Frank's been reining in his hopes all week. He's never gone to one of these meetings before, and if it's too much like open-play night at the dungeon club, he'll probably bail. But the e-mail from the group's organizer has him half-convinced this meeting could actually work for him. And he's desperate enough to give up his Sunday afternoon and drive 30 miles for what could end up a big disappointment.
So here's hoping.
He follows Gerard Way's directions to a small house in the suburbs, all tidy lawns and recycling bins neatly lining the curb…and he triple-checks the address before he turns off the engine. He'd imagined something more ominous—a private gate, maybe, or bars on the windows. Unsettled by the banality of the neighborhood, he sits on his hood in the mid-afternoon sun and grabs a smoke. He's still early; it's not technically stalling.
After a few minutes a car parks on the street behind him and an older couple gets out. They smile at him, more curious than suspicious. The man nods his head toward the front door, and Frank nods back. It's time to go in.
The organizer of the local interest group greets him at the door with his name and a warm handshake. Frank shakes back, projecting confidence as he confirms Gerard's guess that he's the new guy who e-mailed last week. Gerard smiles at him, green eyes flickering to the tattoo on Frank's neck, the colorful ink on his forearms and knuckles. When Gerard looks back up, giving him wide dimples and an extra squeeze in the handshake, Frank thinks, oh. This might really work.
Gerard invites him into the living room and introduces Frank to the small gathering. Even though he tries to concentrate on everyone's names, he can't help fixating on the kitschy décor. From the tatted-lace curtains in the bay window and mismatched lamp shades, to the shelf of creepy, dusty porcelain dolls mounted on the wall…it feels like he's in his great aunt's apartment in Jersey City. The few personal touches that are probably Gerard's include some game consoles shoved under a flat-screen TV stand, a pair of over-stuffed black leather couches, and some long Japanese prints hanging from ceiling to floor.
And that bizarre mishmash of hand-me-downs and bachelor-pad decorations makes it feel like a real home, informal and easygoing. He feels like he could relax in this space.
Frank shakes the closest hands and grabs a seat on a leather ottoman between the couches. In front of him, the coffee table is decked out with colored ropes and pairs of heavy shears. And while they're not actual, literal pornography, try telling that to his dick, which has a couple years of happy associations to draw from. He has to force his gaze up when Gerard starts talking.
Before anyone touches the ropes—the ones on the table or the ones peeking out of tote bags and backpacks—Gerard goes over the ground rules for the meeting. He doesn't single Frank out, and he makes eye contact with each person, but this group's been meeting for a few months now, so Frank knows the overview is really for his benefit. The rules are easy to remember; they're the same ones he learned the first time Jamia took him to the dungeon club in Newark. No touching without verbal permission, safe-sane-consensual, and speak up if something's going wrong.
He's both relieved and disappointed when Gerard looks straight at him and finishes with, "And no sex."
Because yeah, that's a concern Frank had shared in his e-mail, not wanting to jump right into scene-sex with a room full of strangers. And Gerard had reassured him that sex was never part of these meetings. But the vibe in Gerard's living room feels more chill than the dungeon, it's been months since he's been tied up, and he can feel himself heading for the kind of head space where he stops wanting to think about anything at all, let alone the promises he made himself last week. He'd probably go for an orgasm if one were on offer...so it's probably for the best that it's officially off the table.
Frank's skin itches for the touch of rope. He nods to Gerard, eager to begin.
Gerard beams, picks up a yellow-orange bunch of rope, and then launches into a five-minute nerdgasm on the various dyes and materials he used to get the color just right.
And oh, fuck Frank's life.
A few people nod along, really taking the journey with Gerard. The older guy from outside pulls out his own rope to show how he whips the ends with a special twine for extra comfort, and Frank has to squeeze his fingers under his knees to keep from fidgeting too obviously. This is not what he expected a rope-bondage interest group to get up to together.
He totally misses Gerard's call for a volunteer.
Everyone starts shifting places on the couches, and Frank belatedly realizes they're pairing up for some action. He can identify three distinct play-couples, and it looks like there are three loners, including himself. Before he even wonders what to do, a big guy across the room makes eye contact and says, "Hey, Frank, can I do you?" with a half-assed leer and a wink. And Frank hesitates for a split second before saying yes to he-doesn't-even-know what. He's just that desperate.
He gives up his ottoman to a cute red-headed girl and moves to sit next to the guy, Sam. Sam doesn't have his own rope, so he picks out one from the table and shows it to Frank for his approval.
A skinny guy in a rumpled t-shirt switches places with his skinnier girlfriend so he can sit closest to Gerard's chair by the fireplace. And then Gerard swaps his yellow-orange rope for a black one and holds his volunteer's forearm to demonstrate what he calls "a bad-ass variation on last month's arm gauntlet."
Frank holds his breath, waiting for the loop Gerard slides around the guy's wrist to be used to manipulate his arm in some way—tied to the chair, strapped to his waist—but the loop becomes a half hitch, and another, and another, parallel knots that spiral up the forearm in close formation, serving no function Frank can see.
Sam starts to imitate the series of repeated knots on Frank's wrist, and his thick fingers feel nice squeezing him, turning Frank's arm and the rope with surprising gentleness. But it does nothing for him.
With half of his rope used, Gerard rotates his volunteer's forearm to show off the smooth placement of the ropes and the even spiral of raised knots marching toward the elbow. As promised, it looks pretty bad ass, but Frank didn't come here for cool accessory tips. And when Gerard assures the group that with a little practice anyone can tie the rigger gauntlet on themselves, the last scrap of Frank's interest dies a cold death.
At least they're finally using the ropes instead of talking about them, he reminds himself. And Sam is still practicing; it would be rude to walk out now.
Sam ties off the gauntlet when the rope runs out and thanks him, sounding apologetic. Frank wonders what his face must show to make Sam look guilty. He glances toward Gerard and catches him watching them. Gerard looks away, and Frank sits awkwardly on the edge of the couch, feeling a little guilty himself while Sam unties his work.
Instead of calling for another volunteer, Gerard picks out a bright blue rope from the table and says, "Tricia asked me for a special harness for Charlene to wear to the next dungeon night, a real statement piece. I poked around online for a few days and found this awesome pentagram harness. Charlene, you wanna come up?"
The room shuffles again, and Frank ends up partnered with red-headed Amy. She has her own rope, a brilliant white, and asks if she can take Frank's black t-shirt off. She's direct and eager, but Frank sticks to the decision he made before he got in his car and declines to undress. Glancing around the room, he sees he isn't the only one, although two women have stripped their top halves, including Charlene. He blinks for a second, reminds himself what Gerard said about no-sex, and stops ogling their breasts.
"There're a lot of steps to this one," Gerard is saying, "so I'm going to demonstrate it first, and then we'll all try it together."
Frank's seen people walking around the club in shibari harnesses, watched a few of the rope suspensions with half-interest, but he's never worn one himself. Gnawing on his thumb, he watches Gerard set a bight on Charlene's spine and run the doubled-up rope along her bra line, securing it in a simple larks head. Gerard fusses with the bands, smoothing them out and snugging them tight under her breasts, and Frank's heart speeds, remembering how it feels to be bound tightly.
And then Gerard has to ruin the moment by opening his mouth. He rattles off historical facts, talking about elegance, beauty, how the aesthetic of the knots is just as important as their efficacy, and Frank deliberately tunes him out. Because any sentence that starts with "When I was in art school" is not one Frank wants to hear right now.
So Frank lets his gaze move to Charlene's face, red with embarrassment…no, excitement. She's staring at her partner Tricia, who's staring at her and at the ropes, like they're alone in a private space, instead of some guy's living room with seven people watching them.
Gerard turns Charlene forward and back, wrapping the ropes, and when she turns again, Frank can start to see the pentagram forming, the blue of the hemp rope bright against the flush and paleness of squeezed skin. And Gerard's fingers are long and narrow where they slide along Charlene's skin, shifting her breasts out of the way, touching her upper arms to coax them down, placing and twisting the lines so they run perfectly parallel. Frank focuses on Gerard's fingers instead of his words, imagining those hands on him, touching bare skin beneath his t-shirt. He wishes he'd had a chance to volunteer for this one.
When it's done, the harness forms an inverted pentagram spanning her collarbones and coming to a point between her breasts. Charlene looks down at her chest and up to Tricia for her approval. Tricia leans in, getting her fingers all up on her girlfriend's breasts, tracing the ropes over and over.
"Okay," Gerard says, while Tricia pokes her nails at the skin bulging under Charlene's armpit. "I think they've got dibs on this one for a couple months, but if you want to practice it now, maybe Tricia will let you wear it in public...sometime next year."
There's a consensus of laughter, and Amy leans against Frank's shoulder. "Can I tie you up?" she asks again, even though he already agreed five minutes ago. Better safe than sorry, he guesses, and says yes.
Amy's good. And strong. Sam, for all his impressive muscles, had a light touch. Amy pulls the larks head tight, runs the line over his left shoulder and back up his right, and cinches the rope through the bight with a wrenching tug. Frank lets out a huff of air, feeling his lungs compress just a bit, the ropes digging into his trapeziuses, and it isn't what he hoped for, not quite, but if he closes his eyes he can almost get into it.
Amy wraps around to his front again, ropes held taut, and says, "You okay? Nothing's pinching or too tight?"
"Good," Frank says and lets his mouth go slack. It does feel good, his pulse throbbing bright behind his eyelids and along every line of the rope. He's getting warm, regrets the t-shirt that keeps him from feeling the hemp sliding over his skin. But this is still good, and he sighs again, letting go of a bit more space as she threads a loop above his nipple.
"Give him some slack, Amy," someone murmurs.
Frank opens his eyes to see Gerard crouched in front of them. Gerard run his fingers along the lines and tugs hard, tries to dig between ropes and ribs. The hug of the rope goes suddenly slack over one shoulder, spreads to his other shoulder, down around his ribs, and Frank can't help the whine of disappointment that escapes his throat.
Gerard's gaze meets his, and his mouth quirks. "I know," he tells Frank with a whole lot of sincerity, and then hooks his fingers against Frank's sternum, under the anchoring band. "Better. Remember, the goal is to support his weight evenly without letting him shift around. If you put him in a suspension that tight, he'd lose circulation in a couple minutes."
Amy apologizes to Gerard, to Frank, and resumes the pattern with a lighter hand.
Frank can't say why, but he's more than a little pissed off.
They take a 15-minute break after that, the attendees mingling in the kitchen or on the back patio. Frank needs a smoke to settle down; he's still stewing inside his head, unsure if he wants to stay or leave. But Gerard calls his name as Frank passes through the kitchen, and as a guest in his home and a new member of the group, Frank has to stop and answer.
"How're you feeling?" Gerard asks. He's half-in the refrigerator, pulling out a case of bottled water.
Frank shrugs. He's not about to say pretty fucking disappointed out loud.
But Gerard must read it off him anyway, because when he turns around, he grimaces and says, "Not what you were looking for?"
He wants to shrug again, but Gerard looks like he gets it, so Frank admits, "Not exactly."
He expects Gerard to quiz him on that, but he just nods and says, "Have some chips," pointing to an assortment of snack bags and fruit. "Complimentary snacks are part of the membership dues."
Frank grabs a bottle of water instead, and Gerard watches him for a quiet moment before smiling. Frank's heart stutters over a beat, and he rubs unconsciously at the spot where Gerard had touched him under the ropes. Green eyes follow the movement, and Frank blurts, "So what's up with the dolls?"
Gerard laughs and looks up, drawing Frank's eye to yet another still life of dolls perched atop the cabinets. "It would make sense if you knew my grandma," he starts, and Frank can hear a story brewing.
It's easy to talk to Gerard, to swap family stories, school stories, scene stories. Instead of smoking, they end up at the kitchen table for a few minutes while Frank describes the first time his girlfriend took him to a dungeon club, his last two boyfriends and their respective kinks, and this four-month dry-spell between romantic partners that's getting fucking exhausting. Just as the conversation grows uncomfortably personal—and Frank'd strayed there on his own, it's not like Gerard was leading him—Gerard changes the subject to an anecdote about a suspension gone embarrassingly wrong, and Frank snorts the bottle of water he's sipping off of, has to wipe at his nose and eyes while Gerard smiles broadly.
Gerard's a cool guy, Frank decides, funny and smart and way too attractive. And then Gerard asks, "What's your favorite way to be tied up?" voice pitched low as he leans across the table, and Frank's mouth goes dry with want.
"I like my wrists tied. Sometimes my ankles," he says, and is surprised how easy that was to say to a stranger.
Gerard nods like he expected that answer. "And what's your favorite part about it?"
"Orgasms." Frank follows that confession with a cheeky grin, because Gerard asked, and honesty seems to be the word of the day.
And Gerard snickers, shakes his head. "Well you're not getting that here. No way I'm hosting an orgy on these carpets."
"No, that's cool," Frank agrees. "Like I said, I'd rather do it with someone I know and feel comfortable with."
Gerard opens his mouth to say something, and then turns his head and calls, "Honey, nuh-uh, no. If you're going outside, you gotta put your shirt on."
And Charlene stops at the sliding screen door, huffy at being told to cover her new harness. And her exposed breasts—those are probably what Gerard is more concerned about.
Frank is grinning when Gerard turns back to him and says, "You could get it at the dungeon." Frank just blinks, so Gerard explains, "Anyone would love to play with you. I'm surprised you haven't met somebody just to play with, even if you don't want to date them."
"I've been asked," Franks says coolly, hoping to quash the topic.
"Is it the being in public you don't like? If that's not your thing, you could always set up private play dates."
"I don't like being told what to do," Frank snaps, and realizes as he says it how contradictory it sounds. It would be over-sharing to explain his lousy history of hookups, both at the dungeon and his favorite bar. How the last half-dozen people he'd taken home had been so bossy while they fucked that there was no way he was bringing up his bondage kink. So he sticks his jaw out and says, "Not a lot of people remember that once they get their hands on some rope."
Gerard seems to ponder that for a moment. "Interesting," he decides. "You know, there're a lot of good listeners here, and that's something you could definitely negotiate. I bet half the people in the group would be happy to play with you, singly or with their partner, if you're interested. Once you get to know them, you could try asking."
"Sure," Frank says. And maybe that's what he'd been hoping to find when he joined the group, but he's kind of fixating on one person in particular at the moment. One inconveniently attractive person.
"But for a quick fix, I've got some ideas for you, things I think you'd like. If you're sticking around for the rest of the meeting…." Gerard is staring at his tattoos again, gaze covetous, like he has kinks of his own he isn't sharing with the class.
Frank knows that look well. It's better than any pick-up line; it's a guaranteed in. He sips his water again and says, "Yeah, why not."
When Gerard asks for a new volunteer, his eyes stay locked on Frank's.
"Yeah. Me," Frank says. And then adds, "Please."
Instead of asking Frank to join him by the fireplace, Gerard comes to Frank's ottoman with a red rope in his grip. Frank's skin practically tingles for it.
"The Dragonfly Sleeve is a classic arm binding," Gerard explains to the group. "Good for restraining your partner without creating a stress position. We're not binding the elbows together this time; you want to be able to tie your knots down the whole length of the spine. And you can layer it over a harness as part of a suspension, but be careful how you place the shoulder loops, Tricia."
Frank can't take his eyes off the rope long enough to check out Tricia's reaction.
"Would you face the door, Frank?" Gerard asks, his hand on Frank's shoulder.
He turns his back to the group and lets Gerard draw his wrists behind his back. The rope hasn't even touched him yet, but he feels breathless, the full weight of Gerard's attention pressing down on him.
"I'm going to tie your arms behind your back. Alright?" he asks. Frank nods. "Can I…? Do you mind if I push up your sleeves? I don't have to, but it'll look better if I do."
So he can see his tattoos, of course. Frank smirks. "Go ahead."
"Thank you," Gerard says, and it's an odd thing for him to say when he's about to give Frank exactly what he asked for. Frank thinks about that as Gerard rolls his sleeves up slowly, taking his time to even out the folds until the fabric is perched high on his shoulders.
Once he's satisfied, he clears his throat and goes back to addressing the group.
"To start, take your 30-foot rope and tie a handcuff knot in the center. Now widen the two loops and thread the wrists through them. Slide the loops up each arm until they're on top of the shoulders, and tighten. These are your anchors for the whole knot, so make sure they're really secure. You don't want them sliding anywhere."
Frank can't see what Gerard is doing behind him, but he feels it, the drag of fingers and hemp up his bare arms and onto his shoulders. When Gerard has the ropes where he wants them, he cinches the loops tight, tighter, tighter for a perfect moment, before easing up so Frank feels held, not pinched. He shudders, his eyes falling shut as his pulse kicks hard.
Gerard murmurs, "You like that?"
Frank nods and waits for the next knot. Gerard leads the group through the sequence, a half-dozen slip knots straight down his spine, the descending sets of loops capturing his upper arms, his elbows, his forearms. Each knot forces his arms back, each loop placed with an achingly-tight cinch before slackening, teasing Frank with the bite and release. Tension coils and unwinds through muscles, endorphins and dopamine flooding his system.
God, Gerard is amazing; he's getting Frank there with just his ropes, not even touching his dick. He's still talking, too, voice gone husky. "You make this look so beautiful," he says in Frank's ear as he slides on another set of loops. "Your ink with this rope, they're gorgeous together. And how much you love it. Beautiful."
And Frank feels beautiful, eyes closed and falling into Gerard's words, giving up his arms, giving him whatever he wants to see. He doesn't have to worry about what happens next, what he'll be told to do. He just takes it, slumping forward over his knees as Gerard finally takes hold of his wrists.
There's no cinch to the last loop; his wrists are a few inches apart, loosely tied, but there's no way to escape with his whole arms secured. Frank squirms happily, feeling pinned at last. Gerard is saying something about personal style and the excess rope, in that tone that's meant for everyone else, and Frank feels the rough ends drag along his palm like a caress. He sighs and sinks deeper into the hold, half-hard and floating.
It's an incremental change, a narrowing of focus from the strain of his chest muscles to the bones of his right wrist as the rope tightens around it. Gerard's fingers brush his, and the rope squeezes inch by inch until there's no slack left. "This one is for you," Gerard says, and ties another knot, pressed into the pulse of Frank's wrist.
Frank moans, burying the sound between his thighs. Gerard runs his hand up Frank's right arm, across the back of his neck and down to his left wrist, and starts tightening that side, too.
When both wrists are bound as tight as Frank could want, Gerard moves around, kneels in front of him. "Frank," he says, his fingers sliding through Frank's hair. He repeats it until Frank groans and turns into it. "How are you feeling?" His fingers shift the bangs out of Frank's face.
Frank swallows, says, "Good," into his knees.
"Good," Gerard says. "Perfect. I'm going to step away for a few minutes, okay? I'll be ten feet away, right behind you. If you need anything, just say so. I'll hear you. Okay?"
What Frank needs is to get something in his mouth—fingers, a cock, some tits, whatever. He rolls his tongue over his lips restlessly, makes himself slur an acknowledgement. When Gerard's touch drifts away, Frank squirms again, sighing into a fresh wave of dopamine. His whole body is singing, purring, from his cock to his toes to his scalp, where he can still feel the light scrape of nails.
He couldn't say how long Gerard takes. He doesn't bother to track the buzz of his voice moving around the room, content just knowing it's there in the background. Eventually a hand squeezes his shoulder, and Gerard calls his name.
Frank turns his head and blinks his eyes open to find Gerard beaming at him.
"It's time to come up now," he says. "I'm going to take the rope off."
Frank pouts, and Gerard chuckles. His fingers knead Frank's bare shoulders, and it burns and feels incredible; Frank isn't ready for this feeling to be taken away.
"I know," Gerard says, nudging him upright, "but it's been long enough. Can you sit up for me? Can you do that for me?"
Frank heaves a dramatic sigh so Gerard will know how annoyed he is, but he lets Gerard push him up until he's sitting properly.
"Thank you. Okay, be patient while I untie this, alright?"
"Yeah," Frank says, and his own voice sounds far away. He wants to lean to the side, put his head in Gerard's lap and mouth at his fly, suck on the denim, but he concentrates on staying upright.
Gerard kneels behind him and starts tugging. It comes apart quickly, his wrists slipping free, his elbows, upper arms. Frank half expects to feel pins and needles, braces for the sting, but it doesn't come, not even when Gerard squeezes his biceps and rubs his arms hard. Frank moans at the deep muscle ache, riding the renewed high for a little longer.
He zones out, not paying attention as he's helped to a couch. Fingernails scratch at his scalp again, but sharper than Gerard's, and when he opens his eyes Tricia is fussing over him and playing with his hair.
"You did so great, baby," she coos, and yeah, he feels like he did, too.
Charlene hands him a juice box and pats his knee, and Frank loves her, loves Tricia and everybody, and especially Gerard. Who is sitting in front of the fireplace again, showing Amy how to hobble Sam's forearms to his bulging biceps so he has chicken wings for arms. Frank giggles, and Gerard looks at him with a dark smolder that traps Frank's gaze.
"Take a sip, Frank," Charlene says.
"Charlene," Gerard calls, sharp, and she immediately adds, "if you want to. It's really good. I think you should have some."
And Frank doesn't mind, can't even get tense, because Gerard is nodding like he's got him, so Frank takes the box of apple juice. It tastes heavenly, filling his mouth and giving his tongue something to work with for a bit. "Thanks," he tells them, and leans against Tricia's shoulder for a while. And when he can hold more than one thought in his head, she shows him how to make a double coin knot and bind Charlene's arm into a chicken wing.
By the time the meeting ends, Frank's head feels mostly clear. His muscles are fucked-loose and humming, like he's had a needle buzzing ink into his skin all day, and he can't seem to stop grinning, but he's back on solid ground. The desperate craving feels satisfied, even if his dick doesn't. The second he gets home, he'll be jacking it to the memory of Gerard's hands on him, his ropes holding him, getting Frank out of his head like he hasn't been in months.
When the girls get up to leave, they pull Frank to his feet and make sure he can keep his balance. They kiss his cheeks and invite him to play the next time he's at the club, and he tells them they're sweet for taking care of him. It seems like everyone at the meeting stops to shake his hand, giving him knowing smiles and congratulations on a great scene. It's bewildering but friendly, and he tells them he'll definitely come to more meetings.
Frank doesn't consciously hang back, more content to stand in one place while the group sorts itself out around him. And then everyone's gone—out the front door, in the bathroom down the hall, or cleaning up the kitchen—leaving just him and Gerard in the living room.
Gerard sets down the rope he was coiling, and Frank already knows what he's going to ask.
"I'm fine," Frank says preemptively.
Gerard chuckles and steps around the table to stand in front of Frank. "Are you sure? You were in rope-space for a long time."
"Yeah. I still feel good, really good, but I'm all here now."
Gerard's anxious smile relaxes into something warmer. "That's what I wanted for you."
"Thank you," Frank says, and it's totally inadequate, doesn't do justice to the overwhelming gratitude he wants to convey. "You gave me just what I needed."
"It was my pleasure. You're a beautiful subject."
He says it like Frank's a model or a piece of art, and Frank might be blushing. He looks down at the lingering rope marks on his skin, raised bands under the blacks, reds, and blues of his tattoos. When he glances back up, Gerard is looking at them too, with pride in his eyes.
Frank's heart skips.
"So d'you think you'll stick with the group?" Gerard asks.
"Absolutely," Frank says, mentally canceling any plans that might conflict with the scheduled meetings. And then he remembers that the next meeting is over a month away. The thought of waiting that long to see Gerard again, to feel like this again, is so intolerable he doesn't even second guess his decision to blurt, "Did you mean what you said before: that anyone would be happy to play with me? Do you think, I mean, would you want to play with me? Privately?"
Gerard takes a half-step forward, his whole body swaying closer on a sharp breath. "Frank. I'd love to."
Relief burns the last of the headspace from his blood and leaves euphoria in its wake. Frank has an immediate list of follow-up questions to ask, beginning with "Would you let me blow you next time?" and ending with "Can I buy you dinner, or maybe coffee?" He bites them back, especially the one clamoring the loudest, where he begs to blow Gerard in his bedroom right the fuck now.
Gerard looks like he's holding back his own eager questions, fingers rubbing and flexing like he's tying Frank up in his thoughts as they speak. Frank shivers at the phantom promise.
The bathroom door opens, and one of the stragglers returns to the living room to pick up a backpack. He clears his throat and lingers to the side, waiting to talk to Gerard, and Frank takes that as his cue to leave before he embarrasses himself. He shakes Gerard's hand, smiles as though he won't be fantasizing about his firm grip the whole drive home, and heads for the door with Gerard's promise to e-mail him later tonight.
"You'd fucking better," Frank calls over his shoulder, but there's no bite to it. Because Frank believes him, enough to be patient for a few hours. He can even savor the anticipation, now he knows he's going to get what he needs again.
And if he's lucky, maybe he'll get what he wants, too.