. “I’m very pleased with you. With your wanting to obey me. To please me. You could have stopped us at any point, and you were so brave, when you didn’t know what I was going to do to you. You trust me, James, and that’s worth far more to me than whether or not you can come on command.”

James still looks troubled, but calmer, processing the words behind those wet, blue eyes. Michael smiles at him, soft and undemanding and reassuring; keeps touching him, letting his hands and caresses reaffirm the words, truth in all those senses: sight, touch, hearing, even scent and taste, as James breathes against his skin. The room’s very quiet; the table’s solid and heavy under their weight, and the solemnity spills out to fill up the room: sincere, heartfelt, understood and shared.

At last one corner of James’s mouth tips up, just a fraction, just enough for Michael to know that his words are having an effect, or at least that James isn’t rejecting them outright in favor of self-castigation. So, after a second’s consideration, Michael leans down again. Bites him on the tip of his lovely, lovely nose. Gently, of course. Just enough to tease, to show he’s not angry, disappointed, upset; that they’re fine, James and Michael both, together.

“Of course,” he continues, lightly now, potential crisis averted with that spark brightening once again in James’s eyes. Not quite the shining eagerness they’d shown before, but getting back there. Michael traces his fingertips over taut nipples, over the tender skin of pectoral muscles, over the softer center of James where his sternum ends. Presses lightly down on lean belly and abdomen, then strokes back up sweat-streaked flanks and to James’s neck, still coiled deeply in blue silk. “Of course,” he repeats, languid and teasing, “we’ve only just begun. Here, this weekend, is where we start, James. You don’t embark on a journey only to quit at the first roadblock. And that’s what this is, James. A roadblock. Temporary. Shiftable. We can get past it with a bit of training.”

James lies thoughtfully against him, listening, breathing slowed to near-normal, only a hitch now and then, a squirm as the ginger’s sting intensifies. It’s a slow burn, less than half an hour, but time is running out.

“James,” Michael says, low and breathy, words drifting into James’s ear. “You haven’t used your safeword.”

“No…” James blinks. His gaze, soft and distant, sharpens. “I haven’t. And I do remember them, Michael.” He presses a kiss into Michael’s stomach. “Green, yellow, red.” Slowly, he tilts his head, leans back until the bound arch of his throat shows. “Still green, Michael.”

Michael could kiss him, and does; sweeps down, invades, drives his tongue into James’s mouth, licks into every corner and crevice, tastes a hint of bittersweet come and the tang of iron where the thinnest skin gave way taking in Michael’s cock and balls, the whole of that lush and wide and talented mouth a receptacle for Michael’s pleasure.

“I’m going to ease you back down,” Michael warns, then does so, trailing his hands down James’s body, keeping that connection until he returns to his task. Moving more quickly now, he lifts away stuck-together coils and unwinds them from around James’s balls, lets them fall in a soft heap on the table between spread, trembling thighs while Michael undoes the last knots, admires in passing the pink-flushed indentations left behind.

“Eyes closed,” he orders, and watches James obey, only his arms and throat bound now, but lying as he was left, come drying on his chest and belly, soaking into the rope. “Sit up, scoot toward me and stand up.”

Eyes scrunching, James obeys, pushes himself upright, cheeks darkening and teeth latching onto his lower hip as he moves—every little motion jabbing the ginger root against his insides, changing where it rubs its juices, heating him internally to what Michael knows is a seemingly agonizing degree—he’s never done anything to a sub, after all, that he hasn’t done or had done to himself at least once—but it’s a truly lovely way to burn.

But for this, for the moment—he’ll take it off shortly, because he does want to come inside James, to see James stretched wide and surrendered and overflowing with himself—Michael will wear a condom. He enjoys a bit of pain at times, the vigor of a good fucking or the confinement and discipline of corsetry, self-bondage that he controls and the severity and depth of which he determines. But now isn’t quite the time for the lingering scorch of ginger along his own skin. James, though…

James truly enjoys suffering for his pleasure; and suffering while serving others’ pleasure—at least, in the context of a private relationship. And for Michael, giving pain is its own reward, but mingling it with the genuine joy of commanding submissives, bringing out their true nature, teaching them to enjoy it, or just sharing a good, sharp session with an experienced sub, is a heady delight.

And James has broken the mold. Has made him want more.

So, yes, he’ll wear a condom at first and he’ll hurt James exactly how James never knew he wanted to be hurt; and they’ll both get off splendidly. Already, James’s cock is filling out again, swelling and lengthening with the ginger’s heat and Michael’s authority and his own acknowledged submission.

When he’s standing somewhat shakily before Michael, feet planted solidly and hands clasped behind his back, even though the ropes only bind his upper arms, Michael drops to his knees. He taps the outer sides of James’s knees. “Closer.” Taps again, “All the way.” When James’s legs have pressed tight together, Michael plucks at the rope dangling from the lowest knot in the center of James’s chest, draws it down between James’s legs and coils it around his upper thighs in a figure eight configuration. He has to force it between closed legs, but when James tries to part his legs to be accommodating, Michael smacks him hard on the hip. “You won’t hear this often from me,” he remarks drily, “but keep your legs together. I want you to feel what I’m doing to you.”

“Yes, Michael.”

When James nods, the motion catches the corner of Michael’s eye. He runs through the scene so far, in his head. “I never gave you permission to speak, did I?” he inquires, and looks up in time to see James’s mouth fall open. “Did I, James?”

“N—” James snaps his mouth shut, eyes wide, and shakes his head.

Michael smiles, friendly and kind and lacking any kind of innocence. “I guess I’ll have to add another punishment, start a list for you, after this—” he taps the base of the root, bares his teeth in a lusty grin as James jumps, hips pumping nearly into his face. “—wears off.”

James stares down at him, and after a long second or two, deliberately, albeit dreamily, raises his eyebrow. Winks. Says, “Yes, Michael.”

Michael has to duck his head to hide his delight; and covers it by pinching James’s cock tight between his thumb and forefinger, then wrapping his fingers round and giving it a few good, hard jerks to help it on its way to full arousal.

James cries out and falls back against the table edge, then bounces back into position. His eyes gleam, dilate, blue thinning to rims around burning desire.

Michael wraps him from the tops of his thighs down to just above his knees, a solid coating of blue silk that won’t allow so much as a wriggle. From the last knot between James’s knees, Michael brings a length of rope back up and coils it around James’s balls again, separating them this time as they swell into his hand. A few passes around James’s shaft, a criss-cross pattern that’ll mark him up prettily, a coil or two behind the corona and a matching criss-cross knot at the slit; the rope dips back under the rim to secure it. After that, only about three feet remain of the rope. Michael purses his lips, looks up at James looking down at him, breathless and hot-eyed.

“Hmm,” he says, and standing, pulls the end of the rope upward under the loops over James’s chest. He nudges James’s mouth open with the knot. “I want you to hold this.” The excess cordage bunches easily into James’s mouth; it’ll expand as it soaks up saliva, but it’s permeable enough that James will be able to breathe easily. “James, if you come again without my permission, this time, I will punish you. And you’ve already got one on the books.”

James nods, staring at him huge-eyed and adoring, puffiness under his eyes and lips swollen, face marked with come and spit and tears; and he’s beautiful, and he’s Michael’s. He’s beautiful anyway, but that he’s here, that he’s choosing to be here with Michael, makes him even more so.

Michael spins him in place, holds him tight to keep him from stumbling, then bends him over with a hand in his hair. James groans between his teeth; his cock’s trapped between his body and the table edge. Michael casually reaches down to bring both cock and balls onto the tabletop itself, testicles already stretched by the binding, and then presses James down flat so that he’s lying on his own genitals.

James jerks his head back, and immediately gasps—and rises up on tiptoe instantly as the rope trapped between his teeth jerks at his cock and balls. Michael pats him, leans down and kisses the small of his back. Then bites the swell of his arse. Hard, and for several seconds; while James trembles and starts to moan beneath him.

Michael straightens and admires the mark, toothprints in a neat, wet ring, blanched in already pinkened flesh.

He leaves James there.

Goes into the kitchen for more water. Wanders back past James, laid out and waiting for his pleasure, fingers intertwined in the small of his back. Retrieves a condom—Hot and Spicy for Adventurous Amour! Real Cinnamon Flavor!—and strolls over to stand before James’s face, sideways and quiescent on the cool, hard wood.

James watches him roll the condom on, brows knitting briefly, and then smirks. Crooks fingers: yes, please, come on. Pun no doubt intended.

Michael leans down and rubs his nose against that freckled one, kisses its tip. Smacks James’s arse when he reaches it, smacks it a few more times to layer in some additional heat, enjoying the way James arches into it, despite, or perhaps grown used to, even enamored of the burning root in his backside. Michael retrieves a latex glove and pulls it on, and then starts to play.

He teases James mercilessly at first: in and out, wiggles and taps, nudging the root sideways and up and deeper, watching every squirm and twitch and flinch. James plays along at first, having enough awareness to lift hips and swivel and flirt with the sizzle of juices inside himself; Michael permits the playfulness for a while, enjoying it, enjoying James.

But it’s not a game. Not really. James can only get away with being so mischievous, fluttering hips up and down and clearly liking the idea that Michael’s watching him, for a certain amount of time. Can only be allowed a certain amount of time. That phrasing’s important. Only one of them’s in charge.

Of course, the answer’s truly James, deep down, on the deepest level, the level at which everything would cease at the first syllable of even yellow—

But until that happens, James is Michael’s. And as such doesn’t get to dictate the terms of his use.

Michael, on the next thrust, shoves more forcefully. Declaratively so.

And angles for the prostate gland, gliding that pared uneven surface over it again and again. Until James can’t keep still, until his body jerks on the table and every jerk forces another as his weight jostles his trapped cock and balls, squeezing and lifting away, slapping down and sliding, silk on polished wood.

James moans. Shudders, body thrashing, convulsing, gone in pure pounding sensation.

When James is sufficiently out of his head, lost in unceasing rubs of burning spice over that bundle of throbbing nerves, drowned in heat and pain and need and desire, Michael drops the root onto the chair with all of his other implements and slides his cock right into James—no fanfare, no fuss—nothing but sweet, hot, gripping, clenching, desperate flesh trying to suck him deeper, to alleviate the glowing burn of the ginger, the heat that would have James grinding his thighs around any mountable surface and riding hard.

But his thighs are trapped, and his hips are held down by Michael’s own hips and Michael’s heavy grip. And the knot in the silk rope at his slit is most likely digging deep with every move he does make.

Michael thrusts and ruts and pummels James’s arse with all the vigor at his disposal; he drives into his submissive and he makes James take it; he leans down and stills his hips, bites the vertebra at the crest of James’s spine, bites at the older, lingering bruise on his trapezius; digs his fingers into James’s hips, his waist, his biceps.

Wraps them in the coils around James’s throat, and tightens his fist.

Drags James up by the rope, back bowed into concave grace, breaths rasping, hands flexing but still clinging together. Only the rope at James’s throat supports his weight, and Michael feels the heat building under his fingers, sees the spreading, darkening flush as James strangles and chokes and doesn’t once protest.

Michael is strong, very strong; and he pulls James’s rope like a short leash, reaches around with his other hand and follows the length still held between clenched teeth; it’s gone tight, incredibly tight, and for every instant that Michael chokes James, James is choking his own cock, the silk dragging over the shaft tight and hard, balls straining upward with the pull—it’s self-torture at its finest, and that knot is digging so hard into James’s slit that it’s completely soaked, but completely blocks James’s come, too.

And James’s moans are choruses, paeans of lust and pain as he strains between Michael’s cock and Michael’s grip and his own cock and his own desire for moremoremore.

Michael shoves his cock so hard into James that for the first time, the table moves. The table fucking moves, and James shrieks—and doesn’t come. Michael ruins the silk pattern pulling it loose, pulling the knot and coils loose from the rim; he cups James’s cock in his hand and pants, “Don’t come, James, d’you hear me?”

James whimpers and tries to nod, can’t, makes the gesture—the right one, both hands flexing, green and yes and perfect—instead. His cock shivers and shakes in Michael’s grip, jerks and drips, and his whole body’s gone red, gorgeously pained and constrained.

Michael pulls out, strips the condom off—there might be some lingering ginger burn, but not much, not by now, and there’s the lingering lube from the condom and he’s so wet with need, and James is so open, loose and stretched and sobbing—

He slams in. James screams. James doesn’t safeword.

Michael thrusts once more, to the hilt, and lets go.

He comes and comes and comes, and he fills James to the brim until it’s leaking out, dripping down the rope, spattering his own thighs and staining the floor below.

James cries out, rough and desperate.

He doesn’t come.

Michael drops him. Catches him by the ropes around his arms before he can cry out again. Drags him up and back until they’re pressed together, sweaty and slick and exhausted; and Michael takes his hand away from James’s cock. Presses it to his chest instead, feels the frantic beating of his heart like a bird’s, caught and caged, but James entered this arrangement of his own volition, and the golden bars of the cage are of his own making. Michael’s just the doorway.

“Come!” he growls into a red-flushed ear, “Now, James, for me, now!”

And James comes.

Michael watches over his shoulder, bites down almost hard enough to break skin, leaves his mark on the juncture of throat and shoulder, marks James with climax and bruise and rope and pain; marks him with pleasure and the promise of infinite delight; and James comes and comes and slumps and would fall at Michael’s feet if Michael didn’t catch him.

But he does. James is no lightweight, but he’s not heavy at all. He fits Michael’s arms. He fits Michael.

Michael brings him to their bed, and lays him with inexhaustible care into sleek and welcoming sheets. Murmurs nonsense and love into distant ears, unwinds rope and talks of books he’s read, of radio dramas and podcasts. He smoothes lotion into soft skin and over lax joints, he layers kisses and caresses into every deft stroke.

He works that love helplessly into every inch of James’s skin, and can’t bring himself to regret it, no matter what happens tomorrow.

When James comes back around, they’ll shower, they’ll eat cake. They’ll sleep in each other’s arms and wake the same way; and Michael wants to do that every day for the rest of his life.

He thinks that maybe James might, too.

When James wakes, blue eyes lost and rudderless for a brief instant, Michael’s there. Michael kisses him, wraps arms around him, whispers words of praise, of admiration, of adoration. How wonderful James was, and is. How good, how obedient, how flawless, right on command, exactly as allowed, so right, so perfect, so amazingly everything Michael would’ve wanted, ever.

They’re all true words. So true.

In the fading gleam of the unreplenished firelight, he runs to the kitchen. James curls up into the fluffy pillows, crying—it’s a common form of sub-drop, not a bad one, James needs to be held, needs to be touched, and Michael’s left him, but it’ll be fixed, it’ll be all right, Michael’s promised to come back and James actually needs to cry, to let it out, to process the reaction for a moment without another presence in the room.

Michael knows that much. Doesn’t keep him from staring at the citrus-sugar cake-icing, shaking, counting seconds. It’s not a prayer. He’s not prayed in decades. It’s just—

Christ. James McAvoy. Just—

Just don’t let him be hurt. Don’t let him feel wrong after all of this. Don’t let this somehow not have been enough, please, please.

Just everything.

Under the low ember-hued glow of the fireplace, Michael slides back into bed. Holds a piece of cake to quivering lips. Wet eyelashes lift, startled. “What…Michael…”

Michael. Not sir. James has remembered. Is thinking about him.

“You made cake,” Michael says, tentative though he shouldn’t be, heart beating too fast, trying to burst out of its madcap cage, “and you could…use the sugar? Um, it’s delicious, you make delicious cake, I sort of licked my fingers after I cut it into bites?”

James blinks at him. Starts crying again, soft gradual slipping tears. “You…you didn’t…you didn’t…try any?”

“No,” Michael says, “I waited for you, I brought this plate back here for us,” and James cries a little harder and reaches for his hand. Michael folds fingers around the graceful bones of that wrist instead; James catches a breath, stops crying, tears arrested mid-fall.

“Mine,” Michael says, very very quietly.

“Yours,” James breathes back. And one corner of that expressive mouth curls into a smile. “We made this particular cake. Michael.”

He feeds James by hand. Careful. Tender. Mindful of the torn edges of those lips and citrus sharpness, no matter how delicious the bursts of fruit and bread and sweetness are. James has licked off all the lip-balm, and will need more before sleep. But he's continuing to smile, as Michael sets a piece of iced cake on his tongue. “Could’ve used more orange essence…”

“James. Seriously. This is miraculous.”

“I’m not…I just…experiment with flavors, and I think you were distracting me…”

“Don’t strain your throat. Don’t talk if it hurts. And this couldn’t be better. With or without more orange essence.”

“Only a bit…my throat, not the orange essence…Michael…thank you.” James looks up, eyes shining, depthless truthful blue. “I—this—I want—I just—you.”

“You just want me,” Michael says, half-teasing, and James swallows the next bite and meets his gaze and says simply, “I do.”

They fall asleep naked but for lip-balm and tended wounds and wiped-away tear-tracks, plate set to one side on an accommodating bedside table. They fall asleep to the gutterings of the fire, coal-smoky and private, built for only them, tonight, in this room. They fall asleep to the storm-gathering of clouds outside, not bursting yet but brimming with unseen but foretold potential.

They fall asleep together, exhausted, complete.

 

Chapter Text

They awaken curled together like spoons, under the pale silvery light of misting rain outside and the fortress of blankets surrounding them on the bed. They awaken at the same exact instant, within a breath; Michael opens his eyes as James’s lashes lift, as James twists around just enough to get them face to face, the better to peek up at him.

The whole world skips a beat, swells, shimmers. Endlessly right.

“Morning,” Michael says. Simple word, brief and unelaborated; no beribboned rococo poetry will ever be enough for this moment, so simple works instead. James smiles. “Good morning to you.”

Michael runs a hand over his hip, along all the nebulae and stardust of freckles at play. The ropes haven’t left marks, not as such, though there’re a few healing welts across that luscious backside, spots that’ve received a bit too much repeated attention. James is otherwise utterly naked, save for those bruises and lines and bites and kisses Michael’s pressed into his bare skin. They're strung through the freckles like harpstrings, like jewelry, like art; James, wearing no wrist cuffs or cock cage or vibrator this morning, glows like a masterpiece.

There’s a question in the lightness of Michael’s touch, though he doesn’t ask it aloud. James rewards the trust when he flushes becomingly and murmurs, “Only a little sore, Michael, and I like it.” Michael kisses him for that; James kisses back unhesitatingly, openmouthed and wholeheartedly surrendered, eager but content to wait for Michael’s direction.

“You’re beautiful,” Michael tells him, “just like this,” and James blushes anew but doesn’t look away; his eyes remain steady, taking the compliment as true.

Mist brushes curious fingers along the windowpane, companionable camaraderie. A few drops scatter themselves from low-hanging eaves: not a storm, but the beginnings of a shower.

“You said you’d arranged for late check-out…” Michael walks fingers up across that hip again, mesmerized, memorizing. The enchantment of skin over muscle and bone. The lift and dip of a flank. The delicate banquet of the crease between leg and groin, the place Michael could lick and nibble at all day, leaving James delirious with need, begging for him to stop, to move, to do more.

“Mmm.” James sounds sleepy, from the late morning or the lack of caffeine or the drugging sensation of Michael’s touch. He responds so readily now to that touch; it’s bewitching. “Three, they said…”

And it’s past ten already; well, they’d both needed the rest. That might not give them much time this morning; Michael’s chest aches, oddly hollow. Not missing James, not yet, but the premonition of missing James, of how the whole world will dim without that presence at his side. The rain whispers and rustles, low distressed susurration.

Still. They’re here now. They’ve got almost five hours. And they’ll need to pack, yes; they’ll need time to shower and look presentable for the rest of the world; that’ll steal away precious moments. But they have enough time for one last golden scene, a few of those moments caught and suspended out of the march of ordinary days. He can give James that. He can give himself that.

He lifts his other hand. Rests fingertips over James’s cheek, almost innocent. He doesn’t mean it to be—he’d meant a reminder of possession, mine completely, large hand cradling the freckles—but somehow the gesture turns itself around along the way and ends up full of awe.

James doesn’t speak. Slides a foot over and nudges Michael’s ankle. Michael traces the arch of that cheekbone, the quirk of his eyebrow, the corner of those bright lips. Outside, the rain billows. The morning's made of oyster-pearl and watered-silk and fog.

“I want you,” Michael tells him, and James breathes, fervent as a prayer, “You can have me. You do.”

The words sound true. They sound real. Like the way James leans forward—not tentative but gradual, waiting to see whether he’ll be told no, and when he isn’t he smiles, a quick upward quirk of lips—and kisses Michael, lying there face to face in the enormous bed with sleep-tousled hair and pillow-creases and morning desire.

James’s hand drifts up to settle on Michael’s shoulder, holding on, fingers not biting down but adamant as if they’ll never want to move again. James’s tongue flicks shyly along the line of Michael’s lower lip, into his mouth, not teasing but honest delight, and only shy in the boldness of the kiss. Michael tangles a hand in his hair, keeps him just there and doesn’t push, lets James explore him, taste him, tempt him. James shivers at the hint of control—the knowledge that Michael could hold him down and take his mouth but chooses not to—and discovers all the places that like to be explored and tasted and nibbled lightly.

Michael hears someone gasp, as James bites experimentally at his lip. Oh. Himself, that was. Not really a surprise, James is good, James is so good, neither a bashful passive sort of submissive who’d wait for even the smallest instruction, nor the type of sub who once given an inch of latitude would demand even more. No, James isn’t coy in the slightest about his own wants, but also doesn’t take advantage of the lack of instruction; he’s asking, inquisitive but not insistent, and he’s sincerely trying to please, to make Michael gasp again and harden even further, cock swelling where it’s caught between bodies. James pays assiduous attention to every one of Michael’s reactions, not because Michael requires that but because James wants to.

James is also hard, cock thick and hot against Michael’s hip. So hard, in fact; impressive. Michael pulls back just enough to let words out between them, resting warm over those wet lips. “You like this, don’t you? Kissing me, seeing what you do to me…”

His hand’s fallen to that tempting waist; he moves it. Cups the delectable sore curve of James’s arse, the closest cheek; hears the inhale as his palm presses down. “You enjoy serving me, don’t you, James? You want that, you want to lose yourself in it, everything I want from you…and if I didn’t touch you, if I chose not to give you that…you’d get off, wouldn’t you? With your mouth on my cock and my hand in your hair, you’d come for me, because you’d know I wanted that, for you to come with my cock down your throat while I tell you how good you are, how much I love y—fucking you, that I know how badly you want to be good for me…”

James shudders everywhere, head to toe, eyes suddenly huge and dark and flooded with need. “Tell me,” Michael says. “Tell me what you want, James.”

“I…” James stops, moaning as Michael’s fingers bite into bruises and awaken crackling sensations anew. Michael’s other hand slips between them, seizes James’s cock, begins a series of leisurely strokes. Long and slow, keeping him poised on the edge of pleasure and pain; and James does love it, from the consequent whimpers and moans and quivers under Michael’s hands.

“Tell me,” Michael orders again, and cracks a hand over that luscious arse just once. James doesn’t quite scream, rocking up against him.

“I…I need—Michael, please—”

“You liked that? I’ll do it again. If you keep talking.”

“Please…” Begging, now; the hand on Michael’s arm gets tighter, desperate. “I would—yes, fuck, yes, please, I want that, I want—to be good—for you—oh—I need that, I need to be yours, I want to be good for you, please.”

“You are,” Michael promises, and spanks him again, harder this time. “You are, that was so good of you, telling me what you need, I know that wasn’t easy—you need it to hurt, don’t you? You like the roughness, the edge of it, you like too much, don’t you, James? You need more.”

“Yes—” Tears, or the suggestion of them, shining with the capitulation; but James sighs and relaxes, body loosening, hips lifting to welcome the next spank, letting it rock him forward into Michael’s grip on his cock. “Yes. Completely yours, yes, make me feel it, I need that, I need it to—to feel you. I love feeling you—oh, that—Michael…”

“That?” Same spot, harder; James does scream, hips snapping forward. Fluid beads up at the tip of his cock, slick and wet, leaking from that hungry slit. Michael presses a fingertip, a fingernail, into it. James cries out, but it’s a good kind of cry, pleading, urging.

“I want you to come when I tell you to,” Michael demands, “I’m going to make you come like this, James, while I spank you, while you beg me to spank you harder, clear?”

“Yes—” James is all but incoherent; talking will be difficult. Precisely as Michael intends.

“Mine,” Michael says, and rubs his thumb deliberately over James’s cockhead in his grip. James breathes in; his arousal responds, gratifyingly instant. Michael grins. “So. To do this properly…would you like to come here? Over my lap?”

James nods. Michael sits up. They rearrange themselves. Michael’s hand finds the back of James’s neck and settles there, fiddling lightly with the fine curling hair. “I could,” he muses, feeling the sharpness of his grin in the stretch of his lips, “fetch the cane, or the paddle, for you…” James shivers, lying face-down across the bed, head turned to the side. Michael trails one finger down his spine, idly counting vertebrae.

“No,” he concludes, as he reaches the lowest point, the spot where tailbone leads so conveniently to that inviting crease between rounded buttocks. “I want to feel this. To feel you. My hand, and your skin. Would you like that, James?”

“Yes,” James whispers to the rumpled sheets, the silent pillows. “Yours. Please.”

“Very good,” Michael tells him, and lifts the hand. Brings it down.

The first crack makes them both gasp. Michael covers his reaction with the second impact; James groans, and that erection digs more fiercely into Michael’s thigh. Michael pinches the spot he’s just struck, a warning; James stops trying to squirm against him for more friction, and simply waits.

More. Ten. Twelve. Fifteen. James’s arse glows red and hot to the touch, and he’s crying, but his body’s serene, limp and pliant and slack in surrender. When Michael pauses to rest his hand over the newest handprint, fingers slotting tidily into place, James sighs, languid and euphoric. His cock’s swollen and leaking copiously on Michael’s thigh—and it’s making Michael's own erection painfully stiff—but James only lifts those hips, unconsciously begging for more.

Begging. They did discuss that. He pauses again—seventeen—and inquires, “James?”

“Mmm…” Drowsy, distant, slipping under; not as deeply as the previous day but almost sweeter; not awareness, precisely, but aware enough: James is present, if hovering on the brink of that ecstatic hazy trance. Present, and able to breathe Michael’s name.

“I asked you to beg,” Michael reminds him, and rubs a palm slowly over burning curves, the heated marks he’s left on James. “Beg me for it. Your spanking. Your orgasm. Everything you need, you ask for.” He taps fingers in place: one-two-three. “And I’ll say yes. Or…not.”

James gasps. And then the words spill out, inarticulate and pleading and broken with pure want. Yes and please and spank me, please, Michael, I need it, I need you, oh, that, harder, please—

Harder. And James is quivering, body taut as a bowstring, on the verge of a fullblown symphony that he can’t reach without permission, even as his own words tumble out and make him complicit in his own surrender, begging, imploring, loving the shameful shock of it as Michael’s hand snaps down again and again—

“Please,” James keeps saying, face wet with it, cock wet as well, rutting into Michael’s leg. “Please, may I come, I need to come, I need—oh god—”

Michael lifts his hand, waits, says, “You can,” and brings it down.

James screams. His entire frame tightens, coiling into the rush, and his cock pulses over and over, hot sticky jets of come between their bodies. It’s a long orgasm, extended almost beyond bearing; Michael can tell in the way James shudders through the ebb, tiny cries escaping with each twitch. He grins, though James can’t see, and squeezes the curve of that sore backside one last time. James whimpers, and his hips and legs jerk, and one final weak spurt splashes them both. Michael, watching, finds his grin transmuted into a softer expression, something new and yearning and bright. James, under his hand. Yes.

After, James lies in place without stirring, exhausted and drifting, not entirely cognizant of his surroundings. Michael cleans them both up, smoothes cooling cream over new marks, tucks James in—ankle tied loosely to the bed, which those blue eyes don’t quite register but will upon waking, if he does in fact come back that far—and runs to the kitchen. Toast, tea, fruit; not as impressive as previous meals, but he’s not in a mood to create more dishes, or to be away from James for long.

He feeds James by hand. Blue eyes regain a bit of focus, a hint of smile; James tries moving that leg, and then those eyes get more enormous and correspondingly more pleased, and his mouth is a bit dreamy when Michael feeds him the next bite of toast.

Once the food’s gone and some energy’s restored and James has had tea and been cuddled, once they’ve held each other for a few moments to the bustling noises of raindrops going about their business, he runs a thoughtful hand along that tethered leg. His cock twitches; it’s never gone soft, not entirely, constantly aroused by the sight of James, comprehensively spanked and claimed and pleasured, in their bed.

James’s gaze follows his hand, ankle to calf to knee to thigh, ever so gradual over fields of freckles, acres of fair sunless skin. Then returns; and their eyes meet. James smiles. Michael smiles back.

He opens James up tenderly, one finger’s-width at a time. Takes his time with the lube, leaves that stretched little hole all slick and gleaming. James yields easily now, easy for him, calm and unprotesting; all the muscles’ve succumbed, accepting, overrun by Michael’s cock and hands and vibrators.

He pushes into James slowly, prolonging all the moments. The small moan as he first enters. The way blue eyes widen, flutter shut, open again. The slippery clenching heat all around him, holding him, beckoning him deeper. James’s hands lying where Michael’s ordered them, resting above his head on the pillow.

He’s fucked James before. He’s made James scream. This, though…

This is new. And he commits every arch, every gasp, every flare of ecstasy in the depthless oceans, to memory. Safe in his heart. Always.

James’s skin is flushed and his muscles flex as he moves under Michael and his arse sizzles with heat, and it’s not enough somehow, Michael needs more, needs James to move too, to touch him more, to touch him everywhere—

He can order that. He does. And all the blue ignites like fireworks, James wanting the exact same thing, and James flings arms around him, pulling him closer, closer, bodies plastered together, Michael rocking forward and James rocking up into him, meeting each thrust, so tight there’s no more space between them—

James gasps and arches up and Michael knows he’s found that spot, glorious electric bundle of nerves; he thrusts again, precisely aimed, pounding into James over and over, hard but steady, inexorable, fucking James as if they can do this forever and they will

James sobs, “Michael—” and Michael pants, “Now,” and plunges into him one last time, shoving him into the bed. James cries out, long and wailing and full of pleasure and pain, and tightens around him, cock spilling whatever it’s managed to recover in the last few minutes across his stomach. Michael fucks him through it, not letting up; James sobs and writhes and comes again, or that’s yet another wave of the first, drawn-out and delirious and dry, and in between all the delicious sounds and movements and heat Michael finally loses control too, and tumbles over the edge buried inside James, mind flaring with lightning as his cock floods James’s body.

Eventually, he pulls out, pulls away. James’s legs fall open. A trickle of Michael’s come leaks out, painting freckles with white; James lies there with huge eyes, dazed and reverent in the aftermath, his own orgasm splashed across his stomach, intimate muscles gaping wide and well-used, his leg still tied to the bed. Michael’s. Completely.

Michael puts both arms around him, gathers James close, and holds him. Their breathing falls into rhythm, heartbeats meeting, matching.

Michael doesn’t sleep, but does close his eyes, brushing kisses along James’s neck, shoulder, hairline. Breathing him in. Holding him there too: vital air in lungs.

The rain tapers off into a lazy grumbling patter. James is a bundle of warm skin and solidity and welcome splendid exhaustion in Michael’s embrace. He’s gone to sleep, or mostly so, and Michael rubs his back gently, easing him further into recuperative dreams.

After a while he lifts his head, spurred by a ticking internal clock. The real-life physical clock informs him that they’ve only a couple of hours left. He needs to get James up, in more than one sense; needs to be packed and showered and—

And what? Back to his own life, as James returns to film sets and stages, movie cameras and red carpets? He runs a hand over the planes of James’s back, imagining that he can feel all the freckles, can pick them out by touch, each individual star.

He can imagine never cooking with James again, never stealing Thai food from each other’s plates and sharing a glass of decadent scotch—has to imagine it, because it’ll have to be true.

Won’t it?

James has said it too: I like cooking with you. I like belonging to you. Maybe we can share food, in the future?

Is there a future? Is that an available outcome, amid all the branching moments?

Too many emotions. They catch in his throat, stop his next breath. Possibilities spin like tops, not yet fallen to one side or the other.

James stirs. Yawns. “Michael…”

“I’m here. We should shower, if you’re feeling up to that.” He swallows back all the other words. For now, here, he’s still James’s Dominant, and James is his submissive, and Michael will take care of them both for as long as he’s permitted. “D’you want me to untie you? Here—”

“No.” James yawns again, sleepy and truthful; and then jewel-blue eyes fly up to find Michael’s. “I mean…if you say we should, yes. But you asked what I want. I’d like one more minute. If that’s okay.”

“Of course.” Michael shoves the words out—those emotions stuck in his throat again, clogging vocal cords—and lies back down, tucking James in against his chest, Michael’s cheek resting in flyaway dark hair. “Of course.”

“I know we have to get up.” That Scottish-hearth accent rumbles through their joined bodies. Michael can feel it in his soul. “But I was thinking…I thought, waking up…I’m happy. Here. Waking up with you.”

“James,” Michael says, and holds him, long legs and stickiness and a strange painful easing of weight inside his chest. He’s not sure it’s an answer, and he’s not going to examine it too closely in case it’s an illusion after all. But he feels lighter, as one of James’s arms curls around his waist in turn. He feels happy, too.

One minute turns into ten, and then they seriously do have to be on their feet and moving, gathering scattered clothing, left-over cake, the ropes and restraints and leather implements gleefully decorating the suite. James helps with the latter even though Michael doesn’t order him to; he doesn’t kneel, bringing over a paddle or a stray wrist cuff, but a secret smile plays at the corners of that mouth, and in blue eyes when Michael takes the paddle from his hand.

Michael kisses him and sends him off to find the matching cuff, request not command. James grins, and goes, and comes back promptly. “Under the bed.”

“Under?”

“You might've been distracted, when you tossed it at the table…”

“Distracted, was I? And what do you think might’ve been so distracting, James?” He captures that hand while talking, dropping the proffered cuff on the bed, reeling James in until Michael’s hands can slide around the shape of his waist, a proprietary frame. “Do you want me to admit that just looking at you makes me imagine all sorts of filthy…distractions?”

James puts his head on one side, grins, licks his lips. Purposely seductive, pink tongue trailing wetness over bright skin. “Yes, please.”

“Well,” Michael agrees, “it’s true, I do,” and James laughs.

Mostly packed, they run into the shower one last time. The water’s cleansing and hot and falls over them like a benediction. James smiles and washes Michael’s back, stomach, calves; Michael kisses him once he’s back on his feet, and then kneads shampoo into his hair. As expected, the gesture leaves James boneless and content and liquid in his arms. Michael wants to smile, and to cry, and so distracts himself by pressing lips into clean hair and simply breathing. The scent of apples. Of James.

Out of the shower, last items thrown into bags, room tidy, no real evidence left, no indications of the depth and breadth of what’s transpired. Disheveled sheets, maybe. A hint of sex and shower-steam in the air. Take-out boxes in the trash. Other than that, nothing. Michael has the inexplicable urge to unpack, to keep the room from being lonely.

The sky’s steel and slate and iron, outside. James touches a bedpost, a chair, a lamp: little absentminded gestures, comforting a woebegone world. He’s still naked, having paused to gather clothes but not yet put them on; his toes curl into carpet-fluff, oddly vulnerable even as he reassures the furniture.

Michael takes a deep breath. Finishes buttoning his own jeans. Yanks his shirt over his head. Looks for his sweater.

“Here.” James holds it out, velvety black cradled in a broad hand. James, knowing what he needs.

Michael takes the sweater and tugs it on, using the moment to hide inexplicable shakiness. When he emerges from the crew-neck, James is watching him, lips parted.

James blushes, being caught watching; but those blue eyes are intrepid and unashamed and unguarded, all the gates swung wide and inviting. Michael finds himself smiling all over again.

James smiles back. The rain taps inquisitively, briefly, along the windowpane; and subsides.

James pulls on grey jeans and a black button-down and an extremely improbable orange jumper, and just like that he’s put-together and tidy again, cuddly and kind among all the layers. No one, looking at him now, would guess that he’d been on his knees moaning around Michael’s cock down his throat, that he’d begged for every stroke of the cane, that he’d pleaded to be allowed to come as Michael fucked him relentlessly on the bed and the floor and the dining table…

Even his stance has shifted. Friendliness, approachability, generosity. Worn like armor.

And now Michael knows the fullest extent of that generosity. Knows just how much James will give, how far and how willingly James will surrender—and love the yielding.

Michael will never be the same. He wonders what James is thinking. If James is thinking the same thing. They’ve been thinking the same things so very often, this enchanted weekend.

I am happy, James had said to him. With you. I’m not lonely, now.

That means something. That has to mean something. He hopes it means something. Because the rain’s shimmering down palely beyond the glass, and James is looking up at him with an indecipherable expression, affectionate and wistful and hopeful and tentative, and James has no idea about the depths of the marks he’s left in his turn, seared into Michael’s soul.

James takes a step closer to him. All that dark hair’s drying into otherworldly loops and curls, frisking up to invite the hotel-room light into play. The barest hint of incongruous ginger stubble’s emerging anew. He’s beguiling and bewitching and beautiful, a fairy-creature stepped out of raindrops to steal Michael’s heart away in a historic London hotel room. Michael can’t speak.

James pushes up one sleeve. Examines his wrist, traces a finger a little wistfully over the fading rings of bruises. “Barely even pink…”

Michael thinks they're a bit more obvious than that, but recognizes the longing in James's voice for what it is. “Those cuffs—the ones you mostly had on—they shouldn’t even really leave marks.” He reaches out—can’t not—and catches that bared arm, gently. “They’re padded for that reason. It’s just you were sort of wearing restraints all weekend…” And would want to keep wearing them, if he could. And Michael'd want him to. 

“And I’m not used to that. I know.” James doesn’t take his arm away. Lets Michael’s thumb rub slowly over the deep pink, pressing down, not hard. Reinforcement.

“You said you bruise easily.” Not letting go, Michael tips his head back toward his bag: packed, but he’ll unpack everything necessary if James says yes. “Want lotion?”

“No.” James flexes fingers, wrist, elbow. Continues holding Michael’s gaze. “It won’t be bad. I’m only doing radio work, tomorrow; no wardrobe adaptation necessary. And…I like feeling it. You. The reminder…”

“That you’re mine.” He doesn’t mean to say the words. They just leap out. As if they have to be given life.

But James smiles even more widely. Turns his hand, and laces their fingers together. “Yes.”

“Yes.”

“Yes, always, after this. I think—” James stops, shrugs, a helpless gesture but not regretful at all: it’s fate, it’s destiny, it’s some benevolent higher power or simple inarguable congruence of two lives, and we’re here and this is now and we’re choosing this because we want to, we both want to, we know we do.

It’s that sort of yes.

“—that is a yes. Always. I said it earlier. I like waking up with you.”

“I like waking up with you,” Michael echoes, under the giddy romantic sighing of the rain. The repetition’s not mindless or careless. Binding, instead. Like a spell. An incantation. And the world’s more magical, lighter and brighter and more real, with each passing second of his hand holding that freckled one. “You said…you’ll be in London…chicken salad, you said…”

James laughs. Michael wants James to laugh forever, just like that, so he can listen. “That was mostly for Benedict’s benefit. But yes. If you want. Or anything else. I like cooking with you. I’d like to—to try cooking with you more often.”

“I’d like that, too.” He squeezes those fingers, heart pounding. James squeezes back; and so his heart pounds even more. “You…not tonight, I think…we should probably…”

“Give ourselves some time to…” James looks at their hands. The pause isn’t reconsidering. It’s all about possibilities. “To recover, after all this? To not be jumping headfirst into the deepest possible end of the pool?”

“Well…yes.” He hesitates. Takes a breath. “James, I—what are we—is this even going to work, are we—yes, of course, yes, but you know I’m not famous, I’m not—I work with celebrity clients, sure, but I’m not—and you’ll have sex scenes and I’ll be possessive and I’ll have—I mean, we met because—”

James breathes in, too. Then out. “I was trying not to think about that.”

“I’m sorry.” He doesn’t know what else to say.

“For loving what you do? No.” James catches his lip between teeth, that same pensive gesture Michael’s seen a hundred times in interviews. On computer and television screens. On camera. “I was thinking…I thought…I don’t want to change you. And you’d not want me to ask. And I can’t—if it’s the role, it’s the role; I won’t turn something down because there’s a sex scene…”

“Never.” Not for him. No.

“But maybe…” Another unconscious lip-nibble, a reflective sparkle in blue oceans, a returning sun. “I can promise you that mine aren’t real. None of that, on camera. Nothing like what I give to you. I can tell you that.”

“I know.” He does. And the hint of hopefulness, of wanting to find the answer, hangs in the air.

“Yes…and…I know, I mean, you do this professionally, I don’t know anything about—about how that works, really, I—but could you sort of…I’m not you and I don’t do this with, um, clients, and I can’t—” James looks almost miserable now, as if he thinks Michael might say anything other than yes, always, anything for you. “I can try, if there’s something—is there anything you could…save for just us? Not for clients? I’m sorry. I know it’s asking a lot. Or it would be. If this weren’t hypothetical. Is it not hypothetical?”

Michael can’t talk for a second, astounded by the bravery. By the compassion. James isn’t a professional, James has barely even done one real scene—Michael’s essentially dismissed all of those previous so-called experiences at this point—and James still understands, or is trying to understand, more than anyone else ever has. James understands him.

He tightens his grip on that hand, in his. “It’s not hypothetical. And yes.”

“It’s not…you’d want…you would?”

“I can wait,” Michael says, very softly, and he’s never promised anyone else this but it’ll be a challenge, self-imposed discipline, and he loves discipline, and he loves James, so he can do anything, “I can do a scene, give people what they need, and not—not get off, with them. Whips and bondage and them having orgasms. Not me. Because that’s for you, now. Only you. You, on your knees, letting me come on your face, your lips…inside you, until you’re so full of me you can’t move without me spilling out of you, messy and filthy and all mine…”

James gasps out loud, at that; and those bright lips form a soundless please.

“I want that,” Michael tells him, and moves his own hand, wraps it around James’s wrist, a cuff of flesh and bone. Squeezes again. “I don’t want to give that to any random client, James. I’ll give them what they need. I need you. My perfect submissive.”

“Yes,” James breathes, “yes.”

Michael has to smile. James looks so lovely, and so aroused, and so ready, from the gleam in those eyes, to be bent over the bed and fucked hard, one more time…

He catches sight of the clock. Swears out loud. “Will they be angry if we’re not checked out on time?”

“What?…oh…no, probably not. I have a lot of money, and I can always bake them biscuits as an apology. Michael…yes. Not hypothetical. Us. Yes.”

“Yes. You said you’re done at five? On Monday?”

“Which is tomorrow. Yes?”

“I can…pick you up from work tomorrow?” He taps fingers over that wrist; sees the reply in James’s smile. “I’ll buy you dinner. No car, but I’ve got a motorbike you might enjoy. BMW.”

James raises an eyebrow at him. “I’ve got a Triumph at home. Bonneville. But I was thinking about something sportier. Which you know, don’t you. Because you’re a fan.”

Michael literally feels the breath leave his lungs. Oh God. Oh, God, now, after everything—

He hears his own heartbeat as if from a distance, thumping in his ears. Unless that’s the rain, and his heart’s stopped beating after all, and he should talk, say something, reassure James that he’s not a crazy sort of fan, that he’s sincere about the offer and taking things slow, that he’s in love and he’d never do anything James didn’t want, never, not ever—

James actually laughs. Which…is not the response Michael would've expected. “You ought to see your face. Sorry, sorry, I shouldn’t be laughing, I just—did you think I didn’t know? Ian told me. He thought I should know before I met you, in case that’d be uncomfortable. And you told me, when you knew I’d worked in a bakery, when you said you’d seen—out of all my movies—Becoming Penelope. And again just now. Of course I like bikes. And I like you.”

“You…knew…and you still agreed to…”

“I could’ve left if I’d felt uneasy. Or not signed the contract. I did sign it. I wanted to stay.” James takes another step closer. Right into Michael’s space, bodies aligned, sharing warmth. Every place they're touching tingles. “Ian told me you were a good person. And you are. I know you are. You were amazingly convincing, by the way. All weekend, without admitting you’d seen more than the one film, ever…”

“I’ve seen them all,” Michael says, because James is still grinning, still pressed up against him, short and sturdy and daring and wonderful. “I loved you in Redemption. I cried. Please stop dying on camera.”

“You loved me,” James says, “past tense, on camera— What about this weekend, that’s been pretty fantastic, or I thought so, but…not present tense, cameras off, just me?”

A hint of melancholy rises in the Highland hills, a flicker of preemptive grief nonetheless far too wrong and too present, shouldn’t be there at all; and Michael says without stopping to think, “You’re not just anything, James, and yes, present tense, all the tenses—future tense—it’s just—we haven’t, y’know, been on an actual date yet and we should probably sort of do that before I tell you I love you—”

“Probably, yeah.” James tips his head to one side, all the melancholy flying away, replaced by coruscating elation in horizonless blue. Michael feels it too. Joy, emerging in his bones, his lips, the corners of his eyes. His heart.

“It is kind of very fast,” James muses, eyes brilliant and beckoning, laughter imminent in that voice and hanging breathless in the air. “So…yes, first date, tomorrow. Yes to everything, you and me and trying this, all of this. And yes, I might say it tomorrow night, if you tell me again, I can tell you…this does feel fast, and this also feels like something good, and I think I might love you too.”