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At least when she was lifting weights, Ashley didn't have to think about how horny she was. She was working on her back and shoulders, pulling the bar down behind to build her lats. She glistened with sweat as she tensed everything from her abs to her toes, curling them under the foot supports to improve her leverage.

Her bare midriff showed off definition that she'd never had before, fed by bulging blue veins that she found a little gross, if she was honest. But she was in better shape than she'd ever been. Stronger than she'd ever been. She'd been working on her speed and striking too, not just building up dumb uncoordinated mass. She knew she'd gotten soft while she was in the hospital, she had to concede that Shepard had a point there. If she was being brutal, she'd started to let things slide before that. She had become more of a political animal. She'd heard that accepting a commission could do that to you, but she'd never expected it to happen to her.

She was stronger than she'd ever been and it still wasn't enough. Shepard hadn't taken her on a mission in the two weeks she'd been aboard the Normandy. She wasn't ready, Shepard said. She wasn't fast enough.

Ashley paused to dial up the weight on the machine by a couple of kilos. She'd broken her record again. She pulled, an avalanche of bulging muscles rippling out, her smooth downy skin pinpricking with sweat. Her shoulders dipped and flexed, her sports bra strained to keep her pectorals and chest contained. Her back describing a perfect S, the weight began to rise. She moved it smoothly to the top of its travel, pulling the bar down and nodding her head forwards to touch it to the back of her neck. She held it there for a count of three, her abs and legs coming to full tension as her feet strained against the supports.

As she let the weight down, she felt something. A hint of friction inside her shorts. Even the slightest hint of pressure felt amazing down there when she was straining at full effort, her blood raging through her veins. She felt herself flush pink in the face. She gave herself a ten count before lifting again, focusing on tightening and stabilising her core, making sure her back was straight. The pressure was there again, marginally enhanced.

Oh god. It was so long since she'd gotten off. Why was it happening now? She didn't care. If this was the only way she was going to get it, she'd stay on this machine until she was satisfied. She tensed her thighs and calves this time, preparing them for the next lift. She let her hips buck into the pull just a little. Poor form, she knew. She shouldn't let her back curl like that. But it felt so good. It was the lightest of touches, the most delicate of feelings, but she was so ready for it, she'd been so deprived.

She couldn't rush it, though. She couldn't risk hurting herself. Then she'd never get to go on a mission again. Damn Shepard. Giving her no responsibilities apart from PT was not a way to endear herself. Laps, weights, range time, rinse and repeat, ten hours a day for the last two weeks. God, she was sure she could take Shepard now. She was so much stronger than when she came on board. She ached for a little payback. It had been downright embarrassing the way Shepard had been able to hand her her ass without even breaking a sweat.

They'd tangled on the mats, hand to hand. Shepard had wanted to know if Ashley still had any bad feelings towards her. Ashley had told her one more time, there was nothing more to say. But Shepard wasn't so easily convinced. She was wearing her Cerberus workout gear, deliberately to taunt her, Ashley knew. To make her angry, and stupid, so that she'd slip up. She wasn't going to fall for that. They'd faced off, circling each other warily, Shepard's eyes hard and unforgiving. Ashley brought out all the tricks she knew, but Shepard was fast. And strong. Her long limbs concealed wiry muscles.

Ashley thought she was too fast. But she wouldn't say it. She knew it would sound like an excuse if she told Shepard she was only good because of all the tech Cerberus had built into her. She nearly got taken down a couple of times, Shepard solidly connecting with fist and foot. But she toughed it out like a pro. Any other sparring partner, she would have called it off, but this was Shepard, and she had something to prove to her. Ashley surprised her by recklessly anticipating a punch, moving forward to let it glance off her shoulder, taking the hit so that she could get down low and sweep Shepard's legs out from under her.

It was luck that Shepard went down on her front. Ashley had been quick to capitalize on the situation, wrapping a thigh around Shepard's midriff and establishing control of her left arm, hauling it up straight into the air, pushing down on the shoulder blade, forcing Shepard to submit.

But she hadn't. “Is that all you've got, Williams?” she'd taunted, her face pressed into the mat. Then, with barely any sign of discomfort, she twisted and pushed off the mat with her knees in the quite the wrong direction.

Ashley was shocked as Shepard's shoulder slipped out of its socket. Too shocked to stop Shepard from escaping her hold and rolling away. Shepard had stood and rolled her head around on her neck before popping the joint back in. It didn't look weak at all. “Should have finished me when you had the chance, Williams,” she'd said.

Ashley pulled the bar down to her shoulders again. She felt the warmth spreading through her groin. If she hadn't stopped. If she hadn't been too taken aback. She'd have won that fight, she was sure of it. If Shepard's Cerberus implants hadn't given her the ability to shut off pain, to casually dislocate her joints. Then it would be Shepard who would have been at her mercy. Begging her for release.

But she wouldn't have given it to her. She'd have taught Shepard a goddamn lesson. God knew she needed someone to call her out. She was out of control. All those girls under her spell. What was she doing with them all? If her daddy had seen the way Shepard behaved, he would have had her over his knee in a flash. Ashley would have pinned her to the mats. She was sure her legs were stronger than Shepard's. She'd have used them to wrap her, scissor her viciously and crush the air from her lungs. She wouldn't have accepted her submission. She'd have eased off just a little, then given her the spanking she so richly deserved.

The heat in her groin was spreading up her abs, as she held each lift longer and longer, as she clenched down her stomach even more. “What are you?” Ashley whispered, her eyes closed. She saw her hand striking Shepard's undefended ass, leaving a red mark. “You're a goddamned Cerberus traitor bitch. Say it, traitor. Say it!” She saw herself whaling on Shepard's cheeks until they were a fiery, livid red. She saw tears come to Shepard's eyes as she humiliated her. “You soiled the uniform. You disgraced it! Say it!” And she saw Shepard break down, and sob, but she wouldn't say the words, and Ashley was glad. She got to hit her again. A new flurry of blows. She saw Shepard's ass start to bruise.

Ash was close. So close. Eyes closed, concentrating fiercely, sweat pouring off her, her core started to twitch and vibrate as she held up the weights. It was only balanced right at this point, sitting just in this position, that she could feel that tiny pressure, feather light, and modulate it with the smallest movement of her hips to her increasing satisfaction. “Say it!” she hissed again.

“Say what?”

Ashley's eyes flew open. The weight clanged home as she released the bar. “Fuck! You bitch!” she spat. She'd been right on the edge.

“Sorry, Williams. Am I interrupting something?” Shepard stood in front of her clad in her workout gear, the tight white and yellow Cerberus-logo tee and light shorts. A smirk on her stupid pale face. Goddamn bitch knew exactly what she was doing, thought Ashley.

But she launched herself at Shepard anyway, springing from the weights machine without any warning. Shepard sidestepped her easily. “Oh, so you think you're ready? Sure, bring it on, Williams, show me what you've got,” she said.

Ashley locked eyes with Shepard and circled warily as she got her anger under control. Shepard moved with a comfort and ease that Ashley found made her intensely jealous, she looked so loose yet so controlled. She advanced in a little sequence of steps, Ashley found herself looking for the pattern in her strides, timing, waiting for the repetition that would signify an opening that she could exploit, aware that she must look like a hulking crab in comparison, her sideways shuffle properly defensive but hopelessly inelegant.

There was no pattern. “Williams,” said Shepard. Ashley glanced back up from the fancy footwork just in time to jerk her head out of the path of the oncoming fist. “Get your head in the game.” Ashley felt even more humiliated that Shepard had warned her. Any real fight and she'd have been knocked on her ass by a hit like that. But Shepard was testing her, and she'd failed the first challenge.

Fine. She could use that humiliation as motivation. Just like her daddy used being passed over for promotion time and again to be the best damn warrant officer money could buy. You knock a Williams down, she gets back up, no matter what. And then you're sorry.

“Little bit angry today, Williams?” taunted Shepard as she feinted a couple of times, leaving herself open, trying to tempt Ashley into attacking rashly. “Frustrated?”

“You know damn well,” Ashley replied. Two weeks since the party on the Citadel, since Ashley had gotten laid. Incredibly well laid, she had to admit. The memory of it still burned in her mind, how Miranda had shown her a new, darker side to her desires, introduced her to Shepard's little hobby but bypassing the Commander herself. She could barely stop thinking about that night, how she had carried the thick, uncomfortable plug in her ass, how much pain and pleasure it had brought her. How Shepard had probably known, and approved, the shame that Ashley felt for craving that approval adding to the guilty pleasure she felt whenever she replayed the experience in her mind.

But since then she hadn't had any relief. Shepard's crushing expectations followed her everywhere around the ship. She saw Shepard's knowing smile everywhere she turned, in Liara's coquettish smirk, Samantha's arched eyebrow, even Tali's cocked hip. They knew that Shepard was putting her through an ordeal, testing her, and she found no comfort there.

The men were annoyingly clueless, so much so that their innocent comments became intolerable. One more 'atta girl' from James as she ran laps around the cargo bay and she'd bite his head off. She wasn't driving herself to exhaustion every day for fun, and she didn't need his condescending encouragement. If Shepard wouldn't take her on a mission, then what was the point of her?

Ashley lashed out with a fist, muscles from her hips to her shoulders coordinating to express the power of her newly trained body. Shepard was just out of reach, Ashley felt her breath tickling her knuckles. “Good!” said Shepard, putting some distance between them. “You're quicker.”

Ashley felt her face redden. Despite her anger, she craved Shepard's approval. “And stronger,” replied Ashley, launching a kick at Shepard's retreating form. She failed to connect.

“Lifting weights and putting someone down aren't the same thing, Williams,” Shepard told her. “It's speed that'll count in the end.”

Ashley had been holding back. She let loose with a quick one-two combination that had Shepard shuffling quickly on her toes to avoid being tagged. “Ha!” cried Shepard. “Good! Very good. Got any more where that came from?”

Ashley responded with a flurry of kicks and blows, letting out all the stops. Shepard began to block actively instead of just dodging, directing the force of the attack around her. Sneaking closer and closer with each, her smirking face looming larger and larger in Ashley's vision. Too late, she realised her mistake, as Shepard slid a fist forward, quick as a snake, and Ashley's eyes crossed following it in.

“Got your nose, Williams,” said Shepard, poking her thumb out between two knuckles. “What are you going to do about that?”

Ashley couldn't control her anger any longer. “How are you so fast?” she raged. “You're a goddamn cheating bitch!”

Shepard bounced lightly on her toes a couple of meters distant, a light sweat making her glow healthily, grinning smugly. “That's it, Ash,” she said. “Let it out. All of it.”

“You're a goddamn cyborg,” Ashley spat, swinging wildly. Shepard danced out of the way with ease. “A Cerberus droid! You're not really human,” she closed on Shepard with quick little steps, jabbing with her fists to keep her distracted, “any more.”

Shepard surprised her by stepping right into her attack, fearless, grinning all the while. Ashley planted her huge, overdeveloped thigh between Shepard's legs and grappled with her, trying to throw her. The room whirled and then came to a sudden stop. Ashley couldn't breathe. Shepard looked down on her with concern from where she had ended up straddling Ashley's chest. What the fuck? How had that happened? She was dizzy.

Ashley grasped and scrabbled at the mats as she fought for breath. Shepard loomed over her, the lights refracting through her fine red hair, her face growing larger. She pinched Ashley's nose again. Another humiliation. “Here ya go, Williams,” she said. “You can have your nose back.” Ashley gasped like a fish. Shepard lowered her mouth to lock her lips with Ashley's and blew hard.

Ashley's lungs re-inflated with Shepard's hot sweet breath and she felt herself burn with shame and desire in equal parts. Defeated, humiliated, but taken down so goddamn lovingly. Like she was a pet. She hated that she almost liked the feeling. “I like these, though,” said Shepard, ruining the moment by grasping at her chest, fingers digging into her stiff pectoral muscles, and incidentally gathering up handfuls of her proud breasts. “You've done a great job. Man, Vega must be so jealous.”

“Fuck,” Ashley whispered. She felt tears welling in her eyes, but she was damned if she'd give Shepard the satisfaction of crying like a little girl. OK. Use the emotion. Distract her.

Ashley turned her head to the side, leading Shepard's gaze away, blinking rapidly as if trying to stop the tears. She placed a hand on Shepard's upper arm, gently, as if seeking comfort. She let her far hand sneak up towards the neck of Shepard's tight tee, trying to keep it under the radar.

That was where she kept her dog-tags. And the key. The last time, two weeks ago, when Shepard had challenged her for the first time, when she'd popped her shoulder in and out like a machine changing a rotten gear, was when she'd first seen the key. The fight hadn't ended until Shepard had Ashley on her face, arms locked behind her back, controlled and submissive and shamefully aroused.

Shepard had dipped a finger down into her shorts and tasted her wetness, and she'd been unable to stop herself grinding her hips backwards, desperate for more. Her night with Miranda had awoken a need within her, a need that just one night could never fulfill. And her fantasies about Shepard hadn't been diluted by the experience either. Strengthened, rather. She knew in her heart that she'd always want to lose to Shepard, to have her will subsumed, absorbed, bent to Shepard's own. She wanted to give her body over, let Shepard have it any way she liked, even if it meant wearing one of her humiliating butt-plugs.

But Shepard had seen right through her. She had come prepared, with a plan. Ashley's inevitable take-down was just the first step of her training. Pulling a small bundle from a pocket of her shorts, Shepard had slipped something around Ashley's waist, and she'd been embarrassingly willing to accommodate her, thinking that Shepard was going to enjoy her in her humiliated position. But by then it was too late, and the chastity device had hardened and sealed around her.

“Like it?” Shepard had asked. “It's some tech I took from Cerberus. They call 'em 'Phantom Panties'. You know, for those bitches that like to dance around with a sword. They keep those girls wound up tight. Makes them put all their energy into the fight.”

Shepard had explained the rules to her then. The loathsome Cerberus-branded undies wouldn't permit her to touch herself, to be penetrated, to orgasm. Not until she showed Shepard that she hadn't become some slow-witted, cack-handed political officer who was constantly second-guessing her orders. When she showed Shepard that she could work with her, be a reliable part of the team, be the tough bitch that didn't take any crap that she used to be, instead of the whining self-conscious harpy that she'd become... then maybe she'd consider giving her the key. Which she dangled in front of her nose, so she got a good long look at it.

Ashley had gasped with the realisation of what Shepard had done. With one masterful stroke, she had enslaved her to her will, but not in the way that she had craved so desperately. She would have to walk a hard path to impress Shepard, to earn her respect and the right to pleasure. Of those two things the first meant infinitely more to Ashley. But over the past two weeks, the second had loomed increasingly large in her mind.

The chastity device didn't stop her from getting aroused. The knowing looks that Shepard's butt-plugged girls gave her whenever they locked eyes made her shift and groan with the thought of Shepard's power. And the non-stop physical exercise flooded her body with hormones. As she built her muscles, sharpened her aim, quickened her reflexes, she felt so powerful, and so constrained. She ached to be used. At the very least, to fight by Shepard's side. At best... those thoughts left her quivering and moaning in frustration as she tried to get herself off. She'd been on the verge of satisfaction when Shepard had come in to judge her yet again. And she had failed, miserably. But if she could get her hands on the key...

Shepard slapped her hand away. “Nice try, Williams,” she congratulated her. “Good trick with the waterworks. Nearly had me convinced.”

Ashley let out a roar of frustration and started trying to buck Shepard off her chest. “Cerberus cyborg bitch!” she shouted. “Get off!” She twisted and heaved with everything she had, and it wasn't enough to dislodge Shepard.

“I'm kind of disappointed,” said Shepard, once Ashley had sank back down, slick with perspiration. “All these muscles and you don't know how to use them.” She made a show of looking over Ashley's body. In an economical way, hardly seeming to make an effort, she flipped Ashley over onto her front and spun around to face her legs. It happened too fast for Ashley to do anything, she had no idea how Shepard could handle her so easily. And it felt kind of amazing, she had to admit. She wondered if she ever really stood a chance. If Shepard had just been toying with her, winding her up even more for her own personal pleasure.

If so, Ashley was darkly proud. At least she was of some service. If only as a distraction, a plaything. It put her down at the level of Shepard's gaggle of good girls... but it was better than being ignored. She hoped she'd put on a good enough show.

Shepard gripped Ashley's ankles and bent her legs backwards until they were close to her face. With her weight firmly settled on Ashley's back, her own feet tucked into Ashley's pits, there was nothing she could do to stop her. “I think I see the problem,” said Shepard. “You missed a spot.”

Ashley didn't feel like playing games any more, but Shepard evidently still did. “See, you forgot to build up any muscles right here. On the soles of your feet.”

Ashley tensed suddenly, but Shepard's grip on her ankles was like iron. “No,” she said, panicking. “No, not that, oh shiiiiiiiii...” Shepard's darting tongue had licked up her left instep. Ashley slammed her palms down on the mat, to no effect.

Shepard went for the right foot. “No, Shepard, please, ah, ah-ha, ah-ha-ha-ha!” In between gasps of air, Ashley's ribcage spasmed with gales of involuntary laughter as Shepard licked and nibbled her way along Ashley's soles. They weren't the most delicate, ladylike feet. They were soldiers tools, calloused and coarse. But they'd always been the softest, most vulnerable parts of her, and Shepard was using them to break her down completely.

She was relentless. Ashley writhed and choked, and Shepard paused for just long enough to let her fill her lungs before darting her tongue between her toes, nibbling at the soft flesh of her arches. Ashley screamed and sobbed and whimpered. In the brief periods where her thoughts were coherent, she recognised the growing heat in her groin, pressed into the mat by Shepard's bulk. She started to resign herself to being nothing more than a plaything. A toy for Shepard to extract entertainment from. She began to hump at the mat unconsciously, the chastity panties dulling most of the sensation but unable to stop the twitches of pure anarchy coming from her feet from spreading through her tensed, desperate body.

Shepard crossed her ankles and took Ashley's two little toes in her mouth at the same time. Time slowed down. Ashley's breath roared in as she filled her lungs, ready to scream herself unconscious. The electric overload of her nervous system gave way to a moment of pure clarity. She knew what she had to do.

When her lungs were bursting full she held her breath and drove her forehead into the mat. She bit down on her tongue to stop herself from screaming. She consciously tensed every muscle that was still under her control and then let them go limp.

To her surprise, her body afforded her the benefit of the doubt, for just a moment. Even as Shepard's tongue ran the length of her foot, generating that heady mixture of pleasure and pain, she was able to cry out coherently for just a moment. “Stop! Or I'll come!”

Shepard's tongue paused in mid-lick. “Williams?” she said. “Say that again?”

Ashley needed no further encouragement. “Just let me fight for you, Commander,” she said. She kept her tone as haughty as she knew how, considering her embarrassing position. “I'll make you proud. I don't need to come. I just want to fight.”

“Williams,” said Shepard, a warmth to her voice that Ashley hadn't heard in a long time. “I'm impressed.”

Ashley felt the burn rising on her face and found herself the victim of a stealthy, speedy climax, waves of dammed up, frustrated heat released by Shepard's sincere praise taking her crashing over the edge. She compressed her lips and flared her nostrils, trying to keep the feelings under control, trying not to show any sign of her weakness.

Shepard rose to her feet and helped Ashley to a sitting position. “Report to the shuttle bay at oh-nine-hundred, soldier,” she said.

Although her heart leapt, Ashley was too tired to get to her feet. “Yes, Commander,” she replied. “Thank you. Commander?” she added, as Shepard turned to leave. “The key?” she asked, hopefully.

Shepard pulled it out of her Cerberus tee and let it dangle on its chain. “Any time you think you can take it...” she said with a smirk, leaving the challenge hanging in the air. She turned her back on Ashley, and walked away.

Ashley was glad, in a way. She had earned Shepard's respect, the hard way. It might take her a long time to get good enough to beat her, to win the key back. But just being set the task was a mark of Shepard's growing confidence in her. And that gave her a warm feeling inside that she hadn't felt in all the time that Shepard had been away.

She might never be allowed to come again. But she'd be by Shepard's side in the coming fight.