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It's hard to say "I do", even when I do

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This entire day – No, this entire week! – has been one fucking thing after another.

Nothing works as planned, Pete’s most awesome projects come crumbling down and even Patrick can’t help. Pete’s justifiably irritable, he tells himself, but he feels childish and petulant and just plain annoyed. He snaps at Patrick for no reason when he’s back at the hotel suite after yet another disastrous meeting. Patrick’s face and voice get stern when he says, “You should ask for it when you’re ready.”

The bond says, “I wish I could spare you this”, but Patrick just goes to sit at the desk with his laptop, wearing his headphones and pointedly ignoring Pete. Patrick seems exasperated, and rightly so. He tried everything he could the past few days to help, but Pete has been shutting him out. Patrick really wants to help; Patrick really thinks Pete isn’t a monster, not even such a horrible person. Cuddling and kind words and even reassurance of love across the bond only leave Pete feeling worse, like he’s stealing something he doesn’t deserve. So he’s been refusing affection in all forms. He can bear this cross alone, and he sure as hell isn’t going to thrust it on someone who deserves better, like Patrick. Pete really doesn’t feel he deserves any help or relief. Whatever opinions Patrick has on the matter are irrelevant. He sort of wants to spend some time feeling bad for himself. So he’s been doing just that every evening this week. Besides worrying and annoying Patrick, though, it doesn’t seem to achieve much.

Pete always hates this part. He wants to say he’s sorry for dumping all this anger and frustration at Patrick, but he’s annoyed at him, too. He wants to do something horrible, and he wants to stop feeling the way he does, or being the person he is. He wants to get rid of this feeling. He’s so restless he can’t even sit down to write it out of his system.

He kicks the wall, because it’s better than ramming his head into it repeatedly. There’s some alarm coming across the bond, and Pete sighs. Patrick pretends to be immersed in whatever he’s doing, trying to give Pete his space. If he probes, Pete can feel the low chant of the care Patrick feels for him, woven with the annoyance Patrick feels with himself, for not being supportive enough or some shit.

All the things that fell apart already, and all the things that could still go wrong, and all the things he has to do and hasn’t the first fucking clue how to handle suddenly crush him. He feels like breathing is a chore, an effort, like inhaling takes more energy than he has to spare. As if the air got really thick and hard to take, or really thin and there’s no oxygen in it. His breath gets quicker, he realizes.

He’s not in the mood, and Patrick can’t fix him, not that he should. Maybe Patrick can help, though, if Pete lets him. His mind keeps running, but he’s got something he can do now. Or not do, as the case may be, but he’s resigned to giving Patrick a shot. “Take me out of my own head”, he begs wordlessly, like a prayer. He concentrates on breathing steadily. He pulls off his shirt and tosses it on the floor, then loses his pants, shoes & socks. He comes to kneel by Patrick’s feet, laying his head on Patrick’s thigh. Pete is rewarded with some petting behind the ear, and the steadying weight of Patrick’s hand on his nape.

Patrick lifts one side of the headphones, looking at him earnestly. “Are you ready yet?” Patrick asks in a gentle tone, and the bond says, “Let me do this for you.”

Pete can’t bring himself to say anything, and he wouldn’t trust whatever he says not to come out as a petulant whine anyway, so he just nods. He knows he deserves to be punished, but the bond doesn’t have any anger for him, just a gentle murmur of “let me take care of you.”

Patrick looks at him with a pitying expression, and Pete chokes on his “Please.” It comes out as a miserable wail.

Patrick pulls him to his feet, and walks them both to the 3-seat couch. Patrick sits at the middle of it, and Pete knows what’s coming. Somewhere in his head he wants to protest he’s not to blame for the world being a bitch, so why should he be punished for it? But he can’t even pretend that’s what this is about.

This is about the world being too much, yes, but it’s also about Pete needing to let go for a while. So he slumps his shoulders and stares at his feet, waiting impatiently. He gets a bit anxious before Patrick grabs his hand and pulls him to his lap, face down, and runs smooth fingers down his back, neck to waist, and up his thighs, knees to ass. Pete really wants to relax into it, but can’t. On top of everything else running through his mind, now he’s anticipating the pain, tensing up for it.

Patrick pulls his boxers down, and Pete lifts his hips to help, making the curve of his ass stick up. Patrick makes an appreciative noise. Somehow even that annoys Pete. He wishes Patrick would get it over with already. It seems like the petting and rubbing go on forever, it’s almost unbearable. Patrick feels Pete deserves nice things. Pete, right now, doesn’t agree.

The first smack is always a bit of a surprise and a bit of a relief. The tension of anticipation eases with the knowledge it’s finally started, and whether it’ll be fun, or painful, or both, it’s here and now and it's going to unfold until it's done. The buzzing thoughts dissipate, the noise inside Pete’s head gets muffled, then quiets, and he can just be. Nothing exists except the right now, the floating feeling and the present pain, making way with each slap, as if announcing its existence, and withdrawing to join its peers in the past, backing in intensity and from awareness.

The slaps ring in his ears as his thoughts fall silent. The regular rhythm stabilizes him. There’s less and less of the constant pull of “what might be” and “what could be” and things that need doing and things that he'd done wrong. The helplessness of uncertainty gives way to acceptance of his helpless state, of this safety.

Someone else makes the decisions. Pete just has to take it. Just accept he has no control, let someone else take care of him. Surrender and accept that at the moment, he has no active role, no guilt, no responsibility. Whenever his thoughts start roaring again, Patrick hits stronger and stronger, until it nearly borders on too much, and chases away any thoughts trying to creep back in.

Pete feels as if he is paying a debt of guilt with this pain. He may have never been strong on meditation, but whenever he is spanked, he is entirely in the moment, the past being shoved away and the future too intangible to hold on to. He isn’t any less of a mess, but he’s not the one who has to clean it up. Somebody else will keep him acceptable. Somebody else will keep him corrected. Somebody – Patrick! - is willing to take him with all his faults, and not let him stay that way, nor try to change him. It’s just – Patrick will be there every time he gets too close to, or crosses, a line. When he needs correcting, when he needs to know someone cares, and notices. Patrick is paying attention. Patrick sees him, and loves him, despite all of the horrible things he is. Loves him because of a thousand good qualities he can’t see in himself, but maybe he will, in the future. Pete feels he’s being purified, at least a little. He is worth the effort Patrick is willing to put into handling him.

It goes on for a while – it goes on for as long as Pete needs it to, until he forgets it will end, until he is at peace knowing it is not up to him, not any of it. Not the strength of the strokes, not how long this will go on, not the rhythm, not the angle or placing. Then it goes on for a while longer, for good measure, for just plain fun and relaxation, for him to float in that place where nothing reaches him except momentary pain. Even the sting in his ass is becoming less and less defined in his mind, turning to a continuous, fuzzy feeling of faraway pain.

It hurts, but it hurts so far from where his mind is. His mind is quiet, finally standing still. Like his brain stopped pacing in his skull. Everything he can feel is the abstract pain, and as counterpoint (or harmony?) the reassurance from the bond that he is worth it, that he is loved.

As the spanking goes on, the sense of safety and protection turns to something else, a sense of belonging, of worthiness, of forgiveness. He’s not even sure whether it’s him forgiving the world or the other way around.

Only when they reach this stage can he let himself surrender to the arousal that has been building up while his mind was away, not occupied for once. And when he lets himself think of that, the pain takes on a very different flavor. Being entirely in the moment means he’s not really thinking, more like, letting himself feel every part of his body. His relaxed arms are on the couch cushions, light breeze from the AC petting them. His head just lies between his arms, half his face stuck in the seat cushion. His breath is pretty slow and steady, in rhythm with the strokes. His legs are tossed on the other side of the couch; his feet occasionally twitch on the armrest with a particularly sharp blow to his thighs.

The heat in his ass is nice between the pain of the slaps. It hurts, but in a fun way. Well, maybe the sting itself isn’t fun, but the fading of it is really nice. His dick is hard and pressed against Patrick’s thigh, squeezed a bit to match the sting of each blow. He’s getting no friction but that’s okay. This arousal doesn’t need any urgent seeing to. He enjoys letting it linger, feeling as if it will last forever. He doesn’t pretend it will, but even thinking as far as the next blow is a challenge right now. Trying to rub against Patrick’s pant leg is tempting, except it would require moving. Pete is fine with being a relaxed, unmoving pudding-like heap of calmness.

At some point it stops. Pete isn’t sure if it’s a break or if they’re done for today, not even sure how long since the spanking stopped. He feels a bit like he’s floating in a pool of honey, sweet and soft and difficult to move in. Patrick pets his ass in slow, circular movements. Patrick bends sideways, entering his line of sight. He’s got a pleased half-smirk on as he looks Pete straight in the eye and says “Hey. Still with me?”

Pete intends to answer as soon as he’s able to string words together again. Not sure when that will be – his sense of time is on a break – he settles on trying to nod, with limited success. It seems to satisfy Patrick though, because the circular rubbing continues, and slow dragging of nails across his back joins it. Gradually, Pete comes back to awareness. Mostly, of how fucking hard his dick is. Also of the moist fabric of Patrick’s pants against Pete’s side, right where Patrick’s hard dick is nudging him. As the thinking thing doesn’t seem to work, Pete doesn’t try to think. He wants, so he says. Or slurs. “Wanna blow you.”

Patrick chuckles and squeezes a handful of Pete’s heated ass. It sends a current of pain and pleasure racing up Pete’s spine. Pete’s arms give an involuntary twitch, and his hips rub semi-intentionally on Patrick’s pants. They both moan at the movement.

Patrick gives Pete’s ass another swat, but it’s not very strong. Patrick’s hand stays where it landed, then starts a slow descent over his ass, trailing along his thigh, back up through the tender inner side of it, and ends up slowly massaging Pete’s taint up and down with two fingers, putting just enough pressure on it to make the possibility of pain known. Pete spreads his legs and pushes himself back with his arms, trying to get more of that.

Patrick makes a “tsk” sound of disapproval and pauses his fingers where they are, but doesn’t ease the pressure. He puts his left hand on Pete’s back and holds him where he is. Pete thinks he may die just by virtue of holding on to this overwhelming sensation. Patrick’s fingers press down, sending shivers up and down his body, and all he can think of is Patrick’s touch, this pressure that holds him together, this pain that keeps him aware of the fingers and nothing else. Pete’s entire being is curled around those fingers. A whimper escapes him, but he doesn’t want it to stop.

Patrick resumes the motion over Pete’s taint, and Pete tries his best not to squirm either into it or away from it. Patrick’s other hand climbs up Pete’s back, over his neck, and weaves into his hair. Pete can hear his own breath growing quicker. He bucks his hips only half intentionally when Patrick pulls his hair just enough to hurt, while pushing his head down into the cushion. “Please,” he mumbles, even though he’s not sure what is he asking for. He just wants this to continue. He wants Patrick to use him and make him feel good and be his fort to hide in for a while. This seems to be mutual, as Patrick shushes him quietly while not letting go of Pete’s hair. The pressure on his taint is eased when Patrick lets his right hand travel lower along Pete’s balls, holding Pete’s sack in his hand, tracing feather-light caresses on the wrinkles. The sweet fluttering of it washes from Pete’s center to the ends of his limbs.

In this floating state, Pete can think, but not too much. He’s hit by a sense of gratitude and devotion, mixed up with hunger for Patrick’s approval, and naked lust. He wants to taste Patrick, touch him, be held by him, feel his weight, all at the same time. “Please,” Pete mumbles again.

Patrick pulls Pete’s hair and Pete’s back arches as far as it can, before he scrambles up on his elbows, hands, and finally kneeling back on the couch. Pete’s face is tilted up, his mouth slack and open. The pain in his scalp is sharp and unrelenting, allowing him back to that unthinking place in his head. Pete’s arms are limp by his sides, hanging from his loose shoulders as if he forgot how to use them. His eyes are unfocused and hazy, but even so, he can see Patrick looking at him hungrily, as if Pete is something beautiful and precious and delicious. Patrick’s eyes are dark and there’s something nearly predatory coming through the bond. Pete’s eyes shut and he groans as Patrick bites and sucks above his collarbone, strong vibrating mine mine mine flowing through the bond. Pete soaks in both the pleasurable pain and the unmasked desire. God knows why, but even knowing him as well as he does, Patrick still wants him.

Pete’s cock twitches with the thought, and he bucks his hips again. “Please,” he moans in a broken voice, “wanna blow you so bad.” He means, “I want to give you something too; I want to take everything you have to give.” This time Patrick swallows, his Adam’s apple visibly jumping up and his jaw tensing. Patrick pulls Pete towards the backrest by his hair, lets go of it and unzips himself. Pete’s breath catches in his throat. He wants it so badly. Patrick notices that, and it seems he decides it’s time for a lesson. “You have to ask for what you want,” Patrick says, obscenely fondling himself through his boxers.

Patrick probably means it in a more general sense, in the communication and support sort of thing. Pete wants to resent that, but even more, he wants to get his mouth on Patrick’s dick. “Please,” he says, his voice deep and rusty, “let me blow you.” Patrick gives him a pointed look. “Want your cock in my mouth,” Pete whines, but doesn’t move. Patrick seems to accept this as enough, for the time being, and lowers his boxers. His cock is hard and leaking and absolutely enticing. Pete licks his lips eagerly. He leans towards Patrick’s cock without thinking, without even noticing. Pete is drawn to Patrick’s dick with his eyes, face, it captures all of his attention.

Patrick seems fascinated by this reverse snake-charming. He moves his hand to his dick, barely touching it, probably just to hear the wanting sounds Pete makes.

Pete is totally entranced but Patrick’s still level headed enough to know where this is going. He stands up, radiating responsibility. Ignoring Pete’s whimpers, he removes his own clothes. Pete can almost see in his mind how much Patrick wants to drag him to the bed by his hairs, but he’s too careful, Pete’s limbs hanging loose as they are. Instead, he holds Pete by his shoulders, using a bit more force than necessary, just enough to make Pete gasp. Pete’s eyes focus for a second, looking for something in Patrick’s face, and then relaxing into his hold again. Patrick pulls Pete to stand, and walks him to the bed. He lays Pete on his side, and lies on his back by him, letting Pete mouth his dick, at first with some enthusiasm, but more and more haltingly.

Patrick continues combing fingers through Pete’s hair for a while after he falls asleep. He doesn’t move Pete though. A calm and relaxed Pete is a rarity. He can appreciate this scarce treasure for now, knowing it’s his doing. Patrick smiles and drifts to sleep.

~

When Pete wakes up at dawn he feels much better. Which is awesome. He’s also super hard, and Patrick’s erection against his ass does nothing to help. He wriggles out cautiously, heading for the bathroom. His head clears, and he remembers the evening. His chest is far less tight than it was last night, but the stiffness in it is returning. By the time Pete comes back to bed, guilt catches up with him. Guilt over the way he treated Patrick during the week, and his ingratitude last night. Patrick grumbles on the edge of waking, reaches an arm and pulls Pete close. It helps, and Pete falls back to sleep.
~
A few hours later Pete wakes actually well rested. Energized. He can take on the world. Or face it, at least. First though, there’s something he really wants to finish.

Patrick is already up and in the bathroom. Pete gets out of bed and walks as quietly as he can manage, attempting to sneak behind Patrick to steal a grope. No such luck though. Patrick, mouth full of toothbrush, gives Pete’s reaching hand a pointed look in the mirror, then gestures “get out”. Patrick doesn’t seem exactly annoyed, just his usual grumpy morning self, with trace amounts of irritation. It could be nothing, but Pete’s already feeling guilty. As Pete walks out of the bathroom and sits on the bed, his chest becomes heavy and tense and constricted. Patrick must feel it because he comes rushing out, toothbrush in hand. He says a firm “No!” as if Pete is a puppy who tried to chew his slippers. Pete looks up, surprised, and when their eyes meet, they both snicker.

Patrick points his brush at Pete with determination. “We need to talk. After I’m actually up. Make us some coffee, would you?”

Pete complies, and by the time Patrick’s done with his morning routine and ready to talk, so is Pete. More like resolved to listen and nod, really, because Pete is expecting a scolding that’ll last a few minutes and then they can resume the aborted sex. Pete is really looking forward to that, and a scolding is a fair price to pay to get to the part where he makes Patrick feel good, too. Except Patrick opens his mouth, gives Pete one glance and deflates. “You’re not actually going to listen, are you?”

It would be fair to say Pete wasn’t going to interrupt, though giving his full attention would be stretching the truth. Pete climbs over and around Patrick, covering his back. “C’mon, I wanna be good for you. Really good.” Pete draws the words out, whispering them in a low tone right in Patrick’s ear, licking the lobe lightly. Patrick moves quickly, grabbing Pete’s wrist and pulling him back to the same position as last night, except held much tighter by his own wrist pressed to his back.

“If we’re not going to talk,” Patrick says, calm as ever, delivering a few hard swats in quick succession, “then I still want you to remember it’s better if you come and tell me what you need sooner rather than later. Okay? Or just tell me things. This can’t work if you don’t.” The feelings of caution and worry and care, always care, come clear with the tone and across the bond. The pain of quick, hard swats isn’t as enjoyable as the steady rhythm of last night, but Pete’s dick doesn’t seem to care, rising instantly.

It sort of makes Pete feel like shit. Makes him want to pay for shutting Patrick out for the entire week.

When Patrick lets go of his wrist, he doesn’t get up. Slinking to his knees by the couch, he looks up at Patrick, serious. Pete is truly sorry, but he can’t lie. “I’ll try. I can’t promise, but I’ll try.” Pete reaches slowly, questioningly, to Patrick’s hand, holds it and brings it to his lips, kissing the palm. It’s a way to show his gratitude. “I, just, thanks,” he says, kissing it again. “I don’t always know what I want.”

Patrick looks almost amused at that statement. “No shit, asshole,” he says fondly, caressing Pete’s cheek with his thumb. “But you have to talk to me. At least, you have to try.” Pete nods in hesitant agreement.

Pete’s mind is starting to twist around itself again, thoughts of being a burden on Patrick crawling in from the corners they were put in last night. There’s a strong “Stop!” in his mind, Patrick’s fingers hold his jaw firmly. He snaps back, sort of. Patrick lowers his brows, eyes focused on Pete, and sighs. “But you can’t do this for me all the time,” Pete reasons.

“I can’t,” Patrick agrees. “Not all the time. Just… are we in this together, or not?”

The question hits Pete like a punch to his gut. It’s not about this week, it’s about all the years he shut Patrick out. It’s about letting him go if he doesn’t want to stay. It’s about the little hurt voice in Patrick’s head that’s still not sure if Pete wants this. Wants him. So he says. “I want to be good for you. I want this. Just maybe… maybe I need some pushing?”

There’s a glint of a promise and a threat in Patrick eye when he says, “You need incentives?” and Pete’s breath would catch even without Patrick raising an eyebrow and adding, in a lower tone of voice, “Carrot and stick kind of thing?”

Which, yes. Pete doesn’t even know what he wants more, but he feels he doesn’t deserve the, heh, carrot. Not yet. “Please,” Pete says, and his face feels hot suddenly. He has to try twice and avert his eyes before he manages to find his voice and say “P-Please. Punish me”.

There’s a hint of discord in Patrick’s thoughts, a lot of lust upset by a little disapproval. “You don’t deserve a punishment,” he says sternly, holding Pete’s chin and gaze, “but you will get what you ask for.”

Patrick’s not upset about the same things Pete is, but it’s good enough. Patrick’s irritation feels right, like sharp nails for Pete’s mind to stretch against. Punishment isn’t about the pain, it’s about the remorse, and nothing makes Pete more remorseful than upsetting Patrick. Nothing makes him feel good like being used by a horny Patrick.

Pete feels like an asshole, knowing he’s pushed Patrick to annoyance and how right it feels. Which was just the point, right? He’s using Patrick. If Patrick would only use him back, it’ll be sort of fair. But Patrick has to be caring, and careful, and responsible and mature. Never just takes what he wants. It doesn’t make any sense to resent him for it.

It’s very confusing, to feel all these things at once. Pete wants to feel Patrick’s anger hurting him, mind and body. Wants Patrick to devour him. Of course Patrick is too careful for anything too rough. It’s going to be measured, calculated. If it’s just going to be while Patrick’s annoyed, though, it may be good enough.

Pete tries to hold it back from bursting out - just the opposite of what Patrick asked, and here’s a messy ball of complicated feelings for you. He promised to try just now though, so he asks again. “Punish me. Hurt me. I don’t want it to feel good.”

It’s a surprise when Patrick doesn’t try to argue or reason or reassure Pete. Patrick’s jaw clenches, his eyes focus, his entire posture made more solid and looming, somehow. Pete’s mouth is too dry to swallow and he feels like he won the argument and lost it at the same time.

Patrick points to the small desk. “Over it”, his tone dry and clipped. Pete rushes to obey, tripping over his own feet, pushing aside Patrick’s laptop and notes, pressing his elbows down and holding on to the far edge of the desk like it’ll protect him from the wrath of the Stump. Be careful what you wish for, and all that.

Pete’s heart is beating fast and his face feels hot and he’s not sure if it’s dread or lust or anticipation or all of them mixed up. He can hear the ruffling of clothes on the floor but doesn’t dare to look back. Pete shuts his eyes and tries to breath. His dick is hard, his balls are tingling with arousal, his mind is running but can’t hold on to any thought.

Patrick comes up behind him, pushing a foot between Pete’s feet, spreading his legs wider. Pete searches the bond, looking for reassurance, or anger, whichever one will do. He finds nothing but the mental equivalent of a raised eyebrow. Patrick is holding his own, reining in whatever he can, probably listening very carefully to Pete’s mind.

Patrick places a firm, calming hand, spread on Pete’s back, at the bottom of his spine. Pete lets himself give into its pressure as it slides up his back. When it reaches his neck and starts moving back down, Pete’s forehead is resting on his fingers. His elbows are spread to his sides and his chest is pressed to the desk. He is pacified. Excited, not full of dread.

As much as he may crave punishment, Pete trusts Patrick not to go too far. And as much as some part of him wants Patrick to go way too far, he knows it’s a very bad idea. Pete is settled in his own mind enough to open up completely, let Patrick feel everything. The hand on his back pauses, the fingers tense into his back and go back to their previous firmness in a flash.

Surprise, or disgust? Pete is ready to be bitter about opening up. Patrick’s hand presses down, calming. Patrick opens up just enough to send soft reassurance. “Nothing in there I haven’t seen before,” Patrick says, so soft Pete isn’t sure if he heard the words or just got the meaning. Then Patrick clamps it up again, takes a step back, and uses low, stern, dry tone. “Count them.”

When the first lash of the faux-leather belt hits him, Pete gasps and tenses, but relaxes back without breaking position or making any real sound. He even says “one,” in an audible tone. He’s pretty proud of himself for taking the first so well. Of course, he doesn’t know how many are to come.

Patrick also seems to appreciate his effort, petting him lightly on his back, then resting his hand more firmly. God, this gives Pete just the grounding he needs.

The thing with belts and canes - and a few particularly nasty paddles - is that they catch the senses gradually, not all at once. First, there’s the sound of “whoosh”, then the sound of the instrument hitting skin. Then comes a slight sting. At this point, there may be some surprise because it doesn’t hurt that much, except it’s followed closely by a more severe pain, blooming to its peak within a second or two. Then the pain starts fading and the heat starts rising. If someone has a perfect sense of timing, like Patrick does, they can make it an agonizing ride of constant pain peaks, or a rollercoaster of high highs and low lows.

Patrick is aiming for neither of these, though. He is constantly changing the intervals, like a complicated jazz beat. Pete remains ever surprised, has to focus on them. He takes a deep breath and braces himself for the second one, and just when he can’t hold his breath anymore it comes, catching him unprepared. The third comes before he’s done saying “two”. The fourth after a short pause.

The changing intervals and the counting keep Pete from floating away, but that’s just what he wanted, right? To feel the pain. The lashes distract him from his self flagellation, though, leaving him in the uncomfortable middle ground of just enough presence of mind for maximal awareness of the pain; neither floating away nor able to actually form coherent thoughts and hold onto them. He can’t ride it out and he can’t be distracted from it.

As the lashing continues, Pete’s emotions become exposed, like live wires. By the tenth, he’s no longer trying to control what goes through the bond, or even his mind. By the twentieth, he stops searching for Patrick’s feelings. By the fortieth, he adds a soft “sorry” to every number, not even sure if just mentally or if he’s saying it out loud. The remorse is real enough. Despite the grounding effect of keeping the count and the position, by the sixtieth Pete is in the zen-like state of accepting his lack of control, being in the moment, not expecting the lashing to ever end, and yet very aware. The purifying effect is here, if late and painful. This is not happening far away, this is happening here and now and it hurts. A lot. Somewhere around the hundredth Pete notices his huffed “sorry”s have changed to “thank you”s.

This longer, more painful way of letting go is satisfying in a twisted sense. There’s a sense of accomplishment that the more intimate position and set rhythm don’t supply. When they reach 150, Pete can feel some hesitation from Patrick. The lashes stop. Patrick puts his hand on the bottom of Pete’s spine again, and lets his pride flow through the bond. Pete lets Patrick’s pride run through him, lets himself bask in being good for Patrick.

He’s glad for having a break, it’s been so hard to take. Despite having no warm up, by this point his ass has the thin layer of numbness that comes after continued pain. He doesn’t feel like it’s enough, though.

When Patrick asks, “Do you want…?” Pete just keeps holding the position, shaking his head as much as he can without lifting it. “Yours”, he says, and means, “to do as you please with; to have and to use”. This pain hurts so bad, it’s like a proof of his devotion, of his submission. He’s not sure if he wants more or if he wants to stop, he just wants Patrick to keep being proud of him. He wants to be proud of himself. Holding the position, holding his mouth, doing what he’s told and what he can to be good. It feels right. It’s a challenge, but a challenge Pete can face, and overcome. So he just stays there, not sure if he’s being obedient or greedy.

When the lashing resumes, it’s even worse, if that’s possible. Pete’s ass lost some of the blessed numbness, so the pain is sharper. His thoughts are somewhat more focused on the goal he’s set for himself, which means there’s a note of impending failure. He still doesn’t know how many lashes he’ll get, so it takes every ounce of determination he has to just accept them. He has to fight himself, pushing the numbers out like poisoned berries, dripping remorse off his tongue. He can try. He will try. He is trying, so hard, to be good.

The sobs punctuate the numbers for the last dozen or so. At 200, Patrick stops. He steps close, draping himself over Pete’s back, hugging him. Pete sobs out, “m sorry, ‘m sorry, I trust you”, and Patrick’s embrace tightens at once over him, around him. Patrick lets him feel - by skin, by bond, by words - “You’re so good, so strong” - that he’s forgiven. and now, finally, despite the tears, Pete can really breath in.

They stay like this for a couple of minutes, until Patrick pulls them both up. He turns Pete around and pulls him into a hug again, mumbling soft reassurances in his ear. Pete lets Patrick’s pride weave into his own. He managed to do what Patrick asked, and he allows himself to feel good about it.

He’s also hard and his ass is getting that deep pain that means actual bruises will form there. For the next few days, whenever he sits down, there will be a vague pain to remind him of this feeling, pride and gratitude. And God, can’t his dick quit for like, five minutes? He tries not to rub against Patrick too much, to just enjoy this shelter-hug. It works up until Patrick reaches a hand to his dick and pulls a rough and long squeeze along it. The sweet, rough touch is just on the line between ouch and GOD YES. Pete shudders and Patrick does it again, curiously.

Pete feels like a plaything to a very vicious cat. He loves it. By the look on Patrick's face, he loves toying with Pete just as much as Pete loves being toyed with. He pulls Pete by his dick, grip just on the wrong side of too tight, giving a predatory, almost vicious smile at the desperate sounds Pete makes.

Letting go of Pete, but not of the smile, Patrick leans back on the desk, crossing his arms on his chest. His voice is deep and commanding when he says, "Now ask me for it. Properly."

Pete doesn't even think when he drops to his knees, and then bends forwards and kisses Patrick's toes. "Please", he says, kissing up Patrick's ankles, "please let me", up his calves, “let me make you,” above his knees, “feel good,” along his thighs, “please.” So close Patrick must be feeling his breath on his dick, so close if he inhales deeply he can almost taste it.

Patrick grabs Pete by his hair, pulling his face upwards, looking him straight in the face. “Do you feel you’ve earned it?” For all Pete never feels really worthy, he still feels he made a serious effort. He hesitates a second, not sure what the right answer is. Patrick is already saying, “I think you have,” and it’s like he’s choking on his own heart coming up his throat and on Patrick’s dick coming down it at the same time.

This time Pete’s got his mind focused on pleasuring Patrick, and he does everything he can to give the best blowjob of his life. He tries to take Patrick’s dick as deep as possible and maybe a bit more than that; he sucks gently and lets his teeth slide over the skin, without any force. He moves his tongue side to side just under the head. He doesn’t stop trying any trick he knows and alternates between the things that get those deep moans, grunts and sharp exhales. When Patrick drops his hands to the desk, to support himself, Pete counts it as an encouragement and keeps going, even more motivated.

It doesn’t take long for Patrick to grab Pete by his hair and pull him off, both trying to catch their breath. Pete wears an offended pout. “Want,” he whines, surprised by a slap, precise but not strong. Pete blinks twice, and looks at Patrick. Patrick’s eyebrows are lowered and eyes are focused, trained on Pete’s. “I set the pace,” Patrick says, and Pete’s pupils grow even larger. “Yeah,” he rushes to agree, “please.”

Patrick moves Pete’s head in small circles, closer and back again, and the full weight of his attention holds Pete even more than the hand in his hair. This teasing, it’s tearing Pete’s desires in opposite directions. He wants to make Patrick come, and he wants to do as he’s told, and he wants to please Patrick in any way he can. If he’s licking his lips with unconscious hunger, and looks longingly at Patrick’s twitching dick, he can’t be blamed that it makes Patrick swallow and breath more quickly. Patrick probably stretches it as long as he can bear it, because Pete is way beyond what he can bear. It’s a small miracle he manages to stay quiet, kneeling, staring, without whining.

Just as Pete is on the verge of begging again, Patrick brings him to licking distance. Pete swallows and asks, “can I?” and Patrick’s wide eyed nod is a tiny bit too deep and Pete charges back at it like his life depends on it. He’s not getting long so he better make the most of it.

It really isn’t long, but for once, Patrick actually grabs his hair and holds him in place, even if his hip movements are probably much more controlled than they could have been. Pete hums happily and swallows whatever he can manage, which isn’t much.

When Patrick has enough presence of mind to let go of Pete’s hair, his eyes are hazy, and the relaxed, happy flow from the bond is making Pete giddy on the inside. His knees are starting to hurt but he’s proud, even smug. He sits back on his heels, slowly, savoring the pain released with each small movement. He probably wouldn’t even notice how slowly he moves if Patrick wouldn’t be captivated by his slow movement and small sighs. The jizz running from the corners of his mouth doesn’t bug him enough to wipe it away, not when licking it with the tip of his tongue captures Patrick’s eyes like that.

Pete may be overdoing the teasing thing just a bit. Patrick ends up rolling his eyes at him and sending him to lie on his back on the bed, hands holding the headboard rail. Patrick goes to the bathroom, and comes back much less sticky. He cleans Pete’s face with a tissue paper and kisses a trail down his chest, nibbling at his nipples, then biting them. Patrick seems way too pleased at the sounds Pete makes. At least for the duration Pete can keep his eyes from going to the back of his head.

Patrick turns around for a short while, allowing Pete to catch his breath. Then he turns back, places a well lubed hand on Pete’s dick, and says, “if your hands let go, I stop”. Pete didn’t even consider letting his hands off the rail until this very second. He also didn’t consider breathing to be a conscious effort, but here he is, anyway. He holds on to the rail like a drowning man, so hard his fingers get numb, eyes shut tightly, and gasps at the combined feelings of hard bites on his right nipple and a very skilled hand stroking his dick. Every twitch brings with it a surge of the pleasant pain from his bruising ass. Pete wants this to last, but he can’t draw it out too long. His senses are overloaded, and he is lost in the feelings, moaning and coming like he hasn’t in a week. Maybe he really hasn’t, coming to think of it. Huh.

Patrick keeps stroking, more gently, until Pete’s oversensitivity gets the better of him and he sends a hand down. “I said I’ll only stop when you let go”, Patrick sounds extremely smug, and Pete would like to have a witty comeback, except he doesn’t care enough.

They only have about an hour before they have to get going, but ten minutes of cuddling and dozing off are enough to recover. Maybe 15. Patrick sets the alarm so Pete doesn’t really have to pay attention, for now. He can just enjoy this before he gets out and faces the world again. Maybe he can still salvage some of this project, maybe the next one will go better. It’s okay. He doesn’t have to face it alone.