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The only time Jim seems like he isn't quite in control of what he's saying is when he's got you laid out underneath him, hissing in your ear. His right arm pins your neck to the floor and his left hand is stroking you off and you are melted completely into the carpet, trying not to breathe in the shag and failing.

"Love how you give it up," mutters Jim. "So beautiful. So complete. Wish I could watch you surrender, wish I could watch you give it up to anyone with their hands at your throat—"

He twists his wrist and you buck a little as you come. Jim rides you out and rolls you over, and your bleary eyes catch him looking pleased at the stains ruining the pink and teal pattern of the shag.

"I do hate this carpet," he says. "Do you think the hotel will tear it out now?"

You roll your eyes and help Jim unzip his flies.

---

You don't forget what Jim said. You ask him about it after you've herded him up from the floor (which is now thoroughly covered with fluids), after Jim’s observed you drink an entire bottle of water and bandage the new cut along your collar bone (next time you'll frisk Jim for knives before you let him jump you, which is what you think after every ‘next time’), after you’ve lain down in his bed to recover. You ask him tactfully, because it was an admission made while he was very vulnerable.

"You want to watch other people fuck me?"

Jim makes a pained noise and rolls over to face you, his eyes still closed in the dark. "I never said that, pet."

"You said," you concentrate, and the words come easy. You had a good memory to begin with, and Jim's training has made it phenomenal. "'Wish I could watch you surrender, wish I could watch you give it up to anyone with their hands at your throat.' So it's either fucking or strangulation, I think."

Jim slits one eye open, but he doesn't say anything.

"I thought you were possessive," you say, carried on by his silence and the sudden cold feeling that you might be over-stepping.

"What gave you that idea?" asks Jim.

"Probably the thing two years ago where you told me that if I ever cheated, you would put me in an iron chastity belt and toss me off a pier." You hadn't planned on playing around, but it had made an impression.

Jim opens both eyes wide, smiling. "It's not cheating if I give you permission, is it?"

You think that over. Logically, it makes sense. You’d just never thought—

"So you want to watch other people fuck me?" you ask again, but Jim snores so dramatically that you give up on the conversation in disgust.

Jim’s face is only this serene when he’s pretending to sleep. You curl in a little, not close enough to touch, but close enough to breathe his air. It takes a little while for you to drop off, and when you do you dream of fingers clutching your windpipe and a heavy weight pinning your hips.

---

"It's not that I want other people to fuck you," says Jim, the next day, picking up the conversation like twelve hours and a kidnapping hadn't intervened.

"I'm kind of busy," you say, not turning away from the squirming lump of a man that's sitting in front of you. You pass the knife into your left hand and pick up a lighter. "Can we talk about this after?"

"It's more about control," says Jim. "I love watching you give it up—"

"I know." You catch a few strands of the man's chest hair on fire and watch them disappear. "So beautiful, so complete. You've said."

"And I just think, 'oh, wouldn't it be fun to really watch?'" Jim bounces his heels off the warehouse pallets he's sitting on. "You know, without being distracted by having to do things, like pin you down or pull your hair or kiss you."

"Yeah, sex is such a chore." You draw a bloody line down the man's chest with your knife, following it with the lighter. The man screams into the duct tape over his mouth as the flame touches his skin.

And then Jim is pulling you back by the collar of your suit, frowning at you.

"Busy, Jim." You don’t resist, but you move your hands away so you won’t accidentally stab him. "You told me to torture him, and I don't think TMI is going to do the trick."

"Him?" Jim sneers. "Circumstances have changed. We'll use him as an example, he's not important."

You flick your eyes to the man to watch him sag in despair. Jim's examples tend toward the particularly bloody. "Circumstances are changing quick," you say. "Did the Canadians—"

"Not important," sings Jim. "Sex with you isn't a chore, Sebastian. It's very enjoyable."

"Thanks," you mutter. You can feel your cheeks going red. You hate how easily you blush, but Jim loves it. It’s just like him to start this conversation in public, when he wouldn’t have it in bed.

“You’re especially good at giving oral.” Jim’s watching you narrowly, and you try to react as little as possible, even though this makes your insides twist with pride and your brain want to kill something just to distract his attention. “Though I take credit for that, I can’t believe you learned that sloppy technique in Her Majesty’s army.”

“Some people like sloppy.” You try to speak normally, but you have to concentrate to unclench your jaw.

"But I do have fantasies, just like you have yours," says Jim. "I did indulge you with the shock-collar and the eyeshadow—"

You're blushing furiously now, with a heavy emphasis on furious. You're very glad that you'll be killing the man before too long, because Jim might not have any shame but he hasn't broken you of yours yet.

"—And maybe you could indulge me with this?" asks Jim.

You blink with the sudden release, as the pressure of the conversation moves from you to Jim. "You want to watch other people fuck me. In real life."

"I've been explaining," says Jim, exasperated. "It's much more complicated than that."

"Hold on," you say, and Jim doesn’t try to keep you in place. The man struggles a little when you approach, which is absurd. Just useless reflex, in the face of the inevitable. You pull his head back by the hair and slit his throat, carefully aiming the spray away and onto the tarp. You watch the light leave the man's eyes, waiting for that last shuddering breath.

"Happy?" asks Jim.

"You want to watch other people fuck me in a complicated way." You wipe blood from your knife onto the body’s shirt, considering. "What, when I'm tied up?

Jim sighs. "If you're going to be vulgar about it."

You start cleaning up. Jim leaves you alone for almost five minutes, which is unusual. Really tells you how seriously he’s taking this.

“Okay,” you say, approximately twenty seconds before Jim would have lost patience and demanded an answer. "I'll try anything once."

“Darling.” Jim smiles at you. “If this works out, I think we’ll try for more than once.

---

It doesn't work out.

Jim finds some people, you don't know where from, but you trust him. He rents a hotel room, with a big bed. He blindfolds you and handcuffs you, and tells you what a brave boy you are. You like hearing that more than you’re comfortable with, and Jim knows. You lean into his touch as he pats your shoulder.

"All right," says Jim. "Have at him."

You really want to do this for Jim. He's done so much for you, given you so much, and in return you've given him everything. Everything includes this. You can be good for him, you can spread your legs and open your mouth for a bunch of strangers if that's what Jim wants.

Your resolve lasts right up until an unfamiliar hand touches your shoulder, and then instinct takes over.

"Well," says Jim, fifteen minutes later. "I've just had to give two excellent prostitutes enough money to pay for the third one's broken nose."

"Sorry," you say. You don't feel sorry for what you did, but you do feel sorry for disappointing Jim. It's making you feel nauseous and you're sweating and starting to gasp, your eyes squeezed closed now that the blindfold's been taken away. Get it together, Seb, you’re a colonel. You’re a criminal. You don’t get to be soft like this. Exercise some control, some restraint, some—

"Sebastian," says Jim, sharply. "It's not your fault."

"Sorry," you say again, biting it out as you try to catch hold of your breathing.

Jim growls and pushes you down, onto your front. He molds himself against your back, pinning your neck with his right arm, and slowly you begin to relax into him. After a few minutes you're starting to float, breaths coming in through your nose and smoothly out through your mouth.

"You gave me the control," says Jim, when you're contemplating the damp spot on the pillows that's forming under your mouth. "You gave it to me so beautifully, and I pushed you too far. I misjudged."

That's the closest thing to an apology you've ever heard out of Jim, and it makes you squirm. Jim pushes you down a little harder, and you let him, crushing your face into the pillow, blocking out the feelings of failure.

You fall asleep like that, with Jim weighing you down, and you wake up with a crick in your neck but no shame. Jim fucks you before he lets you up again, hands on your shoulders, on the back of your head. If you concentrate, you can convince yourself that this is all he wants.

---

"We could try it again," you say, next week.

"I'm a little busy." Jim's fingers fly over the keyboard, click click click as the museum surrenders its secrets and unlocks its vaults. "Can this wait?"

"I'm only saying." You heft a crowbar and then smash through a display case, relishing the complete silence of the alarms.

Jim glances at the 18th century necklaces that spill onto the floor. "I don't even want those."

"So what do you want?" you ask.

Jim huffs and hits enter, twists away from the monitor. His hands are stuffed in his pockets, he's frowning, but his feet take him on a twirl around you and he bends to scoop up a sapphire necklace after all.

"You don't have to," he says. Jim offers you choices all the time, because he likes it so much more when you give in willingly.

"I want to," you say.

"You don't." Jim’s voice rises, to the point that you start to worry about security guards. "Don't lie to me, Sebastian."

"All right, I don't want to be gangbanged or whatever it is you’re imagining." Christ, you wish your voice didn’t crack a little on ‘gangbanged,’ but you try to play it off as annoyance. "I don’t hate it, it just doesn’t get me off."

"Thank you," says Jim, primly.

"But I do want to do it," you say. "For you. Because you want me to."

Jim doesn't show surprise at that, but his eyes do flicker and he stuffs the sapphires into his pocket. You open your mouth to say something else, but that's when the security guards finally show up.

Isn't it handy that you're already holding a crowbar?

---

The next time doesn't work either.

"We'll isolate the problems from last time," says Jim. "Isolate and eliminate." He makes you write out a list of everything that set you off.

This time there are no blindfolds, though your wrists are still tied. The other three participants are selected by Jim, but he gives you files on every one so that you know their medical history, their education, the names of their favorite family members. Not strangers, no surprises. You get to choose the location, and you choose a large room with practically no furniture, just an armchair in the corner for Jim and four or five futons on the floor for comfort. You can see everything coming. No surprises.

You last approximately five minutes longer before one of the women (brown eyes, lisp, aunt in Dorchester who always sends her the best sweets on the lunar new year) runs her hand down your spine and you kick out at her knee reflexively.

You realize what's going on just in time to pull the kick, just enough that there's no lasting damage. But the woman still squawks and goes down, and Jim gets up from his chair with a fleeting look of disappointment. Then it's over and you're muttering sorry again as Jim sighs and strokes your hair.

"I want to do this for you," you say. "I do. Want to give you everything."

"I know you've had sex with people besides me," says Jim. "Did you leave a trail of broken bones instead of broken hearts, Sebastian?"

"No." You try to remember life before Jim. It gets harder every day. "I was mostly in control, when I picked someone up. Kept them underneath me, pinned, where I could see them."

"But not me," says Jim. "You haven't tried to break my nose. Not that often, anyway, and not," he hesitates, "not unprovoked, let's say."

"You're different," you say.

Jim raises an eyebrow, of course I am, but that's not what you mean.

"I feel calm with you," you say. "I know what you're going to do."

"Are you calling me predictable, darling?" Jim's hand tightens in your hair.

"You're going to do whatever you like." You can feel yourself slipping into that dreamy state that Jim so often pushes you into. Just talking about it is enough. "And I can't stop you."

"Can't?" Jim's hand twists and you twist with it, rolling in his lap so you can bare your throat to him.

"Don't want to," you say.

It’s a little manipulative on your part. You’re almost twenty centimetres and three stone heavier than Jim, and doesn’t it just get him off, having you grovel at his feet. Or at his midriff, as the case may be. Jim deserves something he likes, after all that work for nothing.

And you like it too, don’t you, colonel? You try not to think about it that way, but it always sneaks in. This isn’t just for Jim.

You stop thinking when Jim lays his hand across his throat and kisses you, mouth sliding sideways against your own. You’re pleased to say that the room full of futons doesn't go completely to waste.

---

You're supposed to be ingratiating yourself with this violinist, so that she'll sneak you into the backstage of the Barbican. It's part of a fifty-step plan that began in the London Zoo and ends with a crashed helicopter and a changed vote in Parliament. This is step twenty-one. Step twenty-one is talking to this agonizingly dull woman and making her think she's fascinating.

"And I do get these calluses, you know, and I'd use skin cream or something to get rid of them except I actually need them, do you see, or my hands start to hurt—"

"Mhm." You stare deeply into her eyes and carefully relax your grip on the cutlery. Fuck, why does Jim make you do these things? If it’s a new form of sadism, you like it significantly less than the other ones.

"Look, you can see them on all of my fingers." She extends a hand, and you cluck sympathetically over it.

"You should tell her about your gun calluses." Jim's voice is soft through the earbud. "You're two peas in a pod, so similar, you should be such friends."

You ignore Jim, because he's not actually trying to help. "I'd no idea a musician's life was so hard."

"That's not all, love," she says. "We're all on drugs, too."

"She's not using one of my dealers," says Jim, sharp.

You make your eyes wide, as she's obviously expecting. "What, cocaine?"

She laughs, peals of warm laughter that almost make you fond of her. It's cute when someone gets so much pleasure out of so little wit. "No, just the anti-anxiety meds. Propranolol, valium—one of my friends swears by horse tranquilizers, but I think she's joking."

"Oh." Jim sounds disappointed. "Nothing we can use here. Ask about the sex club she goes to on Thursday nights."

"What's all that for?" you ask. Jim's wrong this time—this sounds very useful.

"I get crippling stage fright." She leans in, imparting a secret even though she's practically shouting over the noise of the restaurant. "All those people in the audience, watching, judging. The second chair bumped my shoulder once and I nearly screamed."

"Yeah," you say. "I completely understand."

"Sebastian, are you ignoring me?"

"The propranolol takes the edge off." She shrugs. "Just an edge, it's not very strong. Lets me concentrate on what I want to be doing."

"Sounds nice." You suppress a wince when Jim screams in your ear. "Anyway, do you want to meet up again on Thursday night? Or do you have an engagement?"

"Engagement?" The laugh is forced this time. "Who does things on Thursday nights?"

"Oh, I just thought—" You duck your head. "I heard—Well, I must have heard wrong."

"Better," says Jim, and you carefully keep the conversation on track for the rest of the night.

---

Jim is waiting in his armchair when you get back, his legs crossed and his hands folded. He looks very relaxed.

You try not to be lulled.

"Do you think my orders are a suggestion?" he asks.

"No," you say. "I just thought—"

"Sometimes I want you to think." Jim beckons you, and you take off your coat, hang it up, take a step closer. "When I send you out alone, for instance, or when you can see a threat that I cannot. Closer, Sebastian, I won't bite."

"Yeah, right," you mutter, but you walk forward until your legs are nearly brushing Jim's knees.

"When I have my voice in your ear and my cameras trained on you, darling, I don't want you to think. What do I want?"

"I just wanted—" you try again, and Jim reaches up and grabs your tie, yanking you down by your neck. Your hands latch onto the top of the armchair, keeping your balance, and you try not to blink any more than necessary.

"I want a puppet!" Jim jerks the tie again, down and sideways. You stumble, fall to one knee rather than fight him. You drop your eyes from his at the same time. It feels a little choreographed, like a game you’ve gotten good at. Jim doesn’t really want a puppet, he just wants to tug on your strings sometimes.

You hope.

"Well?" hisses Jim.

"Yes, sir," you say. "I'm very sorry."

"Good." Jim releases your tie. You risk a glance up, and see the fury recede in his eyes.

You don't get up, though. You drop the other knee instead, fold your hands in your lap.

"Would you fuck me while I'm on tranquilizers?" you ask.

Jim doesn't make a noise, doesn't change expression, but he does nearly kick you in the face when he uncrosses his legs and leans forward. "Why?"

"I think it might help with my performance anxiety," you say.

Jim's grin slides across his face like a crocodile breaking surface.

---

It takes you a while to figure out the right drug, the right dosage. Propranolol doesn't feel like much of anything, maybe a slight easing in the back of your head. The horse tranquilizers were a bad idea, and you regret letting Jim talk you into them. You try Nytol because you remember your mum giving it to you when you had trouble sleeping. That works the best out of anything, and you’re briefly and viscerally glad that you’re disowned and you’ll never feel tempted to tell your mum about this. You layer meds on top of the Nytol, and finally you hit on an unrecommended cocktail which just seems to let you... relax. Not care so much. Not worry. Fall asleep sometimes, if you take too much, so you experiment to find the right dosage too.

Jim is very happy to help. Turns out Jim loves fucking you while you're drugged up, eyes a little glassy, knees falling apart when he touches them. He waxes rhapsodic about your slack muscles and your weak grip on his shoulders. You feel like this should make you feel unnerved, but you just feel fond.

And determined to keep a close eye on your drinks, in case he tries to slip you something when you're not expecting it.

For try number three, Jim rents another empty room and has you spread another set of futons around. He lets you put the armchair exactly where you think he'll get the best view. He locks your wrists behind your back and feeds the pills between your lips.

You're almost certain he pulls the water away from you too quickly on purpose, soaking your chin and chest. The sensation is already starting to feel a little dulled, just a little less cold than it should.

Jim pushes you back onto the futons and you land on your shoulder to protect your bound wrists. You stare at the ceiling as the minutes tick past, until it's too hard to keep it in focus and you let it slip away.

"Ready?" asks Jim.

"Mm."

Jim reaches across your naked body, hand tightening briefly around your balls. You flinch, about two seconds after he lets go.

"Almost," says Jim. "I'll let them in."

You read their files when Jim hired them, but now the other participants are reduced to blurry tan and brown, smiles and big hands reaching to touch you.

"Hi," you mumble, trying to seem like you're happy to be here and definitely won't break anyone's nose. One of the women runs her hand through your hair, and the man loops his hand around your ankle, just holding. Your leg twitches, but you're too out of it to kick.

"Ticklish." The man chuckles.

"Yeah." You chuckle a little too, high with relief and also the drugs. "But don't worry, do whatever you like."

They do. Somebody kisses you, and somebody plays with your prick, and somebody runs slick fingers down your crack. You give it up.

Not completely. You can't keep your eyes shut, have to see what's coming next. You can't fight the little spasms of movement every time someone touches your shoulder, your leg, the dip in your spine. But no one's getting hurt. You can't see Jim over the woman's shoulder as she sucks a bruise behind your ear, but you hope he's enjoying himself.

He should be. You allow yourself a moment of pride when the two women reposition you and you don’t fight even a little, just go where you’re moved even when it means your hands are trapped under your own weight. Someone is rolling a condom down your cock, and someone else is propping your ankles on their shoulders, bending your legs in until they hit someone's back. Someone is kissing you, again.

Your breathing speeds up a little when someone holds your prick steady and sinks down onto it, their knees spreading wide around your hips. But that's just arousal, that's fine. You buck, but only to push a little deeper. The woman on top of you gasps and pushes back.

It's a bit of a shock when the man gets two thick fingers inside of you, but it's just the right side of overwhelming and you don't want to make it stop. Your heels press into the man's shoulders as you arch into his touch. The woman on your prick is making slow, sweet circles with her hips.

You start to panic when the other woman lowers herself onto your face. Her thighs bracket your head and her stomach curves over you, flesh muffling sound and cutting out light. Your arms are pinned, your hips and legs held, and now you're being half-suffocated by this woman's cunt. Is this what Jim wanted? You lick at her, feel her grind down in response. You wonder how much of you Jim can still see with all these bodies weighing you down.

You could still get out. Your body knows how, even with your mind dulled and weak. Use your legs to trap the man, bite the woman who’s using your mouth. The woman using your prick doesn’t weigh much, you could roll over and use your head as a bludgeon—

The man eases his cock into you, almost too slowly, and your body jerks like someone's brushed you with a live wire. But without the surge of pain, or Jim's inappropriate giggles. His hips brush against your skin, and then he’s pulling back to thrust and you can feel the heavy slide of it in the blood pounding your ears. The woman sitting on your prick pets your side as she starts riding you in earnest, and you groan as the woman on your face curls a fist in your hair. Your plan of escape fades out into sensation.

It's takes about five minutes, maybe more, but finally you relax. Your legs are dead weight, heels bouncing lightly on the man's back. His thrusts move you up into the woman on your prick, and your mouth is slack as the woman on your face grinds her way toward her second orgasm. Your eyes are still open, but you're staring at nothing. There's an odd hissing whine in your ears, the kind you get sometimes when there's total silence, the kind that makes you worry about tinnitus.

The man hits your prostate at the same time as the woman on your prick squeezes her pelvic muscles and you come, helpless. For about twenty seconds you think that no one's noticed, that they'll just keep going as you lapse further and further into exhaustion, but then the woman is climbing off your face, both woman and condom are eased off your prick, and the man is pulling out and leaving you empty. You watch as Jim ushers the trio out of the door, hopefully to where they've left their clothes and not just into the hall.

Your face feels sticky and you want to clean it. You try to use your hand, but you're quickly reminded of the handcuffs. Your arms feel sore from lying on them, so you solve two problems by rolling over and wiping your face on the sweat-damp futons.

"Oh," says Jim, behind you. "For me?"

It takes a few seconds for the meaning of this to penetrate your brain, and by then Jim's already grabbed a cheek in each hand and spread them. You squirm your shoulders and chest backward, rising up on your knees to give him better access. You're exhausted, you’re half-asleep, you need him. Jim hums, pleased. If you turn your head sideways, lower your shoulder and strain your eyes, you can see his dark head bent over you.

"Was it what you wanted?" you mumble.

"Almost." Jim’s slick fingers slip into you. Not stretching—he doesn’t need to. Just stroking, matching the movement of his other hand on the nape of your neck.

"Could you see properly?" Your mind makes a valiant effort to force words past the cotton-wool of your tongue. "It didn't feel like it lasted very long. Did you—"

Jim’s hand tightens on your neck, and his fingers curl inside of you. "Darling, sometimes I want you to think. But not just now, all right?"

Tension slips away. Your eyes drift closed. Jim pats your arse and pulls his fingers out.

When he first slides his cock into you it's easy and slow, but the pace soon picks up until you’re having to brace yourself to keep from sliding forward. The edge of intensity makes you wonder again what it had been like, sitting in that chair and watching as his surrogates took you apart.

You're so open. Jim's cock is significantly thinner that the one you just had, but he's a little longer. It's an odd and unfamiliar sensation, being stretched wider than Jim needs you to be. A little duller, except for when he slides home, deeper than you expect.

Maybe it's just the drugs. You can tell by the noise and the sticky slap of Jim's skin against your arse that he's really pounding you now. Normally you're done after an orgasm, moan and complain when Jim cajoles you into going another round. But this is nice. The ragged rhythm of Jim's hips is almost soothing.

Jim hitches your hips into a better position and you feel that. Your thighs shake, and your cock manages one last spurt even though it's still soft, come dripping down the front of your thighs.

"Yes," hisses Jim. "Yes yes yes—"

You want him to finish soon, because you're not sure how much longer you can keep yourself from collapsing. You never want him to finish, because this feels like you've died and gone to the only pleasant afterlife that would ever have you. You want—

You want Jim to have what he wants, as long as he wants it.

Something shifts in your head, the last little piece, and you can’t believe you’d thought yourself relaxed earlier. You feel like you're melting now.

Jim shoves into you one more time, throwing his back into it, and your knees buckle as he comes.

---

"Wake up," says Jim. "The cleaners are coming in fifteen minutes, and I don't want to be here."

"Not asleep," you mumble, and pry an eyelid open.

Jim is already dressed, cufflinks and tie clip included. You sit up gingerly, wincing at the pain in your shoulders. At least Jim had uncuffed you—normally he leaves you to sort things out on your own while he uses the joie de vivre of good sex to inject some energy into the business of crime. But Jim seems inclined to hover today, for some reason.

You try to stand up, and gravity happens instead.

Right. The drugs. God, you feel you’re hungover and drunk all at once, and the ache in your thighs and arse isn't helping.

Jim offers you a hand. "You have barely time for a shower, Sebastian. And no, you may not skip it and drip sweat and come on your suit, I want you clean enough to deserve Westwood."

You give him a look. It probably comes out a little cross-eyed.

"You were going to ask, don't give me that. Come on."

You shift the look to Jim's hand. You know he can bear your weight, but odds are fifty-fifty that he'll drop you anyway, just to show you he can. Jim solves the problem for you by grabbing your arm and hauling you up, shepherding you into the shower and turning on the cold water. He withdraws then, stepping out of range of the spray, and you can hold on to the handy support bar and add enough hot water to stop shivering.

"Two minutes," calls Jim. You stick your head under the spray.

"You enjoy yourself?" Your mouth fills with water, and you have to spit it out and ask again.

"Yes, it was perfect," says Jim casually. "Clean inside and out, sweetheart."

You take care of inside and out, thinking. Jim doesn't use words carelessly, but it hadn't felt perfect. You'd surrendered, hadn't fought, but you hadn't properly given it up until Jim was in you. Still room for improvement, really.

"Tick tock," says Jim. You shut off the water and carefully step out of the shower. You're very glad it's just a few inches down to the floor. Jim drops a towel over your head.

"Perfect?" You rub yourself down, let the towel fall to the floor as you take your trousers off the clothes bar. Jim hadn't brought you pants, no surprise there.

"Are you fishing for compliments?" Jim reaches up to pat you on the head, then run his nails along your collarbone. "Very good, Sebby, good boy."

"Fuck off." You duck your head away. Seven minutes before the cleaners arrive, no time for distractions. You pull on your undershirt, then the collared shirt, mismatch the buttons and holes twice before Jim swats your hands away and starts doing it for you.

Having Jim so close still makes you shiver, half weary arousal and half wishing you could pat him down for knives like you promised yourself you would. Next time. His hair glistens with gel. You think he tweezed his eyebrows while you were dozing.

He does look pleased. Even though it hadn't been quite right. Even though the drugs and the three vetted professionals couldn’t do to you what Jim does with just—

"Huh."

"Hm?" Jim tucks your shirt in for you, hands sliding against your bare arse.

"Must be an ego boost," you say. "Drugged, cuffed and naked on a pile of futons, and three people can't make me let go all the way. And you know you could have me begging without touching me. In the middle of the street, if you liked."

"Aren't you clever." Jim zips you up. "Tick tock."

You shrug on your shoulder holster and then your jacket. No tie, thank fuck. It must be a reward. You daren't hope that Jim's completely given up on making you wear one.

You sit down in Jim's armchair to put on your boots, and Jim takes the opportunity to fix your hair the way he likes it. You take the opportunity to press your face into his stomach, just for a moment, feel the softness under the crisp fabric of his shirt.

"My favorite part was when you panicked," murmurs Jim.

“You could tell?” You don’t move, too exhausted even for embarrassment. “I wasn’t sure if you could see.”

“Of course I could tell.” Jim pushes you back and tilts your chin up. “Shoulders stiff, knees tight. Your toes even curled. All the little signs.”

“Sorry,” you start to say, but Jim pushes his thumb between your teeth.

“And you held yourself back, forced yourself to take it until it felt so good you didn't have to pretend anymore. All for me."

You stand up. Tick tock. You follow Jim out the door, pass the cleaners in the hall with their respirators and bottles of bleach.

"Next time I want someone to choke you," says Jim.

You think about it while you ride the lift down. You’re significantly more into this idea than the last one, which isn’t surprising. You know this is where your interests overlap with Jim’s the most. "I’ll try anything once. Or three times, as need be. But I'll probably break their wrists, drugs or no drugs."

"We'll work up to it." Jim flashes a smile. "It'll be fun."

It’s the same thing he said when he hired you. You believed him then, too. You’ve kept on believing him, not the words that he says, but the way he says them.

Which is why, when Jim says “very well done, Colonel Moran,” you flush all the way up to your ears. All right, maybe you’re allowed to be a little soft. Just when it’s Jim. Just when he looks at you in that particular way.

“Thank you, Mister Moriarty,” you say, and hold the door for Jim on the way out.