"I give." I was tired. Alone. Hurt. And what I needed badly was for someone to take care of me. "You've never threatened me with exposure. I don't know why. You've never offered to collar me. Too easy? Was I gagging for it, John?"
Marcone pursed his lips. He looked... suddenly rather weary.
"I think there's been a misunderstanding."
"...you're not interested."
Oh god. This whole time I'd thought his horrifically stalky interest was at least partially because-- I'd hated myself for fantasizing but I couldn't say I hadn't, him taking me, him putting me in my place--
"I'm extremely interested." John smiled, gently. "I'm also as straight as a mountain road."
I stared. "I don't understand."
"You haven't heard the word 'queer?'"
"I've heard it applied to switches." I blinked. "So you're a switch-"
"I'm not a switch, Harry." He shook his head. And unbuckled his belt, pulling it off and handing it to me.
"I don't understand."
"This is my belt. I bought it at a store. I put it on every day to hold my pants up. And, of course, because society will treat me as deserving of twenty-percent more pay and one-hundred percent more respect."
Part of me knew already, but I didn't want to parse it: I babbled: "I've-- I've seen your soul, you're the most powerful man I know, you can't-"
"...you know, Harry, we've had the vote since 1920. They even let us carry guns these days. "
It was the way he said 'we'. It was final. And sympathetic.
I think I went pale. "You're disgusting. You --" he hadn't lied to me. He'd just worn a fucking belt. The way I did.
"You really are scum."
His jaw clenched a little, that anger that he never let out but that I knew could level buildings and build empires. And what I'd admit to myself later was hurt, and a little resignation. I was too busy then, scrambling for the door. I told myself I wanted a shower-- that was what you did when you heard about disgusting things-- but more than anything I was confused. And scared.
It's highschool gossip. Tops who did tops. Bottoms who did bottoms. Everyone knew it made you less of whatever you were-- I mean, if you were having sex with a bottom, you had to be the top. Plain sense. I'd tried that, trying to fix myself. It had sucked. Those old angry memories blew apart my happy fantasies of Marcone, and left me more exhausted and alone than I'd felt when I went to go surrender myself to him in the first place.
At first I guess I thought I'd blackmail him with it. That lasted for the two seconds it took to remind myself that he could blackmail back, and a lot more convincingly. Stars, who would ever believe me?
Then I started asking questions.
"We got a departmental memo about it," Murphy said. "No roughing up people outside their clubs-"
"They have CLUBS?"
"..and no refusal to hire. Dresden, you don't get out much, do you."
"I resemble that." So my sex life was... nillish, these days. So my social life was worse.
"So you met a homosexual. And it scared you." She sighed. "It's not CONTAGIOUS, Harry. You know, some subs find super-sexual erotica really sexy."
"It was-- it wasn't -- a top."
"...and not all subsexuals want to launch themselves genitals first at the first sub they meet, okay?" She sighed. "Christ. I have to give this lecture tomorrow with power point slides. Thank you for making me give it again."
"But-- he wears a belt. I thought-"
"Aaah." Murphy sighed. "You were really into him and then got hit with the cluebat."
"He was wearing a fucking BELT!"
"So do you, hon," she said gently. "You think maybe he's disappointed, too?"
"He knows I'm a sub." My face was blinding red. "He knows I'm NORMAL-"
"Harry," she said, but I was on my feet and storming out. "Harry, SIT."
I didn't. I jerked and turned -- and then walked away from her. Damnedest thing. I think she was pleased about that.
Bob knew, somehow. He started asking for gay erotica. LOTS.
"Tops on tops? Belts on a leash? All collar pillow party? They're the BEST, Harry. Come on, I've done a lot for you recently. Just one subsexual flick. They're so soft and gentle and everyone blushes all the time-"
Honestly, I didn't know where to get the stuff, anyway. But when Bob's nagging hit fever pitch, I sucked it up and went back to Murphy.
"You said there's porn of. You know."
"...Harry?" She lifted her chin, eyeing me carefully. "Is there something you want to talk to me about?"
"It's for a FRIEND."
"Okay," she said. "I can tell you where to get some, sure. Supersexual or subsexual?"
"He doesn't care."
"Okay," she said, and gave me another long look. And then sighed. "Here. I'll give you some of mine. Stop by the house."
Murphy had very tasteful subsexual skin mags. I held them carefully, flipping through the pages. Not a belt in sight. Uncollared subs- tenderly using toys on each other or lying face to groin. Bottoms on top of each other-- the one above obviously providing balance and direction to the one below them but just as obviously delighting in the pounding they were getting. Lying in pliant heaps or peeping coquettishly at each other from changing rooms. All of them complete stereotypes and picture-perfect, too-- decorative the way magazines tell you you're supposed to be and no amount of skin product or diet pills will actually make you.
"Don't spread it around, okay? People think I'm oversexed enough," Murphy muttered, shoving them at me.
"What does this even do for you?" I asked, trying not to stare too hard.
"...I like subs, Harry. You know that. Why wouldn't I like seeing a bunch of them getting doing their thing?"
Well, that answered one question. The magazines had answered another, which was 'how could two subs even HAVE sex'.
"If these don't do it for... your friend, then there's a little vice shop. There's a section in the back with top-on-top stuff," she said.
"IthinkI'mgood," I stammered, and bolted.
Bob loved the magazines. Me, I was just confused.
After that rude introduction, I started to notice real life-- not just the picture perfect magazines. I actually read the articles about the quiet religious protests that occasionally made the paper. I noticed when I was walking down the street, seeing a man and a woman staring lovingly at each other, thumbs hooked into each other's belts. Two men at a restaurant-- you'd think they were friends out for dinner until you looked at their collars and realized that they matched. And that they were playing footsie under the table. I read the interviews when the sports player came out-
MM: Yes, I'm still a top. I just don't like to top bottoms. It's something I've been trying to come to terms with for a long time.
GQ: So you've bottomed?
MM: I've tried. Nothing against it, but it's not for me. I like a top who will fight me back. I just can't get it up for someone who's not topping back. Fortunately, I have a very understanding girlfriend.
GQ: Is she 'supersexual' as well?
MM: No comment. I'm not spreading her business around one way or another. I searched the woman's picture for any sign she was different-- nothing. She looked like any woman. Like any top, comfortable in her belt.
I stole one of Bob's skin mags and leafed through it, staring, trying to imagine myself in place of one of these people.
And freaking myself out like a charm when I succeeded. I don't think they heard my yell in the next county. Much.
After a long time, I went and found him. He was working late; like he does. He had his bodyguards around him, as he does.
"We need to talk," I said. "Can you clear these people out?"
He gave me a calm look. "There is nothing you could say to me that you cannot say in front of my people. Mister Hendricks?"
"That's right, Mister Marcone." The redhead nodded.
"Nothing," I said, a little skeptically.
Marcone lifted his hand, wrapping his own throat gently. "Nothing."
I don't have many people I trust that much. But then-- he was the most dangerous man in Chicago. He could probably scare them into submission.
Pun not intended.
"I still-- hell's bells, I want to apologize."
"...a calendar event. I don't think he's going to hurt me," he said, to his bodyguards, and they filed out.
He steepled his fingers. I glared at him. Steeple. Glare. He finally dropped the James Bond villain pose. "I could make you tell me, if you prefer," he said gently.
"I can. It's a skill I've cultivated. I don't get much pleasure out of it, besides knowing I've best pleased my partner, but I can."
I hissed in frustration and looked dead at the wall. "..you're still a criminal scum bastard," I said, starting off on firm ground. "But attacking your sexuality wasn't okay."
"Where do the self employed come by sensitivity training?" he mused. "I accept, Harry."
This part was harder. "I'm sorry about that night. In general. It's not your fault that ... you weren't what I thought."
He nodded, eyes a little more open, a little more like I'd seen them that night. "I'm sorry I couldn't be what you wanted, Harry. I hope some day that you find the top you're looking for."
"Maybe I'm not sure what I'm looking for," I heard myself say, and then -- because why mess with a good pattern?-- stormed off in a panic again.
A lot more happened between that night and the night I made an 8-pm appointment with him. Some of it was boring, and some of it I'm still ashamed of, and some of it involved adventurous reading and an introduction to the 'Kinsey scale'-- and then the rebuttal of the Kinsey scale and the more accurage tables of sexuality and a bunch of boring statistics.
Long story short. I showed up for my 8pm appointment with flowers.
It caught him by surprise, which I really, really liked. I sat down with a smirk, feeling all toppy. "These are for yooou."
"Harry?" He held his hand out for the bouquet, cradling it in his arms and stroking his fingers across the pink petals. "Have you done something so vastly horrific you feel you have to apologize again? My god, is California still attached to the continent?"
"I blew my budget for tonight on those, fair warning:" I said. "Come out to dinner with me anyway. Dine on sumptuous burger king, and let us whisk away to the romantic rooms of my basement apartment."
He blinked. I had to start counting the seconds; I'd never seen him this speechless before.
"...what does this mean?"
"It means that sometimes I fantasize about other subs. For a while I thought my quest to turn myself into a top was working. Not so much. But it does mean that while I may not be mountain-road level, I may not quite be as straight as a ruler." I leaned over and took his hand, earning five more speechless seconds. It was a night of triumphs. "And I wanted you, when I was an asshole a year ago. To date. And I didn't stop wanting you because you weren't a top. So if you're still interested-"
He launched himself across the desk into my lap, and if the blend of aggression and immediate pliant submission was a little shocking-- well, maybe I didn't hate it. Maybe I didn't hate it a lot. I wrapped him in my wiry, strong arms.
"I'm not letting you pay for anything," I growled.
"Mm, lay down the law for me." John grinned up at me, happy and as unrestrained as I'd ever seen him. He met me half way, pulling me down into a sweet, melting kiss. I was starting to see how this sub/sub thing might work.
Good thing Burger King is open twenty-four hours these days.
I think we scarred his bodyguards, though.