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Do Not Feed The Ducks in White Lab Coats

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“I, for one, think we need to do something about the number of children,” Tears in her eyes, “Yes, children- who are being forced into these ways of life. Children,” She looks around the room, voice cracking. “Mere children who are raised in this brutal… brutal,” She shakes her head. “Brutal way of life. Children, ladies and gentlemen who have all but lost the will to continue to fight.”

Why am I here? The coin’s not that good. It's not exactly that big of a challenge, either.

I could snuff out any one of these fuckers and call it a night. Two or three of them if I’m feeling frisky.

Getting away would be surprisingly easy. Even if this place is crawling with heroes.

Such is the life of the super powered, god-like , 'heroic' minded, lot. Most of them rich from one thing or another. Reaching out to always help the little guys.

How noble. How brave. How pure.

Please.

No-I think it’s morbid curiosity that holds me here. What will this bitch- Queen of saline tears, actress for all- say next?

“Children who don’t know any better. Who are let loose into a system that feeds off their horrid experiences and turns them into weapons.”

My tux is uncomfortable and my shoes are too new.

First world problems at their finest.

I can't believe how much I spent to get ready for a hit. It would have been easier to go in my suit.

More obvious- but easier.

At least then I wouldn't have to deal with drunk old white men trying to 'discretely' ask me into the bathroom.

The fact that I turn them down says something to the caliber of my current relationship.

My partner whom I'm most surprised I haven't run into at this rate. I read that he'd be here. I wanted to surprise him.


Okay slightly. Mostly I wanted to check out Miss Bitch. He's a happy add on to the situation.

“And then, later in life- when it’s too late… incarcerates them. Or worse! More and more are executed by the day. All with similar stories. Stories that could have ended differently if someone had just stepped in and done something sooner.”

Redroom anyone? Weapon X? Compounds off the coast of god knows where doing god knows what for god knows who.

Save the children. Yes indeed. Save the poor, poor,terrified, abused children who don't know any better.

This woman's selling point is pulling heart strings.

Not mine- but someone's, I'm sure.

With her tears and her 'sincerity'. 'Give me your money' she says. 'Help the cause'. Of course, she doesn't say this out loud. This is the implied message. Looking around the room at all these 'stricken' faces- I'm thinking I'm the only one that hears that message. This is bullshit.

No one cares. It's simple as that. She's just throwing this small fact of life in their faces to make them feel bad.

It's a money grab. Nothing more, nothing less.

Help isn't coming for those kids.

Think about all the governmental toes you'd have to step on to do so. All the big governments have their hands in this pot. They just act like they don't.

Growing up I knew several government officials who could have saved me.

And you know what- they didn't. In fact, sometimes- they made it worse. They joined in with my 'abusers'. They didn't want to save a child as much as they wanted power. Power, ladies and gentlemen. Power. That's what this is about.

That's what everything is about.

It's foolish to think otherwise.

“Masters- they call some of them. Masters. As if these children were slaves!”

Ah, bitch you don’t even know. I can talk to you about 'masters' until I'm blue in the face- and you still wouldn't get it.

“Masters older than time in some cases.”

Older than time?
Preach sister.

Now we're getting somewhere.

“Children fear them. Fear them. They’re taught these lessons under duress. Duress- ladies and gentlemen.”

Then they're smart. You learn to survive. You learn to adapt. You learn to power through pain and any human emotion that could get in your way. And in the end? You are strong. You are unstoppable.

That. That is power.

That is the trade these children have unknowingly made for their lives.

I'm not saying it's a fair trade. Or even a decent one. But it's a trade nonetheless. They will understand when they are older. I know this from personal experience.

The gray-haired woman with the blue eyes, turns her body to the side, scanning the busy room.

“Children.” She sniffs. “Who have no one to call their own.”

Sob story. Wah. Wah. Wah.

So horrid. So unthinkable.

“Children-“

“You want to turn around and leave.” Someone whispers in my ear, cutting Miss Bitch's next line off. “Before I make you.”

That amuses me.

I hadn’t heard anyone come up behind me. Particularly not him.

“I know what you’re here to do.” He whispers, voice having its usual effect on me. One I don't think he knows he possesses.

We're dancing with fire now. Playing with matches.

It's my favorite game.

“Do you?”I ask innocently.

He nods, I can hear the movement without having to look at him. “I just don’t know why.”

Good.

My motives are unclear as ever. Even to him.

“Maybe I was looking for you.” My eyes stay forward. There’s a montage of pictures on the screen behind her now. Child mercenaries. Posing. They must have just been ‘freed’.

“If you were looking for me,” He whispers. “You wouldn’t be staring down the speaker like that.”

I have to admit I’m smirking.

“Who were you paid to off?”

“Paid? Whatever do you mean dearest?” I ask, eyes forward as the speaker points to the pictures behind her. Giving names.

Stupid move.

Don't name the operatives. Just because you 'saved them' doesn't mean they are beyond their master's reach. She's doomed these children and she doesn't even know it.

A hand reaches over my shoulder and points to the balcony. “Security’s already been alerted to a merc in the balcony.”

“Mercs are beneath me. You know that.” I dismiss.

There’s a dry chuckle. “Who are you working for? King Pin? Osborn has his hand in the pot. Are you working for him again?”

As if I'd ever work for Norman Osborn again.

"As if." I scoff.

"Who are you working for then?" He presists.

I have a feeling there will be no hit tonight. And, at this rate- with the way he's talking- no sex either.

I should do something about that.

Strike that- I will do something about that.

“I can’t come for the pleasure of your company?”

“Who- Daken?”

I turn around. “If I told you, that’d ruin our cat and mouse game- would it not?”

“Cat and mouse game? You mean the one where you try to do something villainous and I keep you out of jail?” He's smirking.

“Ding ding. We have a winner.” I smile at him.

Johnny sighs. “You said you were in California.”

“I came home early.”

“You couldn’t have called?” he asks quietly. "I've been waiting for you to call."

I nod towards the speaker. “I had business.”

“Business for who exactly?” he asks again.

I like his phrasing better this time. I'll grant him information.

“Miss Bitch made enemies with a local mob boss.”

“You work for the mob now?” He sounds doubtful. Good. He’s learning.

“No.” I flash him a smile. “I just don’t like what she’s selling.”

“You have a problem with saving children from government programs?” Johnny raises an eyebrow.

“Everyone’s got to grow up at some point, Johnny.” So awful for him to think of- I know. But… so true. So little Bobby’s twelfth birthday present was an M16. At least he lived to see twelve. I know some kids from my past who can’t say that. They'd have gladly taken the gun over what they got.

“Eighteen seems to be the proper age.” He’s frowning.

“Yea, okay.” I tease.

Johnny grabs my arm. “Come on.”

“Hmmm. Make it worth my while?” I jerk my arm back.

This time Johnny smiles. “As in bribe you?”

I nod. “Suck my cock in the parking lot?”

“And they say chivalry is dead.” He gasps.

“Suck my cock.” I’m only half serious. “And I’ll leave.”

“Nope. You came here to kill someone. That means no sexy times for you. That’s your punishment.”

“You wound me.”

“Not as bad as what you would have done to her.” He nods in the speaker’s direction.

“Please.” I scoff. “There are about ten mercs in this room alone. If she makes it out of this building it will be nothing short of a miracle. I would have at least made it quick.”

“You’re too kind.” He snorts.

“Going to alert the authorities of big bad Daken’s plans to kill someone?”

Johnny sighs. “Can’t you make this easy on me?”

“You’re dating the ultimate bad boy. That’s on you.” I say for the millionth time.

Johnny thumbs my lip. He usually doesn’t make moves like this in public. “Go home,” he orders.

“And then you’ll suck-“

“And then you’ll be lucky if I even sleep in the same bed as you,” he says. “This is bad, Daken. You’re supposed to be working on this.”

“You’re supposed to be working on this.” I mock.

“How many?” He stares me down.

The crowd around us in transfixed on the screen. Sob story after sob story. Some Russian talking about all the horrid things that were done to her as a child. Ten to one that woman will be dead in the next few days. Loose ends and all that.

“How many what?”

“You know.” His eyes are a spark of something. Determination almost. Like he’s got a mission to fulfill.

I am that mission. He seeks to turn me into something I’m not.

Or something I wasn’t.

I oblige him as much as to be expected. He doesn’t push past any hard limits.

Anti- heroing. Something I’ve taken to in my father’s absence. Logan would just be so, so, proud.

He’d look at me with that fatherly look in his eyes… and I’d promptly gauge them out.

The thought of him knowing I'd turned over a slightly more pleasant leaf makes me sick to my stomach.

I'm glad he's dead.

“I don’t.” I play coy.

Johnny likes this as much as I do. He just doesn’t admit it. “How many kills, Daken?”

“Kills?” I make sure my eyes are wide.

“Kills.” He nods. “While you were gone. How many kills do you have?”

“Darling-“

“Daken I’m not kidding this time.”

Oh, he’s ‘serious’ is he?

“Please.” There's that tone in his voice. The one that.. moves me. “Be honest.”

“…Six.” Fuck.

“In two weeks?” he sounds shocked.

“Please. They were horrid people. I’m doing the work you heroes can’t do. You catch these people and they get off the hook with lawyers. I catch these people and they lay stone cold in the ditch. In a sense, I’m making your job easier. You should be thanking me.”

“You sound like The Punisher.” He scoffs.

I snort. “ Frankie dear can’t hold a candle to me.” He’s also on my list. He didn’t stay dead when I killed him.

But killing a hero is becoming increasingly more difficult. Especially now that I’ve wrapped myself up with so many.

There’s something to consider. The heroes I've wrapped around myself. IE Johnny Storm. The boyfriend of the century. Dressed in his suit that he looks like he wants nothing more than to be out of. Hair cut in a ‘fashionable style’. Spiked in the front. It always kind of resembles flames- if you ask me. Even when he’s not lit. We work. I don’t know why we work- but we work.
It’s been too good to knock.

“He’ll not like that you’re moving in on his turf,” Johnny says.

“He can suck my dick too.” I smile.

Johnny grins. “Then what would I have to do?”

“I dunno." I shrug. "Watch?”

“Not my thing.” He quickly leans forward and kisses me. Just a peck. “Go home. Please.”

“Mmmmm…….I’ll think about it.”

“Think hard.” Johnny smiles. “I got a surprise for you.”

“Oh really?”

“Something nice.”

The crowd is clapping. We’ve missed something. Miss actress of the decade has left the stage.

Tony Stark- the host of this event- gets up and thanks the crowd. Tells them to enjoy the dinner.

“You’ve made me miss my mark.” I pout. “It had better be amazing.”

“Well, you can’t open it here.” He says with a lilt to his voice. Johnny's trying to play an angle. It doesn't suit him.

“I think you’re just trying to get me to leave.” I cross my arms. I've decided I'm not going. He'll have to drag me out. And he hates causing a scene. So it's a 50/50 chance he won't. And I'll win. I like winning. I'll win and he'll get upset. He'll get upset and he'll decide to 'take matters into his own hands'. And I'll like that.

Part of being as Masochist is liking pain. I mean a major part. I go a step beyond that- I crave pain. I think it makes me stronger. It does more than gets me off- it makes me a better person. A more stable person.

Johnny doesn't exactly understand this completely... but he does his best.

I thank him for that.... but know when to push his buttons to get a desired reaction. It's been a few days since my last 'session' - that's what he calls it- and I could very much be in need of another. Making him 'handle me' would result in that.

Johnny winks. “Never.”

“My mark is gone. Surely you can let me enjoy the party.” I say.

“No. I can’t. Who knows who else you might want to off?” Johnny crosses his arms. "Go home."

No one.

That’s over.

“I wasn’t going to do it anyway,” I admit. “I was curious as to what she was selling.”

“I thought you didn’t like it.” He says.

“I don’t.” I agree.

Johnny offers his arm to me. “Let me walk you to your car, dear.”

“I took a cab.” I try to make this difficult on him. I’m bored. Vexing my boyfriend is a sport of me.

People call me ‘high maintenance for this. I usually try to kill those people. Or.. in the very least- maim them.

He gives his arm a small shake. “Let me call you a cab then.”

“Oh, you are smooth.” I chuckle.

“I’m determined.” He corrects. “No bad guy stuff.”

“It’s not ‘bad guy stuff’. If anything it’s anti-hero stuff. I’m doing it for the greater goo-“ I can’t even keep a straight face.

“Daken.” He laughs. "You can't even get through that sentence."

“I for one am very concerned for the children.” I put my hand on my chest. “I want to help them- you know.”

“Thought ‘everyone had to grow up at some point’,” Johnny says.

“I hear eighteen is the proper age,” I smirk.

Johnny chuckles. “Go home. I got you a new toy.”

“A toy toy or a fun toy?”

“Gadget toy.”

Fun. A present? I like presents.

“Ohhhh…. fun gadget?”

“MM-hmm.”

I know just what I want.... and I think he does too.

“Does it make calls?”

“Mmm hmm.”

So he does. Good. I didn't expect this- but it's a nice surprise.

“Is it from one of your promoters?”

Johnny’s been driving race cars again. His promoters give him nice things. Expensive things. We're both greatly benefiting from their generosity.

“Mmm hmm.” He says for the third time.

“Is it the black one?”

“You act like I don't know you.” Johnny scoffs.

I smile. “I love it already.”

“Of course you do. Spoiled little brat.”

“Guilty,” I admit. I am slightly spoiled. It's not really an insult.

Music picks up in the background and the crowd takes a seat, person by person. Food is being served and a few couples who have already had one too many are on the dance floor that’s now empty.

“Go home. It’s on your nightstand.”

“You were in my house?” I’m not even trying to act upset. Johnny has a key. God knows why I gave it to him- but I did. I gave him a key and didn’t get the locks changed. People call this ‘improvement’.

“Had to drop off some shit you left at my house.” He says.

“Oh?” What did I leave? Hmm. Let me think. Obviously not something I needed.

“Personal shit?” He's being vague. What was it?

“Oh?” I repeat.

“A toy.” He whispers. “You left a toy in my bedroom. Franklin found it.”

Now I’m smiling. Oh. That's what I left behind.

“God forbid they think it’s yours.” I tease.

“You can’t leave fucking dildos in my bedroom.” He hisses.

I pat his cheek. “But it’s so much fun.”

He smiles. “Go home.” He repeats. “Enjoy your phone.”

“And you?”

“The team has to stay. Press coverage and all that.” He rolls his eyes. "I'll be here for at least two more hours."

“God forbid you miss out on good press.” I tease again.

Johnny sighs a long suffering sigh. “Go home Daken. Please?”

“I do love it when you beg,” I say in a sing-song tone.

“Please,” he repeats. “Go home. Go play on your phone. On your laptop. On your Smart TV- whatever. Just leave.”

“Part of me thinks you don’t want to see me.” I sigh, letting a twinge of sadness creep into my tone. Not seriously. It’s manipulation in it’s finest form.

“Of course I want to see you.” He buys it too easily. Sometimes, I almost feel bad for playing with him like I do.

“Really?” I put that tone in my voice. Hopeful.

I am designed for this. Deception. Even in something as little as this. It’s beyond normal. I used to try to fuck with everyone around me. It made me feel in control.
Like revealing bits and pieces of my training to Logan that one time however long ago. I lied. If anything- I made it seem less than it was. I wanted him to feel guilty… but if I pushed too hard all I would get would be pity.

I’d hate for him to pity me.

He nods. “Of course, baby. It’s just…. I mean… You were trying to kill someone.”

“I was contemplating killing someone.” I correct. “The jury was still out.”

“Case dismissed entirely then.” He says with a nod.

“Not your call.”

“As a hero-“

“As A hero-“ I mock.

“It’s my job-“

“It’s my job-“

“Daken!” He snaps.

I grin. “Yes, my love?”

“Stop it.”

We’re the only two left standing at this point. Not good for coverage. I know his friends see us.

“Stop what?”

“Mocking me.” He frowns. “I don’t like it.”

I grin. “That’s why I do it.”

Johnny sighs that sigh again. “Go home, Daken.” He repeats for the thousandth time. “I’ll come see you after?”

“Maybe. I could have a hot date.”

“The only date you better be having is with BOB.” He says.

“BOB?” Curious.

“Your battery operated boyfriend.” He smirks.

Oh so we're going there- are we?

I have a large collection of BOB's. I'm sexual by nature. Hence the pheromone inducing powers. Romulus used to say I would have made a very successful woman. Whatever that was supposed to mean. I still try to figure that one out, even all these years later. I'm mostly sold on it being a compliment. Mostly.

“I wouldn’t need BOB if you would come home with me.” I smile.

“I can’t.” He looks around the room. “You look nice, by the way. Very handsome.” He drops his voice down low. We're out in the open now. No kissing. No touching. Dropped voices.

For someone out of the closet, he's so.... in the closet sometimes.

I tease him about most times. Tonight- I think I'll let it slide. We're in front of his colleagues now. No need to embarrass him.

“You sound surprised.”

“Not really.” He smiles, eyes on the floor. Bashful suddenly. “You always dress up when I’m not around?”

“Johnny, did you honestly think I would come without knowing you were here?” I sigh.

He smiles. “AH.”

“Ah.”

He motions to the empty stage. “What do you have against Dr. Stavis anyway?”

“Other than her act being complete bullshit?” I say with a dry chuckle.

“Bullshit?”

“Nobody cares about those programs, Johnny. Those kids are cannon fodder. Used until they are no longer of use or they get caught. If they get executed when they’re older it just means their masters no longer have need of them. There will always be new masters. There will always be more children. There will always be more programs. Shutting them down just doesn’t work. It’s just how these things go. Yes, the kids are suffering- yes. It’s true. But that’s just a fact of life. Some kids get to grow up with mommy and daddy and a big white house with a big white fence and two dogs and Sunday morning breakfasts and cookouts and daddy teaching them how to ride a bike and how to grow into a successful adult….. and some kids get a whip to the back and a fist in their gut. It happens. That’s life. Is it fair? No. But it is practical. In the end- no one cares. They don’t have to. They come to events like this and look at pictures and hear sob stories and donate money to a cause that will cease to be important to them right after they leave this place and-“

“Daken…..” Johnny stops me mid-rant. “Baby…. are you okay?”

Okay?

“I’m fine. Why do you ask?” A little shocked that he has to ask that.

He looks down again. “You just….. uh… never mind. It’s not important.”

“No. What was it?”

Tell me.
What could I have possibly done to achieve that response?

“Some of the runoff… it feels like you’re… sad.”

“I’m not sad.” I scoff.

I'm not sad. Why would I feel sad?

He's sad. He's sad and he's blaming it on my powers. My powers are well in check tonight, thank you very much. I worked very hard to get them this way. If he thinks I'm going to just walk around emoting random emotions- he's wrong. Besides the fact that it's tiring- I've got better things to do than performing this little trick to entertain people.

“You’re pushing sad.”

“I’m not pushing anything,” I say. “Maybe you’re just naturally feeling sad. YOU, unlike these bastards, have a good heart. These things bother you.”

Part of why he’s so endearing.

Johnny smiles… but I don’t quite understand how to read it.

“See you after?”

“Are you still making me leave?” I ask, somewhat in shock. He's got a hell of a backbone tonight.

He nods. “Go home.”

“Any other orders you wish for me to complete? I am forever your slave oh glorious heated one.”

Johnny shakes his head. “Go home or come with me to the bar.”

“Is that an invitation to stay?” That's more like it.

He nods. “If you promise to behave.”

“Behave? Me?” That makes me smirk.

“We’re going to have to talk about your six kills.”

Ah.

My punishment.

The thing I've been looking forward to as soon as I finished my mission.

“Oh? And what are you thinking?”

Johnny crosses his arms. “I’d spank you…. but you came when I did that.”

Johnny punishes me as per my request. I learn better with pain. Unfortunately, it has to be the right kind of pain. We’re still trying to figure it out.

“I did make you cry out- though.” He sounds to be in thought.

“Oh yes. Another spanking would be glorious.” I smile.

“We could…. I don’t know.” He frowns.

“You think on that.”

“I should make you write it out 100 times. They used to do that to me in school.” He says. "It was so annoying."

“And are you going to count how many times I write it?” I would stop at some arbitrary number. Like seventy-two. Then he'd have to get physical with me.

Johnny frowns. “Not really.”

“Then however will you know I did it?” I flash him my most charming smile.

Johnny puts a finger to his chin. “You’re just trying to talk me into another spanking. That’s not going to happen. You asked me to do this for you… we can’t make it something you’ll like.”

I snort. “Good luck with that. I like most everything.”

“I know.” He says. “That’s the problem.”

Spankings are as violent as he can stand. He can get some pretty good licks in. We do other things- sure. But those are me pushing him. Burns, cuts, lashes- I have an appetite for it all. I love it all. Johnny understands as best he can.

It’s nothing like it was. Romulus’ brand of punishment was something to behold. I think the acts he committed- the things I’ve had done to me- would make Johnny physically ill. I don’t want to do that to him so I keep my mouth shut. Better to just say nothing sometimes.

Maybe that’s why today interests me so much. The fact that… I guess… I was one of those children. One of the ones who help never came for.

Wah. Wah. wah.
My life is so hard. I’m so miserable.
Wah. Wah. Wah.

Please. Give me a break.

“I got it.” He’s back in my ear. “I finally got it.”

“Got what?”

I got distracted.

“Your punishment.” he smiles.

“Oh really?” This ought to be good.

He nods. “It’s great.”

“I doubt that.” I scoff.

“It really is. I’m a genius.”

Isn't that cute?

The punishments he makes himself without my input are... inventive. I'll give him that.

Johnny doesn't get off on beating me.

As much as I'd like him to be- Johnny is not a sadist.

It says something that the only relationship I've ever held- the one with my master- was a violent S&M fucked up sort of thing. Something that would make the bravest of masochists draw the line.

What I can handle- few can.

Johnny can't understand that. No matter how much I try to make him.

“This I’ve got to hear.” I grin.

He’s going to beat me. Finally. Something physical.

“Mm-hmm.” He nods. “But… I’ve got to set it up first.”

“Set up? That sounds fun.”

He nods again. “I thought about it last week, actually.”

“While I was gone?”

“I knew you were bound to slip up….. and I was talking to one of Reed’s friends about you.”

“Oh really?”

“Mmhmm.” He smiles. “Gimme a few weeks.”

“A few weeks?” I laugh. “For a punishment?”

“Let you sit and stew on it for a while.” He grins.

I lean into his space, getting in his ear. “Makes me a little hard thinking about it.”

He smiles. “Then you should definitely go home.”

“Or.. side thought- we could go to the bathroom.” Options Johnny. I'm giving you options.

“At a charity event?” He grins.

“Do it for the kids.” I smile.

“That’s just creepy.” He teases.

I frown. “That did sound creepy.” Losing my touch a little there. What is it with me tonight? I feel off in general.

Definitely going to need Johnny to do something about that.

I don't think I can wait a few weeks for what he has in mind. I might have to push him.

He hates when I do that... but a little later he at least understands why I do it.

He's good with everything (Sorta) that doesn't involve sex sex. Lust is fine. Making out is fine. Oral is fine. Sex- no. He feels like he's 'raping' me. He doesn't like it. Romulus went as far to actually rape me. Several times. He didn't share Johnny's qualms or sensibilities. I tried telling Johnny once and ended up somehow making him cry. I didn't actually mention Romulus per se... but I did mention being raped. Trying to assure him that what he did was nothing like that. He came up with this off the wall idea about my going to some sort of support group.

Needless to say- that was quickly shut down.

“You’re losing it.” He teases.

“Take that back.” I gasp.

He wraps his arm around my shoulder. “Bar or home. Your choice.”

I think about it. I have a new gadget at home. And I’ve lost my mark. I’ll have to tell Mr. Mob man that I’ve changed my mind. It’s not like I said I'd do it to begin with. I said I’d THINK about doing it. If he holds that against me then that’s on him.

I should have known Johnny would stop me.
Or at least try to.

Maybe that’s why I took the job.

For him- I try to curb some of my .. instincts. IE he’s really not okay with the killing. Hence the punishments.

I’m punished for each kill I make….. regardless of if it’s in self-defense or something like that.

I’m supposed to be leaving these fuckers alive.

He wants to hear the stories to make 'fairer judgments'… but I don’t want to tell him. One of my kills was actually something good this time. I stopped a woman from being assaulted. Johnny would be over the moon if I told him that. He most definitely wouldn’t hit me. And I… I need to be hit.

I don’t know how to do a healthy relationship. The only one I’ve ever actually had was with Romulus. You can slice that however you want to slice it- all of it comes up ‘unhealthy’. Unhealthy, insane, deranged- people have called it several different things over the years.

One particular woman one time, 'do you need help Daken. Just tell me you need help. tell me. I'll help you. There are people that want to help you.' It was bullshit. I suspected it was one of Romulus' tricks to make me reveal to someone else what he was doing to me. I turned the woman down. She left after that. Mission completed. Test passed. I wasn't rewarded- in fact, Romulus never said anything about it. Not a single damn thing.

“Bar or home.” He says again.

“Buy me shots,” I order, snapping out of my memories.

“Can I hear a please?” He chuckles.

“Buy me shots…. please.”

"That's better." Johnny smiles. “What will it be?”

I lean into him. “Tequila.”

“It’s that kind of night is it?”

I nod. “I just missed out on 150k. Buy me expensive Tequila to compensate for my loss.”

Johnny grins wider. “Compensate for your loss?”

“I am very sad.” I pout my lip out. “See? Sad. So, so, so sad. Destroyed even. I think I’ll need another new phone to make up for it.”

“I’m not rewarding you for not killing someone.” He laughs.

We’re moving towards the bar.

The charity event is hosted inside the ballroom of a local museum. "Ballroom" is used quite liberally for what it actually is. There is a nice chandelier though.... and the lights around the room are blues and purples. Illuminating the high ceilings and stained glass that makes up the windows that don said ceiling. The night sky shows through wonderfully. The storms of yesterday all but passed.

Tonight is beautiful- all things considered.

And it's Johnny and my first night back together after a mission. There should be some level of celebration. A date in the very least.

“You punish me for killing them. Rewarding me is the same premise.”I remind him.

“No. Because it’s supposed to come naturally. You’re not learning if you’re keeping people alive just to get a reward.”

“Sounds like I’d be learning perfectly,” I smirk.

Johnny shakes his head. “I’m remembering all of this.”

My mind slows for a second- taking everything in. “For my punishment?”

He nods.

“I like it more and more,” I say simply.

We make our way to the bar. An oak bar with a few stools set in front of it. Behind it are rows and rows of expensive alcohol. The whole thing has bright lighting, showing through the bottles in almost a kaleidoscope of color. It's quite pretty. It'd be prettier if I was drunk.

I should remedy that.

Johnny orders a shot of Tequila for me, passing it over as soon as it poured. “Drink up.”

“Trying to get me drunk now, Mr. Storm?” I ask.

It's like he's reading my mind.

He nods. “If you’re drunk- you’ll stay busy.”

“You sound like you’re going to leave me alone.” That's bullshit. He's supposed to be with me. I just got off a mission.

I mean logically I know that I can't have all of his attention- of course I do. But I wanted most of it tonight. Especially after he aborted my mission.

“I am going to leave you alone. Just for ten minutes or so. I’ve got to make an appearance for the press. Ya know. Make it look good.”

The bartender in front of us is a twenty-something bleach blonde mountain of muscle. He looks fun. Straight. But fun.

“Keep these coming,” Johnny says to him. “Put them on my tab.” He leans in my ear. “Be good… please.”

Be good? Please.

“Of course.” I lie to his face.

Johnny frowns. “I don’t believe you.”

“You’re getting smarter.” I smile.

“Daken I will lock you in a broom closet if you go after anyone else.”

“Like I can’t get out of a closet.” I scoff. “Getting out of closets seems to be your hang up. Not mine.”

“OOOOOH Harsh burn there darling.” He puts a hand on his chest. “Point stands. Don’t start anything.”

“I won’t.”

“I don’t believe you.” He repeats.

“We’re going in circles.”

“Just…”

“Oh look!” I spot someone across the bar. “It’s your sister.”

“Daken.” He growls.

"Wonder what her take on all this is?"

Sue doesn't know about the whole pseudo-S&M relationship her little brother has entangled himself in. Johnny is terrified that I'll tell her.
I wouldn't- of course. And part of him really does know that. But... there's an uncertain part that thinks I might. And that part makes him nervous when Susan and I interact.

“Susan!” I wave to her. “Come sit with us.”

“What are you doing?” He whispers in a panic.

Sue is dressed in all blue, showing a respectable amount of cleavage. Her makeup’s done in that way artists do that makes it look natural while in reality coating someone with it. It looks good on her.

“Boys.” She greats, sliding up into a stool beside me. She sets a blue clutch on the bar. Sensible. Not too flashy.

It's designer. I know it must have cost upwards of twelve hundred bucks. However does she get such nice things while being a full-time mom and hero- I wonder? Then I remember that Reed probably makes a shit ton of money that the two of them don't brag about. Enough to have the nice home. Enough to support the team. Enough to supply to charities. Good people, the Richards are. When they're not running about possibly ripping holes in the space-time continuum.

Yea Reed. Looking at you.

Wonder where he actually is tonight?

He's rather fun to mess with. As smart as he may be, he doesn't catch on to manipulation nearly as fast as he should. It's become quite a fun game to me.

I only stop when Ben is around... because we both know he'll pound me through a wall if I do anything extreme.

“Hey, sis.” Johnny looks a deer caught in the headlights.

“What’re we drinking?”

“Tequila.” I raise my shot glass. “Johnny’s buying.”

The liquid always packs a punch. Always. No matter how many times I drink it. I’m just more prepared this time around.

“Tequila, huh?” She smiles. “At a charity event?”

“Living dangerously.” Johnny stares me down.

I see his thoughts almost.

Most of them reading "Don't do it".

I release a small stream of 'calm down' pheromones. Enough for him not to really notice he's being affected... but to still take the edge off.

The best way for Sue to know that he's hiding something is for him to act like he's acting. He doesn't understand this. After all these years of living with his sister- he doesn't understand it. It's adorable, really.

Sue calls the bartender’s attention to her. “Can I just get a bottled water?”

The man procures one for her and sets it on the bar.

“Not drinking?” I ask pleasantly.

“Charity event.” She nods to Johnny. “You should be watching what you drink.”

“I’m not drinking,” Johnny says defensively.

“Good.” She nods to me. “And you’re behaving as well?”

Behaving? What is it with this family?

I smile at her. “Perhaps.”

“Mmm hmm. I’m sure your presence had nothing to do with the contract placed on the good doctor’s head.”

“You wound me.”

Sue actually smiles. “And my darling baby brother has once again foiled you.”

“My, aren’t you a smart cookie.”

Sue chuckles. “The world is once again safe.”

“From the likes of me? Of course. Johnny’s golden dick handles me quite well.”

Sue snorts and Johnny turns the color of a beet.

“Daken.” He warns.

“I’m behaving.” I counter.

"I guess I'll see the two of you later, then." Sue smiles at us and picks up her clutch and her water bottle, heading back towards the back of the room.

“You scared her off.” I pout.

“Are you done?” He hisses.

“Done?”

“Done,” he repeats. “It’s time for you to go home.”

“Because I talked about your dick?” I scoff.

“To my sister.” He says pointedly.

“Like she hasn’t seen your dick before. You were children together.”

“That doesn’t matter.” He growls. “We don’t talk like that to my sister.”

“All I said was that you have a golden dick. That’s a compliment. I think the words you’re trying to express are “Thank you”.”

“Thank you-“

“You’re welcome.” I shake the shot glass in front of me, calling over the bartender.

Jonny puts his hand over the glass before it can be filled. “I don’t think so.”

“I can’t drink?”

“I’m cutting you off.” He growls.

“Not likely.” I shake his hand off my glass. “Two more, please.”

“No more,” Johnny says,

The bartender brings me the drinks, which I shoot both of while staring at Johnny- daring him to stop me.

"Come on dude," Johnny says to the bartender. "Seriously?"

"He's on the side that sells the most alcohol." I smile. "AKA my side."

"Daken-stop."

"Two more," I tell the bartender.

"No more," Johnny repeats.

The bartender brings the drinks. He gives Johnny a shrug in a 'what are you going to do' sort of motion.

"You're being a brat." Johnny hisses.

I nod my thanks to the bartender and shot my drinks.

The liquor packs a punch. Especially with how fast I've been drinking them.

"Want to play a game with me?" I ask the bartender.

"Uh sure." His voice doesn't match his body. Odd.

"It's called 'guess the size of the famous Human Torch's dick. If you get it wrong- you have to take a shot. If you get it right-"

"Daken!" Johnny snaps.

Good. He's angry.

He's getting to where I need him to be.

"Eigh-"

"Enough!" Johnny snaps again.

"Bigger."

"Wow." Says the bartender.

"Stop it." Johnny hisses. "Stop it. Stop it. Stop it."

"Oh look!" I point across the bar. "It's Ben. Maybe he'd like to play-"

Johnny takes me by the shoulders.“Daken…. you’re acting up tonight. You told me- in your own words- what to do when you do this.”

Yes. Yes, I did. I gave him a glimpse into what would have been done had I stayed the course and been reared to completion by Romulus. I’m sure my training would have stopped at a century. As is, I’m twenty-five years too early. I sense that. I tell Johnny how to ‘help’ me.

It’s a hold I have on him.
It’s a hold he has on me.

He can let out his demons on me- I encourage it. I even make it worse intentionally.

I need this. I can’t tell him that in words. That’s not saying I don’t take care of him afterward. When he holds me close and sobs because he ‘went too hard’. He thinks it's just him taking care of me... but he needs that wind down as well. I shush him while I heal. Letting him know it's all okay at that he's still heroic of heart.

“Acting up?” I ask in faux innocence.

Yes. Be mad at me.

“You know what I mean.” He frowns. “I think you’re doing it on purpose.”

“Am I?”

He glares at me. “Go home.”

“Maybe I’ll go after Tony.” I glance in the man’s direction. “That would be a fun fight.”

“Go HOME.” Johnny orders.

“Maybe I go after some of the other mercs? Thin the heard?”

I shake the glass again.

Johnny takes it from me and gives it the bartender. “He’s had enough.” He growls. "Go somewhere else."

The bartender nods and goes to tend the bar elsewhere.

“Ohhhhh someone found his balls.”

“I never lost my balls.” He hisses. “Why are you acting like this?”

“I’ve been gone too long.” I smile. “I need to be reminded of my station.”

“Reminded of your… come on Daken. Baby- please. Don’t do this tonight.”

Tonight? Why not tonight?
Everything else has gone to shit.

Tonight is perfect. He can beat the shit out of me. And then we can cuddle. Something I want- something he probably wants. It's literally win/win.

“Because you’re mad?” I try to add fuel to the growing fire.

He nods.

“Why?”

“Six kills. Attempted murder. Consorting with a mob boss.” He counts them out on his fingers. “That’s why I’m mad tonight.”

I hold up one finger. “Embarrassed Johnny in front of his sister and the bartender.”

Johnny reaches over and pushes my finger down, showing me his three again. “My three. We’re doing my three.”

“Johnny-“

“If you don’t go home- I will have to…. I don’t know." he's getting flustered. It's adorable. "Uh- I ... Punish you!” He snaps finally.

Yes. No weeks waiting for me. We can do it tonight. OH! We can do it here. That would be amazing.

“That I like.” I smile. I send out the smallest stream of pheromones. I want Johnny angry. Not ‘leave’ angry, though. So I hit him with a good dash of lust just to be certain. His scent shifts. His heartbeat picks up. He smells.. hot. I can smell his arousal. It’s working.

"Daken..." He almost growls.

"Yes, lover?"

He shakes his head as if trying to clear it.

It hit him again- just to be sure.

“Six kills,” he says randomly. “Now. My car.”

“What- because I made you embarrassed?” I scoff. Pretend you did nothing. That's the way to go.

“Because of your behavior tonight- yes.” He nods. “Six kills. My car. Now.”

I may have pushed just a little too hard.

I… like this response.

We leave the ballroom, as soon as we're passed the door, he puts his hand on the scruff of my neck, holding me at a steady pace. It's... luxurious.

His cars in the car garage adjacent to the museum. We go by car after car. The charity event has just really gotten underway. No one is leaving at this moment. Perfect timing. Perfect setting. We can even leave blood…. a lot of blood.

Now the question is- what kind of punishment will it be? How far can I push him? How far do I want to push him? Is there a line he won’t want to cross?

Sex.

I can’t make him fuck me.

I mean… I can but..

He takes me his car. No one’s around.

It's just what I wanted.

“Lean over the hood. Hands where I can see them.”

I like this a lot.

I bend over slowly.

“Ass up.”

I definitely like this.

There’s no hit. No sound of a belt being undone. He doesn’t even take my pants down.

He’s… stalling. Maybe if I hit him with another dose….

The first smack is across the back of my thighs. Well below my ass.

I have to admit I’m shocked as to the placement.

"Thought you weren't going to spank me anymore." I tease.

“Ass up.” He repeats.

The second blow is in the exact same place.

“Up,” he repeats yet again. I don’t know what more he expects from me.

“It is up!” I glance over my shoulder just in time to see him pulling my pants down.

I want to say something seductive- but he slaps the shit out of my thighs again.

“Aim up- would you? My ass would hurt way more than my thighs."

“Don’t growl at me.” He smacks me yet again.

“Johnny- aim higher. Please.”

“You don’t like this?”

I shake my head as he hits me again.

“Then you won’t kill anymore- will you?”

I keep my back rigid.

My thighs are burning. Literally burning. His hands are hot.

I love it. This is what I need.

This is what I’ve always needed. Burn me. Hit me. Mark me. Shape me.

Mold me.

Make me- take me- build me.

“OWW!” I howl as he brings his hot hand down across my sensitive flesh. "Yes!" I'm hard. He doesn't seem to notice.

He hits me three more times- rapid succession.

“Ass up.” He says, bending over and ‘guiding’ me into the perfect position. My hands on the hood, knees on the bumper. A perfect angle for doggie. “Perfect.” he backs off. There’s the sound of something being tapped- barely audible clicks.
He’s taking pictures.

Guess I pushed just the right amount of lust.

My thighs are burning. I can smell the stench of burnt flesh.

He... isn't going to like this when he comes to.

“This is my favorite car.” He’s at my back again. “And this is my favorite position.”

“Nice of you to mix the two.” I smile.

“Mm-hmm.” He plays with my ass a little. Feather light touches of scolding hot hands. “If I finger fuck you will you behave? Like a good boy?”

I nod. I like that idea. Especially at his current body heat.

Internal burns are a hell of a thing. A delicacy few can stand.

I like this direction a lot. My powers are of perfect use to me. So well suited. I use them so naturally. Honestly, I feel like I should be congratulated.
Thank you, Daken. Thank you for learning how to manipulate so finely. Everyone is your personal toy.

“Wet.” He’s pushing his fingers in my mouth. I suck them leisurely, feeling my tongue blister.

“Hurry.” He warns.

I slow my sucking down.

“Hurry,” he repeats. “You’re burning.”

I nip at them. He still has presence of mind. I’ll have to take care of that shortly.

“Enough.” He growls, removing them.

Enter me. Quickly.

“MMMM. You make a good picture my little slut.”

Good picture he says? I can make it better. I spread my legs as much as I can without falling off the car.

“What’s this? Are you inviting me in?” He blinks. “Uh…” he sounds distracted. “What was I saying?”

This is not where I need him to be.

He sounds like he’s wavering. I need to push harder.

I don’t know whether to push lust of violence- though. The spanking was somewhat enjoyable. Maybe we can mix the two? I push lust first. He takes a deep inhale. It’s perfect.

He likes it. He really likes it.

I mean… of course he does. My body is perfect. My face is agreeable. My clothes are designer. I’m meant to be enjoyed. Eye candy.

Now violence. Just a little-Scorching hands of actual flame grip my hips.

FUCK!

YES.

There’s smoke.

There’s smoke there’s pain. It’s exquisite.

“Johnny!”

He rams into me- without stretching or slicking himself up. It’s pain. My insides are burning.

This is the best.

My head lolls to the side as my body moves with his thrusts.

“Take it.” He growls. “You filthy, condescending son of a-“ He stops, mid-sentence.

I could cum from this.

I feel tears in my eyes.

“JOhnny?”

“Whoah.” Johnny takes a step back, pulling out and extinguishing himself. “Woah.”

Fuck. I slipped.

“Johnny?” My voice is strained.

“Oh my god.” He gasps. “Oh my god… I’m sorry- baby I’m so sorry. Let me get you some ice- okay? Oh my god. I was inside of you. I… Oh my god. Ice. We need ice. There’s bound to be some ice. Don’t move - okay? Don’t move. Let’s go get you some ice. Don’t move- ”

“Johnny wait-“

“I’m so sorry.” He sounds tearful. “Daken- really. I’m sorry. I went too far. This is on me. I’m so sorry baby.”

Oh fuck.

“Johnny-“

“I would never do that to you.” He hiccups. “Okay? I would never do that. I don’t know what happened. Baby? Okay? I don’t want to hurt you.l’m so sorry. Let me take care of it okay? I understand if you don’t want to see me anymore- I went too far. I-“

“I made you do it,” I confess, hissing as my flesh starts to heal.

“You… made me do it?” he sounds heartbroken.

“Pheromones…. again.”

“Your….” He sighs, clenching his fist and unclenching it. “Let me get you some ice.”

And he leaves. Putting my clothes back on would be excruciating. I think he was on fire inside of me. Moving is painful.

So I sit, on all fours, with my pants down, on the hood of his sports car and wait.

Luckily no one comes into the garage.

He feels like shit.

This is on me. Once again.

I hope he doesn’t leave.

I hope-

When I hear the sound of running footsteps, I don’t worry about being caught. I know it’s Johnny before he comes into sight.

“Here we go.” He soothes, taking a hand full of ice and pushing it to my right hip. It’s painful still- but slightly less. “Here we go,” he repeats. “Here we go.” He keeps saying it. “Little more on this side.” He applies ice to the left side. “Here we go.”

It feels good.

“Johnny-“

“Hmm?”

I like aftercare. It’s a relatively new concept for me. Romulus never engaged in it. Johnny- however- does. After a ‘scene’ or a ‘punishment’, he takes care of me. Burns are handled. Lacerations are managed. Things are taken care of while I heal. Part of me likes it so much because he tells me how special I am to him. How important I am. How he can’t live without me.

“I’m sorry.”

Johnny sighs deeply. “As long as I didn’t do it on my own.” He says in a whisper.

“Do-“

“Burning you? Raping you like that?”

“You didn’t rape me.”

He applies more ice. “I didn’t ask you if I could fuck you like that… it was really rough.”

“That doesn’t mean it’s rape.”

“If felt like rape.” he says.

“It wasn’t.”

I get to wind him down now.

I let out a sigh of contentedness as the healing progresses.

I did well.

Johnny’s not leaving.

Johnny pulls back. “Baby?”

“Mmm?”

“More ice?”

I nod.
“Did I burn you internally?” He asks.

I nod again.

“Do we have to wait for that to heal on its own?”

I nod for the third time.

“I can’t-“

“What are you going to do- shove ice up my ass? Wait. It’ll heal.”

He applies cold wet hands to my hips again.

We’re quiet.

Why isn’t he telling me how important I am? Where is my verbal praise?

“Daken?”Here it comes. Here it comes. “Why do you make me do this to you?” His voice is quiet.

Uh… what?

“Sorry?”

“You pushed me. You know I don’t like hurting you. Especially burning. You know how I feel about accidentally burning someone.”

That… is not praise.

“I came to kill someone. You punished me.” Now praise.

“I burned you.” He puts more ice on my hips. “Pretty badly. And the sex? I just..” He moves his free hand up and strokes me through my jacket. “Baby… why?”

“I…. like it.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m learning.” I look over my shoulder.

“You’re learning?”

I nod.

“So I have to fuck you raw and burn you?”

I nod again.

Johnny purses his lips. “Daken…. I think there needs…I don’t know. I want to do my original plan.”

“Plan?”

“For your ‘punishment’.”

“But I’ve already been punished.”

Surely that was enough for six kills. It left a mark. I’ll remember it.

“I know- I know. But that … wasn’t mine. You did that. I didn’t really get a say in it.”

“Ah.”

“And…. well… what I want… I don’t think you’ll do if I don’t make you.”

I think about it.

“So I’m still being punished?”

“You’re being punished for how you made me punish you.” he says.

“That’s not fair.” I try to straighten up, but find it almost impossible.

“Easy.” he soothes. “Rest up.” More ice is added to my burns. Johnny hums a song to himself. He does that in aftercare. Sings. Hums. Things that make him sound happy and cheerful. Like he likes taking care of me.

He can do all this… but not praise me. In fact, he’s talking about punishing me again. Why would he do that? You don’t do that in aftercare. He knows better.

We stand still for another five minutes. Finally, I give up and slump down on his hood, resting my cheek against the metal and dozing off.
There’s a slight tug as he dresses me.

“Baby?” He’s in my ear.

“Hmm?”

“Want me to drive you home?”

“Home?”

He massages my shoulder.

“Are you going to punish me there?” I don’t think I can do this again tonight.

He rubs a little harder. “No. Actually…. what I have in mind isn’t really a punishment.. per se. Maybe that’s not the best way to look at it… .it’s something you’re going to do because of your actions… but it won’t hurt you in the slightest.”

“Oh really?” I turn around. “That sounds dull.”

“Really.” He smiles. “And it’s not dull. It’s something that’s in your best interest.”

“In my best interest?”

He nods. “We’ve uh... talked about it before.”

Have we?

“I don’t recall.”

He chuckles. “You will.”

I let that sit for a moment.

“You’re so special to me.” He says. “So, so, special. I love you so much.” There’s the praise.“I’d do anything to see you happy.” Hence the whole ‘pain to learn’ thing to begin with. “And you’re going to .. well not like what happens next.” that stops me.

“Johnny… what exactly are you having me do?”

Something that we’ve done before? There are a few things he’s done to me that I straight out didn’t like. Just a few. I can’t imagine him being willing to try one again. Especially not after tonight.

He smiles. “Reed has a friend…. he’s a doctor.”

“What kind of doctor?” My voice is low.

Johnny continues to look down. “Just a doctor.”

“I’m not sick,” I say defensively. “We’ve been over this. I’ll heal in minutes.”

He hasn’t really trusted my healing factor since it’s been returned to me. I was without it for a while- back when I was missing pieces. Those pieces regrowing made him nervous. He hasn’t trusted my body to heal like he would have a few years back.

“I know, I know. It’s… well…”

“Johnny- what kind of doctor?” I ask in the most serious of tones I can manage.

I’ve got an inkling of what he’s talking bout- and he better not be talking about it. Not right now. Not to me.

This is sacred time. The time when we express how much we mean to each other. When I get to feel that someone cares enough for me that they’re willing to stay with me after the hurt. The time when I gain power from the experience. He had better respect this time as much as I do.

“The kind that handles… emotional problems… ya know stuff to do with your-“

“Oh fuck no,” I growl, turning on him.

That’s what I thought he was talking about.

“Baby- Please….”

“Don’t ‘baby please’ me. You did not just tell me to go see a shrink. Fuck you. This isn’t how this goes. ”

“Bear with me.” He says. “I… made you an appointment.”

“You….”

“I’ll pay for it.” He presses.

“Johnny-“

“It’s just a consultation.”

“Oh really now? How kind of you to make this decision for me.” I seethe.

He frowns. “That’s your punishment. You have to go meet with the doctor.”

“And what? Talk about my parents? Talk about some deeply rooted childhood scar that he can pick open and make my secrets ooze up from?”

Johnny sighs. “Daken….. there will be no more punishments of any way shape or form until you’ve carried this one out.”

“I’m learning. I need-“

“That’s it. That’s what you have to do.” He interrupts me. “That’s what you have to do.”

“When did you make the appointment?” I growl.

“Just now.” He says. "I was texting when I was taking care of you."

“You should see a therapist,” I counter.

“For what?” he laughs.

That…. for…

“For… uh…. god complex!”

He bursts out laughing. “God complex? Me?”

“All you heroes. You get to tell us who gets to go free, who gets to die, how the world gets to be saved- you all have God complexes.”

It’s a stretch… but I’m desperate.

“I’ll see him after you do. In fact… I thought maybe we could see him together.”

“Couples therapy???” I’m floored. “We work fine!”

“Couples therapy…. with a twist. The twist is that our relationship works…. and we just need some .. guidance figuring some stuff out.”

“Fuck your ‘guidance’. Like some stranger is going to-“

He pushes on my hip- making me wince.

“Look at what you had me do…. no.” he stops. “What you made me do.”

I inhale deeply.

“This is nothing.”

“This is everything.” He corrects. “You mean so much to me, Daken. Really. I’d do anything for you. This- right here? The fact that you need this shit- is killing me. I don’t like hurting you. In the bedroom- fine. I can spank you. I can slap you around. Fine. This? What we just did? We need help. Please- we need help.”

“Johnny-“

“He can see you this week. Monday…. I told him some about tonight and-“

That floors me again. “You told someone about this????”

“Baby- yes. He’s a doctor. This is something he can work with us on… maybe show us a better way to do it?”

That… is intriguing. So he doesn’t want to stop. He wants to redirect. Redirecting can be fun.

If all else fails I can just off the doctor.

Johnny would be pissed…. but it would blow over.

“Okay?” he rubs my shoulder.

“Okay.” I agree sullenly. “I’ll go.”

It’s my consequence.

“And I’ll go with you some other time.”

Then he won’t know if I really go- now will he? That has options. I’m not backed up into a corner. Things can be turned into something I find favorable.

“Okay.”

This has… possibilities.

“Okay.” he nods. “Let me take you home.”

“I thought you had ‘press interactions’ to deal with.”

Johnny pushes some stray hair from my face. It’s gotten a little longer. I haven’t cut it in a few years other than to shave the sides. Mohawks take a lot more work than you’d think.

He likes my hair. I usually don’t give a fuck what other people think- but Johnny likes it. And I like that he likes it.

“You’re more important.” He says softly.

I am- aren’t I?

I give him a smile. “I guess you could stay over.”

“That’s how it usually goes.”

He takes care of me for the rest of the night after things like this. Food. Bed. Drinks. Physical interaction that can sometimes lead to ‘love making’. It’s nice.

Yes. Aftercare is something I like. I didn’t think I would… but it’s nice to be worked down after getting yourself hurt.

I like that I don’t have to provoke this out of him.

He just does it.

Part of me wants to know what Sadist/ Masochist relationship he had before.

Johnny doesn’t get off on hurting people. If I don’t push arousal on him- he’s not aroused when he hits me.

Romulus used to thrive off hurting me.

His followers thrived off hurting me.

I grew up in a house of sadists. It was … amusing for them. People wonder why I have ‘masochistic tendencies’. There you go. House of sadists. It was ‘learn to like it’ or break. And I was broken enough as a child. When I got to my teens and adult years- I gave myself over to liking it. I liked it- therefore it couldn’t be used against me. I’m smart like that.

“Take me home.” I realize I haven’t said anything in a few moments.

Johnny helps me slide off the car, wrapping his arms around me for a second.

“I love you,” he tells me. “Please don’t ever forget that.”

How could I?

“I return your sentiment.” I don’t say ‘I love you’. Ever. I feel it. But I don’t say it.

Johnny smiles. “Good to know.”

It’s a hang up he doesn’t push.

He opens my door- deep and blue -and waits until I’ve fastened my seatbelt to close it.

Tonight is now about me. I like when things are about me.

Shrinks and punishments aside for the moment- tonight will be just what the doctor ordered… if that doctor happened to be as fucked up as I am- that is.

I doubt he is.. but it will be fun to find out just how far I can push him.

Fun at the expense of others is kinda my deal. So yes. I will let this play out. For now.

I’ll keep in Johnny’s good graces. At least initially. When it’s time for my next bout of masochism- who knows what I’ll do?

I mean I have a pretty good idea already… but who knows.

Chapter Text

Bacon has a distinct smell.

I’m not going to go all alpha male bullshit “Bacon is the best I put that shit on everything”- but it has a distinct smell none the less.

I like waking up to the smells of someone cooking. Since I live on my own- it doesn't happen that often. 

However, since giving Johnny a key- it happens more than it used to. 

That's something I like. 

He’s singing in the kitchen.

The sound of his voice mixed with the smell of bacon is something I’ve come to… enjoy. Usually on mornings when he’s not busy and can get to the house before I get up- he makes me breakfast. If he gets here after I’m up- we go out for breakfast. I actually woke up because of the singing.

I like it when he sings.

Though… he’s horrible at it.

He picks odd songs. A lot of rap here recently. I’m never more reminded of my boyfriend’s ineptitude in regards to rhythm more than when he tries to rap.

It’s adorable- I’ll admit it. Even I think it is.

And that says something. I’m not one to find things ‘cute’. Puppies, kittens, children, other baby animals- nope. Johnny rapping? Soft spot. Go figure.

When I go into my kitchen he’s moving around with frying pan in his hand. Bacon is sizzling in the pan even though I can tell from here that no stove burners are or have been lit.

The kitchen is one of those 'open space' like places. An Island separates it from the living room. Standing at the kitchen sink you can see the leather couch and the big screen TV. I cook most of my meals- dietary restrictions taken into account. I'm surprised Johnny could even find the correct foods for what he's making this morning. 

I don't even remember when the last time I bought bacon was. 

This must be things he brought with him. 

Beyond the bacon, it smells like he's frying eggs. 

Well no- not frying. Johnny doesn't fry eggs. He scrambles them. 

Personally, when I cook them, they're poached. Healthy. Always healthy. 

Johnny's cooking though. And that means scrambled eggs with cheese, pepper, and salt. All in generous amounts. 

The pan of eggs is sitting on the unlit stove- frying. Again- none of the burners are lit.

Johnny’s practicing this morning. That’s why he likes to cook. He has to focus when he heats things up. Especially if he’s not fully engulfed. Which he isn’t. Johnny’s flame free. He’s trying really hard from what I can tell.

Johnny’s powers are just so… so… fun. Fun to watch. Fun to use. Fun to-

“There you are!” He chirps when he sees me. “And you’re dressed!”

I roll my eyes. “And you were expecting something else?”

Johnny smiles. “No. Of course not. I knew you’d handle today with grace and dignity.”

“Oh sure.” I snort. “That’s why you’re here.”

"You're not happy to see me?" He teases. 

That makes me smile. "Of course I'm happy to see you. You're making my food." 

"Yep." He nods. "Eggs and bacon. My specialty." 

For some reason, he is good at making breakfast. More so than other meals. 

The skillets sizzle in unison. The one in his hand smelling more delicious than anything I've cooked in this kitchen in the last few days. 

"So... you just came here to cook me breakfast and wish me luck.... or...." 

He chuckles, plating the eggs and bacon on two separate plates. My glass plates. I don’t allow paper products in the house. It looks tacky.

“I’d be stupid to trust you to go on your own.” He’s smiling though. "I just came to... give you a push. Yea. That’s the way to put it." 

How odd. He’s got that tone like he’s joking… but he’s not. That’s an honest statement. A true to the core honest statement. He would be stupid to leave me alone.

"A push, hmm? What happened to 'grace and dignity'?" 

Johnny grins. "I uh... kinda thought you'd refuse to go when the day got here. You've been kinda vague every time we've talked about it." 

He's been trying to talk to me about this appointment for days. I've been politely avoiding the topic (in my opinion). 

"Vague? Try disinterested." 

"Disinterested or not, the days come and I'd appreciate your willingness to be... graceful." 

“It’s my punishment- is it not? This is what’s been ordered?” I try to make him feel…. guilty. Just a little bit. I want him to see my going through with this as something he should be grateful for. He’s calling the shots.. mostly. But when he’s not- I want him to know that I am. And even when he is, I want him to know that my voice is still being heard. I do this for you, Johnny. But do not mistake this for weakness. I told him that when we started this. Do not mistake my love of inflicted pain and willingness to learn for you as a weakness.

I am not weak. I have never been weak. I will NEVER be weak.

He can get that out of his head right now. …That is if that’s what he’s thinking. Johnny is Johnny. I don’t have a clue how he thinks. He’s so off the wall sometimes.

Johnny frowns. “Don’t put it like that. You make it sound like you’re… I dunno. A slave or something. You’re not. This is consensual. You gave me your blanket consent- remember? That’s what you said. That’s your wording. You gave me your consent to do these things. And I like them a lot better than the physical punishments. These I can full heartedly say are consensual. That makes me happy. There’s no gray area.”

Gray area? Please. There is never any gray area. Why does he have to make this so difficult? Just beat me. Burn me. Be rough on me. It’s really simply. Let your demons out. Use me as your whipping boy. Do this for me and I can do so much for you. Just help me. Help me be stronger. Better. Faster. 

But no. He chooses punishments like this one when he’s left to his own devices. 

Part me thinks he’s trying to end the whole thing. Not the relationship- of course. But the pain aspect of it. That makes me uneasy. 

That’s why seeing the doctor is setting me on edge. 

I could always use my safeword.

I hate using it though.

I need punishment. That’s how this works. If I’m safewording every other minute- nothing get’s done.

I like the option- don’t get me wrong. If something gets too much- I like being given the chance to make it stop. I just… don’t do it.

“Eat up.” He pulls a seat at the kitchen table out for me and sets the plate on the table in front of it.

Breakfast-heavy on the protein. A ‘Johnny’ breakfast if I’ve ever seen one. He pours me a glass of Orange juice and then puts his hands on his hips.

“I did good.” He says with a nod.

“Yes. I’m fed. A final meal of sorts.” I start to eat the food without really paying attention to him. I forgot my phone in the bedroom or I would be reading the news on that.

"Final meal?" 

I cock an eyebrow not bothering to look up from my plate. "Don't prisoners get a final meal?" 

"You're a prisoner now, hmm?" 

"Oh yes," I smirk. 

"You're looking pretty good for a prisoner." He teases. "Jail suits you." 

"Never said  I was in 'jail'." I dismiss. 

"Oh?" 

"Jail sounds so... boring.” 

“You ever been to jail?” 

“I’ve been detained a few times,” I answer honestly. “But never in ‘jail’ jail.” 

“Then how do you know it’s boring?” 

I have to laugh. “I have a hunch.” 

Johnny isn’t sitting down. Regardless of his jokey tone- he’s coming off somewhat nervous. 

He doesn’t sit down with his food. He sets the plate on the table and takes a few bites, but doesn’t sit down. Why isn’t he sitting? 

My kitchen table seats four. It’s on the cheaper side of things. It sits off to the left of the stove by the windows and the door that leads to the backyard. It looks nice enough. Everything in my house looks semi-decent. I’m not slumming it by any means. I’ve got my own money, of course. I didn’t get as much as I wanted from my dealings with Romulus- but I got enough to sustain myself for quite a few decades. Not just sustain- no. I can live ‘comfortably’. Which for me means nice clothes, shoes, cars, furniture, decor, and food. 

All the finer things in life. 

Johnny’s not exactly acting right. 

He’s.. hovering. Something is off. My senses are tuned into him now more than ever.

Steady heartbeat, scent is mostly his body wash and deodorant. No adrenaline in the slightest. Calm, cool, and collected Johnny is. Or at least- he’s pretending to be. 

Maybe he thought today was going to go badly for him. 

Maybe he’s expecting some kind of argument. 

Who knows? 

“Now.” Johnny claps his hands together. “I think we should go over… how to act at the doctor’s office.”

That… amuses me, making me relax a little. “You’re going to tell me how to behave?” Johnny looks down but nods.

He scoops more eggs onto his fork.

“How very… controlling of you.”

I like it.

I like it a lot.

Maybe we can forgo the doctor’s office entirely if I push his buttons enough. But then.. .over the last four days I’ve done nothing worth punishment. That makes me think. No pain in a little under a week. Every time he touches me it’s soft. Overly soft. He keeps in mind what he said. We’ve fucked but he’s taken extra measures to ensure my comfort. There’s barely any pain to it at all. Anal sex always comes with a twinge of hurt. It’s not for everyone. Johnny’s finding ways to take that twinge out.

A few times he even insisted that he be on the bottom. Johnny is newer to this than me. Occasionally he likes to bottom but not that often. And definitely not two days in a row.

It takes a while for him to cum when he’s on the bottom. It takes a lot of patience. The sex is still amazing…. but it’s a slow process. The last thing I want to do is hurt Johnny. That’s not my thing. So we use lube. I stretch him out. I wet him up. I relax his muscles- anything and everything. When he finishes I feel like I’ve won some kind of prize.

I like that feeling.

I plan to work with him until he can cum without me touching his cock. He's not there yet- he still needs help. Fuck sometimes I still need help. It's just something we play by ear. The day I get him off by penetration alone- fuck. We're celebrating. 

“I wouldn’t… but the doctor… well… It’s probably best if you don’t make him angry.”

“Make him angry?” That makes me laugh. “A shrink can’t handle a little anger? You think a man who can’t handle is own ‘emotional baggage’ is going to help me handle mine?”

“No, no, no!” He says quickly. “I’m sure Len can handle it.. but with your pheromones and your tendency to push buttons… you might cause something you don’t like. And I don’t want him to lose his license because you pushed him. Especially not after all the effort he's made to work you into the schedule.”

That… shocks me. Would he hurt me? Could I make a stranger hurt me? What possibilities this brings.

“And this “Len”…. he gets angry with his patients often?”

“No,” Johnny says. “But you’re a very special patient.”

“I am special, aren’t I?” These eggs are delicious. I love when Johnny cooks. Besides it tasting so good and being something I wouldn’t cook for myself- it’s one less thing I have to do. 

Now if only he would do the dishes when he’s done….

“You got it.” He walks behind me and puts his hands on my shoulders. “I’ll be in the waiting room the whole time. You’ll do great- I know you will.”

“You don’t trust me.” I accuse with no real heat behind it. Johnny is smart. When I got dressed today I was only 75% sure I was going to follow through with this. That other 25% could have gotten me into trouble. Major trouble. “You just want to go with me to make sure I do it.”

he kisses the back of my head. “Right.”

“So you don’t trust me,” I say again.

“I don’t,” he says honestly. “I really don’t. You may have gone through with it.. you may have just said you were going to go through with it and tricked me into believing you did so we’d get back into the swing of things faster. If I go with you, we can take out the mystery of it all.”

Swing of things? Oh yes. We will do that. This is a consultation. I can make him think I’m normal within the first ten minutes and spend the next fifty talking about something pointless. I’ll be charming. I’ll be smooth. The doctor won’t know what hit him.

“Smart man.” Johnny finally takes a seat at the table and finishes his plate in silence.

I don’t like that he’s quiet. He’s thinking something. he’s thinking something and he’s not telling me what he’s thinking. That’s dangerous. Johnny does stupid shit sometimes. As for this doctor… this ‘Len’ person with the anger issues… well, I’m not sure how to go about that situation at the moment.

I’ll have to figure it out shortly.

Maybe that’s something along the lines of what Johnny’s thinking. How to get me into the office and make sure I behave without hovering or seeming controlling. 

“Len’s a nice guy,” Johnny says, breaking his silence. I guess I was right. He is thinking something along those lines.“He’s helped a lot of people.” 

Psychiatrists want secrets. I have secrets on top of secrets. Even my secrets have secrets. So much to pick at… if he knows how to go about doing it.

I’ve been trained by several different people over the years. I’m resistant to all kinds of mind fuckery. He’ll see for himself. I give him an hour of my time today and he says he’s pleased. Johnny’s pleased. I’m pleased. I can leave for my next mission and we can get back to normal.

“I don’t need help, Johnny.” I sigh. We’ve talked about this several times. “I’m fine.”

“No,” he shakes his head. “No, you’re not ‘fine’. You’re not ‘okay’. You’re not…”

“Normal?” It drops like a stone in between us.

“You made me hurt you, baby.” He says. “I mean you always make me hurt you… but this time it was a little extreme. Every time you push the envelope it gets a little more extreme. What if I really hurt you next time? What if it gets to the point where that’s all I’m doing anymore? Is that what you want? Why would you want that? Why do you need to be abused to get the message that-“

“Johnny- Johnny!” I stop him. “Johnny- it’s not abuse.” I try to soothe him. “It’s consensual. Everything in consensual.”

Johnny shakes his head. “I don't feel like it is for me.” He whispers.

I hear him loud and clear.

“ I’m sorry.” No manipulation this time. Honestly. “I’m sorry. I know it’s weird. I know it makes you uncomfortable. But it’s just how I work. You’re not hurting me. You’re helping me. You said you could help me.”

“I burn you.” He hisses. “Bad.”

“So? It’s nothing. I heal. I always heal. And I get better. You noticed it didn’t you? I went from 20 kills to 15. Then from 15 to 11. Then from 11 to 6. Look how much better I’m getting at leaving these fuckers alive! For the police- even, Johnny. I’m learning.”

“I burn you- bad. Internal burns. Your skin chars- it stinks, it peels off, it leaves behind these awful marks on your body for hours until you heal all of the way.” He sounds…. fuck. He’s close to tears. “And you call it consensual. You scream. You bruise. You burn. You cry. And you sit here and call it consensual.”

“Johnny I gave you permission to do those things. It is consensual. You don't have to feel bad about it. I asked for it. Literally. I literally asked you-” I stop. "No- made you do it. I made you do this to me. Don't feel bad. I know you don't mean it. Without me guiding you- you wouldn't be able to do half the things you've done." 

"Not helping." Johnny hisses. 

"Sorry," I say quietly. 

He nods. "I understand that you're pushing me a lot- I do. But... I'm still doing it. You can't put new thoughts into my head- ya know? It means that somewhere- deep down in there- that thought was already there." 

"Johnny-" 

“I raped you.” He says. "While I was on fire.”

“Raped me?” I scoff. 

“Yes. Raped you. I incapacitated you when I burnt you and then I had sex with you while you were down. I raped you.” 

“No,” I’m up from the table, hand on his face, making him look at me. “You did not rape me,” I say sternly. “Okay? You didn’t. You couldn’t. If I don’t want you to do these things I am perfectly capable of stopping you.”

“I don’t think you are.” he shakes his head, freeing himself of me. “So we’re going to go see the doctor. And.. he’s going to tell us how to proceed.”

Bullshit.

“We don’t need to be told 'how to proceed', Johnny. We work fine.”

“When I’m not literally setting you on fire.” He scoffs. “Or raping you.” 

“That only happened once.” I push it away.

“But it happened.”

“I asked for that.” I try. 

“Why?” He begs.

“Because…” Now he wants an explanation? Like I can give him one solid answer. This is something the lovely doctor would love to pick at. I’m a can of fucked up worms waiting to get out into the open. A tangle of knots. So kinked up that even I don’t know how to get myself straight. 

“Because why?”

Because- Johnny. Accept that. I can’t tell you. You wouldn’t understand it. Fuck on bad days- I don’t understand it. It’s just the way of the world. 

He hurts me- I feel better. I feel better- he feels better. We feel better together- we work as a couple. And so on and so forth. 

“Because I wanted to feel what it was like to be a witch. I don’t know. I just asked for it. It doesn’t matter why.“

“It’s not funny,” Johnny says. “This is why we’re going to see the doctor.”

So he can pick at me like a vulture does roadkill.

I haven’t told him to stop. Ever.

Nothing is wrong with me. This is how I learn. He wants me to be better? This is the price. This is the toll. This is the stake that has been raised.

“You’ll get used-“

“I’ll get used to hurting you???” Johnny sounds floored. “I’m not a sadist, Daken. You know that. Pain gets you off but it makes me feel terrible.”

“Johnny….” I don’t know what to say.

“I can spank you. Maybe slap you around if you were good enough. But burning you? Punching you with a closed fist? Whipping you? Cutting you? Why would I want to do that?”

“It’s just how I am.” I don’t feel in control at this moment.

“Why?”

I’m stumbling around my own head to try to find an answer for him. “It’s how he molded me.”

“Who molded you?” His eyes flash.

We don’t talk about my past. Ever. Case closed. Never to be touched or sifted through.

“Hmm?” I didn’t mean to give that away.

“Who hurt you?” his voice is raw. “Who did this to you?”

“Just… a guy.”

“And he made you like this?” Johnny crosses his arms.

I just nod. This is getting too personal.

“He hurt you.”

I nod again.

“…did you want to be hurt in the beginning or did that come after he as already hurting you?”

“Johnny… look. It’s just how I am. There’s no real reason behind it. It’s just a… kink.”

“That’s not a kink.” Johnny shakes his head. “That’s a wound.”

“A… wound?”

He nods.

“Why are we even talking about this? We always fight when this happens. I don’t want to fight.”

I don’t. Go back to normal. Please.

Johnny sighs, standing up and wrapping his arms around me. “I love you,” he tells me. “I do. And you know I’m willing to work with you in most everything.” He kisses me.

“I know you are.”

“Please talk to the doctor about this…. please? For me? You don’t even have to tell me what he says. I won’t pry. Just… talk to him- okay? Please?”

Talk to him- he says. Oh, I’ll talk to him. I’ll talk his fucking ear off.

Whether or not he’ll be able to understand it is completely up to his educational background.

I speak fifteen languages. Hope you brushed up on your Rosetta Stone doctor.

“I’ll talk to him,” I say to Johnny’s puppy dog eyes. Big and blue. Beautiful, my Johnny is.

I always have the nicest things.

Johnny started off as one of those things. A conquest. He… melted into me. He was endearing. He was sweet. He made me laugh. When the time came for me to leave- like I always do when something like that comes along- I didn’t go. I stayed. I don’t know why- but I stayed. And I’m still here. Two years now and I’m still here. With him. With us.

We work. That’s what I keep coming back to. We WORK. Why are we seeing a therapist? That’s for couples who can’t make it. We can make it. We are making it. He’s not going to leave. I’m definitely not leaving. I put a lot of time into this. A lot of work. I’ve come a long way from where I used to be. I will not go back. Johnny is a part of that. He’s my moral compass.

Of course he has a hard time hurting me. I know he does. But I thought he understood- at least somewhat. That’s just how it has got to be. That’s just how it’s always got to be. I told him how my kill count was lowering. I did. He wasn’t impressed. Why wasn’t he impressed?

“Thank you.” Johnny kisses my cheek.

That’s not good enough. “Kiss me,” I order.

Johnny smirks. “I just did.”

I shake my head. “Really kiss me.”

He leans in my ear and whispers, “I don’t kiss you while you’re being punished. Remember? Your rule?”

That’s not fair. “That’s not fair.”

Johnny’s smirking. “Get your shoes.”

“I don’t want to get my shoes, I want you to kiss me.”

“Shoes.” He raises an eyebrow. “Now.”

I glare at him but walk back through the house to my bedroom.

I live in a small house- smallish anyway. Not as big as it could be. It’s expensive enough. There are paintings on the walls to show 'warmth'. Johnny doesn’t have much of an eye for art but I like it well enough. The gadgets are expensive. Everything runs through Wifi. Everything is chrome and black.

The floors are covered in white carpet that’s cleaned every two weeks as per my arrangement with a local cleaning agency. It’s all so nice.

My house has three bedrooms in it. Mine, the master bedroom, is at the end of the hall, wedged in the very back of the house. It’s a decent sized bedroom. Enough for the king size bed, the walk-in closet and the other random furniture I decided to cram in here. A chair or two. A trunk. Nightstands. 

My shoes are neatly lined inside the walk-in closet. I can’t stand for things to be out of place. This is part of the control I have to have on my environment so I can relax.

You want me to talk about something with the doctor Johnny? Have me talk to him about that.

I turn the light on and look at the three rows I have to choose from. Maybe it’s time to thin out my wardrobe… again. Occasionally I get too many things and have to get rid of some. 

That’s a habit I learned when I was young. I was only allowed to have so much. Least it ‘spoil’ me. Right. And that worked out so well. 

My jeans and tank combo require something black. Sneakers ought to do it. I have about three pairs in black alone. I like nice things. I like owning nice things. I had shit growing up. No money of my own at all. So I started socking back whatever I could get my hands on. I spent a lot of time in unsavory places. Whores, drugs, weapons deals- all observed but never taken part in. Whores taught me my love of clothes. Drugs taught me my love of partying. And weapons… well, that just fed into my lovely violent streak I have. All the sections of Romulus’ training- farmed out to other people. I spent much of my formative years with several other people- not just Romulus. He didn’t have the ability to teach me everything.

Maybe that’s what the good doctor wants to hear. My education. How I learned those lovely fifteen languages.

I’d have to be drunk, high, AND stupid to tell him anything.

Anything he can understand at any rate. But Johnny… Johnny doesn’t need to know this.

On another, slightly related note- this is a punishment. Maybe I should take it seriously.

He’s never done things to punish me that are not physical.

Okay, that’s not true. He made me sit in a corner one night while he watched porn and played with himself. I couldn’t play. Or join in. He was merciless. I did not like that.

I can’t remember what I did to warrant that response from him.

No, wait… there have been a few other instances. I don’t remember them as well as the ones that have to do with pain. I do recall him doing some off the wall shit over the last two years. 

It sucked- but I did it. Because it was my consequence.

Romulus did more things to me than I have time to say. It just worked like that. I could write a book just on those tortures alone. Johnny’s just begun to scrape the surface.

On one hand- part what makes Johnny well … Johnny is his reluctance to hurt people.

He has a great power. A power of destruction. And he chooses to use it to help people. Even people who don’t want anything to do with him. He saves their ungrateful asses.

In a way- I admire him.

On the other hand- I don’t think Johnny actually knows what he’s capable of. What he could accomplish if he was a little less squeamish. 

These are things I could try to tell Johnny- but that he’d probably take the wrong way. 

So it’s best just to say nothing. 

I pull on my sneakers- I don’t even remember which brand. I'm so caught up in my own head. Johnny’s waiting by the door when I come back down the hall.

The hallway opens up to the living room which opens up to the front room which has the front door. Also a few chairs and a loveseat. It’s very posh looking. A very small room that acts as a barrier from the rest of the house when I have company. 

Like yes. This room is nice. You will stay in this room. That is it. Nowhere else. Sit. Stay. 

“Sure took your time- didn’t you?” Johnny looks up from his cellphone. One like my new one. 

I grin.

“You don’t look very repentant.” He teases.

“Maybe you’ll have to spank me… in the parking lot. Once the session is over.”

“Oh, I’m sure Len would love that.” He grins. I’m serious. But… he doesn’t pick up on it.

The house is white on the outside. Little ranch style whatever the fuck they call it. Out all the options I had before me when I moved into the suburb, this one was the easiest to move into. And the fastest for that matter. There was barely any down time. When I’m moving from city to city- that’s what I look for in house.

This time, unlike my last two homes, I didn’t kill the previous occupant to obtain it.

Johnny praised me for that. I waited. Like a normal person.

Normal. There’s a word.

It’s nothing like my high rise apartment I had in the actual city… which is still a good fifteen minutes away. I loved that apartment. But it was compromised. Back when Johnny and I first started dating. I sold it because too many heroes knew where it was. Johnny’s more secretive now with my whereabouts. He promises me that he won’t tell any of his friends or family unless I want them to know. I know he wants to show Sue the house though. He’s done some minor improvements to it and wants to show her his handiwork. That I’m half tempted to concede to. If it’s only Sue. No one else. Not Reed. And definitely not Ben. God only knows how many times they would show up ‘looking’ for Johnny. Using him as an excuse to pry into my business if they thought I was up to something. And a lot of the time- I am actually up to something. 

No one else knows of my kill counts. I never leave a trace. They suspect that I do it- like Sue the other night- but they can’t find any proof. Not enough to pin me down at any rate. Johnny has that number. That’s something he has in possession. Something I trust him with.

He’s yet to fail me. I thank him for that.

Johnny’s blue car- from the other night- is pulled up in my driveway, blocking my own car- the new red one- in.

“I take it you’re driving,” I observe the cars for a long minute. 

Johnny nods. “I’ll be honest…. I really thought you were going to put a fight. I came here expecting more resistance.” 

That makes me chuckle. “The morning is still young.”

Johnny opens his passenger door. “Seatbelt.” He reminds

I fasten myself in, knowing good and well that it’s a pointless gesture.

Johnny slides in on his side a few moments later, easily doing the same.

Then we’re backing up, pulling up to the stop sign that leads out to the main road, and leaving.

The suburb is an old one. Filled with middle-aged parents of teenagers who don’t want to go outside and play. So it’s almost always empty. My neighbors have gathered that I like my privacy.

I don’t have to be verbally nasty. But every time one happens to stray too close- I hit them with enough pheromones to make them shit themselves. The message spread pretty quick.

It takes us about thirty minutes to drive through the city to another little spot a few minutes in its outskirts.

To a three story brick building with rows and rows of bushes and trees lining the parking lot.

A sign announces that it’s a psychiatric place of business. I don’t care to remember the name. After today it will cease to be important.

Johnny parks between an SUV and a mini-van. I take a moment to wonder what their owners must be doing in a place like this.

“You ready?” He asks as he shuts the car off.

“As I am expected to be,” I say.

“Okay.” He nods to the door. “Doors unlocked.”

The door is unlocked. Nice of him to point it out.

“You’re not coming up?”

Johnny smiles. “I have a call to make… I’ll be up soon.”

“I don’t even know which office-“

“Second floor. 215. Dr. Samson.”

I stare at him for a long second. “What call could be that important?”

“I’m trusting you, Daken.” He says gently. “I’ll watch you go in and come in later. I’m trusting you to go to his office.”

Oh, Johnny. Johnny, Johnny, Johnny. You’ve just made a grave mistake, Mr. Storm.

You gave me wiggle room.

Never give me wiggle room. Never. I work best with space to breathe. Space to learn how to flip a situation to my liking. 

Which at this point- won’t be to Johnny’s liking. 

And yea- I’m sorry for that. Slightly. I do feel bad for purposefully upsetting him- sometimes. When he’s really upset about it. 

But telling me to see a therapist? Why would he do that? We’ve had discussions about things like this before. It’s far from the first time he’s tried to bring it up. But actually going through with it? That’s something I wasn’t prepared for. 

“Your appointment is in five minutes.” He nods to the building. “Get a move on.”

“Do I have to fill out paperwork?” I’m stalling. 

“Already been handled.” Johnny smiles. “Go on baby. Make me proud.”

Make him proud?

That… stirs something. Something I’d rather not think about.

“Go on.” He encourages.

“And this is really my punishment? This is honestly what you’re going to do to me.”

“Really.” He nods. “Go on.”

I unbuckle my seatbelt and open the door.

“Love you. See you in an hour.” Johnny waves as I shut the door behind me.

He’s going to watch me from the car. He’s not coming in right away. If I stall in the hallways and get ‘lost’ then he’ll have no way to know I didn’t go in. If he finds out then I’ll just have to be punished in way that better suits me.

It will bug him- and I’m sorry for that- I am. But I’m selfish. I need this in my life. He needs to understand that.

The air conditioner is on too high as I enter the large sliding door guarded building.

The first floor has rows and rows of doors. Offices. Guarded by plastic plants and trees around tables with business cards. In the center of the floor- from what I can tell- there’s an elevator.

At the end of the hall- a concrete stairwell.Dimly lit and wide.

I forgo the elevator and walk to the stairs. Taking my sweet time.

The stairs are rather wide. Easily wide enough to fit three people walking side by side. I wonder why the size and sturdiness were put into thought for these stairs. Who exactly is coming up them that would require that much space and stability? 

There’s a handrail, also abnormally secured and sturdy, that runs up the side of the wall. Painted a light gray so that it sticks out from the concrete. 

I hear someone opening a door in a level ahead of me. It doesn’t perturb me enough to make me stop walking. If anything- it interests me. Someone alone in a stairwell? Fun to investigate. A fun way to waste time.  

In the middle of the stairs- half way between the second and third floors I run into a large man taller than me, better built than me, possessing shocking green hair and dressed in slacks and a shirt. He’s attractive enough. He looks like someone who could easily play the best friend in any number of sitcoms. 

He nods to me as I pass. “Good morning.” His voice is deep-ish. But friendly enough. 

I smile. “Morning.” What a fun way to pass the time. Passing time with a stranger. 

“Beautiful one, isn’t it?” He returns my smile.

“Yes. Very.” Sunny, warm, and early. Just like I like for it to be.

“Better outside than in this stairwell- that’s for sure.”

“You could always leave the stairwell.” I offer.

He smiles. “I’m hiding.” Then he nods to me again. “You’re walking pretty slow…. I guess you are too.”

“Not hiding per se.” I cross my arms and stop my upwards trek. “Just…. lost.”

“Ah.”

We’re silent for a minute. “Are you a patient here?” How dull. Pointless chit chat. He’s got one of those faces- I guess. One that makes him a good listener. that makes him an easy mark as well. He should work on that.

I’ll have to find a better way to waste my time, I guess.

He smiles. “Something like that.”

“Something like what?”

“A patient.” he leans against the wall. “I’m trying to kill a few minutes”

I don’t want to be trapped in a stairwell with a mental patient, on second thought. It’s probably best I go. “Good luck with your hiding then.” I start to leave.

“Where are you going?” He asks. “I can help you find your way. If you’re lost- that is. ”

“You know this place well enough to know how to help people find their ways?” Interesting. 

He nods. “This is like a second home to me. I’m here all the time.”

“You must be pretty fucked in the head.” I accuse. 

He laughs. Loudly. “We’re all a little fucked in the head.” He nods to me. “What’s your name?”

“What’s yours?” I counter. Now he wants to get personal. 

I don’t want others to know I’m here. 

I have very little shame but people knowing I’m seeing a therapist - even for a consultation- would be the death of me.  

“Hmm… I asked for yours first.”

“I don’t give my name to strangers,” I say.

“A little bit secretive- are you?” He teases. 

That makes me smile. “Just a little bit.”

“When’s your appointment?” He asks. “If that’s not too personal?"

I didn’t bring my phone… and there’s certainly no clock in the stairwell.

“It’s safe to say I’ll be missing it,” I say. 

“Oh that’s not good.” he shakes his head. “You should always try to go to your appointments.”

“Says the mental patient hiding in the stairwell,” I say. Not with any real heat behind it. This man is… funny. Amusing is a better word.

“I said I was killing a few minutes. I didn’t say I was missing my appointment altogether.”

“Thank you for clearing that up,” I say. “It’s nice to know your intentions.” 

“My intentions?” He chuckles. “You think everyone has an ulterior motive when they’re talking to you?” 

“Most people do,” I say. 

“That’s no way to live. Being suspicious of everyone and everything around you.” 

“It’s usually the people who say shit like that that you have to be suspicious of.” 

“Oh really?” 

“If someone tells you to let your guard down, don’t let your guard down.” There. Free advice. From me to you. Don’t be an idiot. 

“Should I let my guard down around you then?” He asks. 

“Probably not,” I answer honestly. 

“Good to know.” He chuckles. 

“What are you doing in the stairwell?” I question. 

“I’ve already told you- I’m killing time.” 

“Oh.” He did tell me that. 

He nods. “If you don’t want to go to your appointment- why did you make it?” He pauses. “If you don’t mind my asking.”

“I do slightly mind your asking because I don’t know you- but I’ll tell you anyway,” I smirk. “My boyfriend made the appointment.”

“Nice of him.” He nods. “But you didn’t want to go?”

I shake my head.

“But you came in the building.” He says pointedly.

“Johnny’s out in the car,” I say dismissively. “He watched me come in.”

“Ah. I see. But once you were in you got ‘lost’?” He makes finger quotations around ‘lost’.

“You got it,” I smirk.

It’s easier to stay lost in the stairwell…. and this man is not going to harm me from what I can tell. Besides in a few minutes- he’ll leave.

I’ll take a seat on this step and wait the appointment out. 

“How do you know Johnny won’t call your doctor?”

The man brings up a good point. Johnny probably would call the doctor if he thought I was acting weird. 

“One,” I hold up a finger. “I don’t have a doctor- it was just a consultation.” I hold up a second finger. “Two, if he calls, he’ll be mad. I like it when he’s mad.”

“That seems healthy.” He scoffs.

I glare at him. “We work. It’s simple like that.”

“You work when you make him mad at you?”

This is getting frustrating suddenly. “Yes. Because then he-“ I stop. “It doesn’t matter. We just work.”

“What were you going to say? What does he do when he’s mad? He doesn’t beat you, does he? That’s not healthy in the slightest. In fact, someone would have to alert someone about that and-“

“He doesn’t beat me. It’s consensual.” That word again.

“So he does beat you. You just ask for him to.” The man nods.

“Who are you to judge me?” I ask defensively.

“Just an impartial observer,” he says with a nod. “How long have you been a masochist?”

I glare at him. “A while. Why?”

“I’ve never met one. Forgive my curiosity.” He smiles charmingly. “It’s hard concept for me to grasp.” 

“It’s actually a fairly easy concept to grasp.” I correct. “I like pain.” 

“Right, right. But if you’re a masochist then that means you need a sadist. Right? “ 

“I suppose.” 

“And is Johnny a sadist?”

I exhale. “No. He’s not.”

“So he doesn’t like beating you?” he sounds like he’s trying to make a point. This is a point of pride now. This stranger does not get to make these judgments about me and Johnny. On the outside, everyone says we work fine. No one’s ever stopped to pick at it like this man is doing. And we don’t even know him! He’s just so… damn easy to talk to.

“Are you a mutant?” I glare at him.

The man grins. “No. But nice subject change.”

“You must be a mutant.” I ignore his other comment.

He raises his hand. “Swear to God I’m not.”

“You’ve got some kind of power…. it’s easy to talk to you. I don’t like talking to people. If I were you I’d drop the act.”

“Not a mutant. Just a good listener.” he chuckles. “So Johnny’s not a sadist. But you are a masochist. Are you aware of how people can view masochism if they don’t understand it well enough?”

“He understands it fine.” I put a hand on the railing that leads up the stairs.

“If he’s not a sadist.. then he takes no joy out of hurting you. He doesn’t get aroused by it- does he?”

“That’s personal,” I growl. “You can’t ask these kinds of questions.”

“Humor me. Like I said- I’m just trying to understand. I’ve never met a masochist before.” He temples his hands in front of him.

For the sake of education? And killing a few more minutes- I suppose I can allow his questioning. For now. 

“Proceed.” 

 “Johnny’s not a sadist- you willingly entice him into anger so he’ll be more prone to ‘hurt you’ which I’m guessing is set up in some kind of punishment system you have- and it’s something he doesn’t want to do?”

“He does it just fine.”

“How’s he act afterward?”

“He’s…” How does he act afterward? He cries. He cuddles. He takes care of me. Like I said- I’m a big fan of his aftercare routines. “Okay with it.”

“You're forcing him into an S&M relationship even though he’s uncomfortable with it.” He says pointedly.

“He’s not uncomfortable with all of it. I’m here on one of his ‘punishments’.” I snap. “It’s just sometimes the caliber of which I need punished is past what he’s able to handle. That’s it. He went a little too ‘far’ in his opinion, and wanted me to go talk to a doctor. I’m going to stay in this stairwell and tell him I did. Then we’ll go back to normal.”

“What are you going to tell him the doctor said?”

“He said he wouldn’t pry.”

The man nods. “That’s a lot of trust he’s placing on you doing the right the thing.”

“What is the right thing?” I scoff. “Go sit down and talk about shit to a stranger who can’t possibly understand anything I’m trying to tell him? And then- the piece de resistance- pay him for sitting on his ass and judging me???”

“You have a very poor opinion of the psychiatrist then.” He says. “Have you met him beforehand?”

I shake my head. “Like they care. It’s paycheck. They feed off the weak. Poor mental saps who don’t know any better. It’s disgusting.”

“Those ‘mental saps’ come for help. Have you thought about it that way? Have you thought about why Johnny thinks you need ‘help’?”

“Please.” I scoff. “Johnny is just mad because I made him burn me past second degree. He always gets mad about burns. He’ll cool off in a few days.”

“You made him burn you?” The man asks. 

I nod. “I have my resources.” 

“And does he like burning you?” 

“Uh…. this is rather personal. Change the topic or leave.” I growl.

“Okay fine. I’ll change the topic- If he calls the doctor and you don’t go what do you think he’ll do?”

What will he do? He’ll be… upset. Sad maybe?

Fuck. Do I want to make Johnny sad?

“Thinking about it?” The man questions. “Will he be mad or upset? Which state do you need him to be in to ‘punish’ you?”

“He’d have to be angry,” I mumble, in thought.

“And you’re starting to think if you don’t go he’ll just be sad. Not angry.”

I sigh. “You make a lot of sense for a mental patient.”

I’ll have to go. I’ve already wasted 20 minutes with this unknown man in the stairwell. That cuts the doc down to 40. What can he really accomplish in 40 minutes?

“Never said I was a mental patient.” The man grins. “Said I was ‘like’ a mental patient.”

“Whatever you are….. thank you…. I guess.”

I’m more confused than anything. 

And I slightly feel like I’ve gotten my ass handed to me by a total stranger. 

“Of course. I like guiding the lost.” He smiles. “Though if we’re being honest, you look more lost now than you did before.” 

“Enough of your psycho babble.” I dismiss. “I’m sure I’ll have to listen to the doctors and that’s going to be hard enough to sit through without you adding onto it beforehand.” 

Like he hadn’t already done that.  

He smiles. “You need the second floor.” He points down the stairs, back the way I came.

“And how do you know that?”

“You talked about mutants. I’m gathering you’re some kind of metahuman just based on your knowledge and your ability to handle pain… since you said Johnny burnt you past the second degree and you don’t seem to have any marks, scar, or active burns. Second floor handles metahumans. Third floor is children.”

“Oh.”

He nods. “It’s easy to get turned around.”

I nod. “Thank you.”

“Let me walk you? I’ve killed enough time and I could use the exercise.”

“Uh … sure.”

He nods again. “Let’s get moving then.”

We walk down the stairwell to a small platform with a metal door. Above the door is a red ‘2’ painted on the concrete.

“Second floor,” he announces. “What office?”

“215.”

“Ah.” He smiles, looking like he knows an inside joke he’s not going to tell me.

It’s a pleasant walk. 

Well pleasant enough. 

The second floor looks the same as the first. I follow him through the halls only to run into my beloved by the door to the office.

At first, he’s upset. “Baby? You’re not in-“ Then he smiles when he sees my companion. “Len.” he nods to the man. “What’s going on?” 

“Mr. Storm. I told you this was well in hand.”

What did he call him?

“I figured he’d bolt… I just didn’t expect it so soon.” ‘Len’ continues. “Found him in the stairwell.”

What is he….talking about?

My companion turns to me. “We’ve had a wonderful discussion. Haven’t we, Daken?”

“I didn’t give you my name,” I growl, glaring at him. “Who are you?” 

“I’ve been in the hero game for a long time,” he says wistfully. “I know people.”

I move away from him. I’ve been tricked and I don’t like it.

It makes me feel like an idiot.

“Len Samson.” He holds his hand out. “If I told you who I was, in the beginning, I don’t think I could have talked you into coming with me.” 

“You’re a doctor.” I accuse. “You lied.” I don’t take his hand. He pulls it back to his side. 

He holds up a finger. “I never lied. You asked if I was patient. I said I was ‘like patient’. I never said I was or wasn’t a doctor.”

He’s…

Johnny takes me by the shoulders. “You’ve got about 40 minutes left… do you think you could do it in the office this time?”

“No,” I growl. “I want to go home.”

“Clients usually pay for a full hour,” Len says with a grin. “I’d hate to have to give you a refund.”

“Cause you’re all about that money- aren’t you?” I growl.

“Daken,” Johnny soothes. “He didn’t take any money to treat you…. he did it as a favor.”

“You just said-“

“A joke. I make those.” The doctor says calmly. “I did this as a favor- okay? Johnny didn’t pay a dime. If I decide to treat you a full-time basis- he’ll still pay nothing. I promise. It’s a favor.”

“A favor to who??” I growl.

“Well…. a few people actually. Reed, Johnny… your father.” The last is said in a tone... tentative almost.

That makes me clam up.

My father is dead. Why would he perform a favor for a dead man?

Johnny is drawing a finger across his neck in a ‘cut it out’ kind of motion.

“What? Are you upset about Reed?”

I don’t say anything.

“Surely not Johnny.”

Again I say nothing. 

“Then it’s about your father… you don’t like doing this because he asked me to help you. He knows you need help and-“ 

“I do not need help,” I growl. 

“Logan’s told me about some things that you would certainly benefit from talking to someone about.” He smiles. “I’m someone who was professionally trained to talk to people. And because I’m doing it as a favor- no one’s paying me. You don’t have to void any of your principles that we already talked about. Like paying a shrink to sit on his ass and judge you. I’ll sit on my ass and judge you for free.” He smiles wide. “No harm done.” 

“Logan hasn’t told you anything,” I growl. “I won’t be tricked into doing something because your friends with my dead father. I’ve met enough of his friends to know that I want nothing to do with them.” 

“Your father is a good man,” Len says. “He cares for you. He asked me-“ 

“He didn’t ask you anything!” I snap. “Stop lying!” 

“Logan said-“ 

I go to lunge at him, claws drawn, but Johnny grabs me- both arms around my midsection.

“NO!” Johnny grunts. “Len back up.” 

“Daken, please,” Len says calmly. “I’m a psychiatrist. You honestly didn’t think to make it through a session without me talking about your parents.”

“I don’t have parents,” I growl.

“Claws in.” Johnny is soothing. “Please baby, claws in… don’t attack the doctor- okay? Don’t attack him.”

Len doesn’t seem fazed. “Your father was one of the people who asked me to treat you. I told him I’d do it as a favor to him and his service to … well, everyone. Logan’s a good man. He cares for you. He told Reed to tell Johnny-“

“My father is dead,” I growl. “He didn’t ask you-“

“I’m sorry they haven’t seemed to have told you this yet… but the point still stands. He asked me to treat you. Maybe down the road the two of you-”

“Tell me what?” I cut him off. 

“It’s uh…” Johnny swallows. “Never really a good time to tell him about things like that.”

“But surely Logan’s reached out-“

“Logan is dead.” I hiss. “I know.”

“I thought he was friends with Laura,” Len says in confusion.

“He is.” Johnny holds me tighter. Which I don’t understand. I’m not trying to get away.

“Then he knows that Wolverine is-“

“Laura is Wolverine.” I spit. “Her and her little… clone, daughter, sister- whatever the fuck she is.”

“Gabby. Her name is Gabby.” Len says patiently.

I’m… stunned that he knows that...

“She’s in a sense the same relation to you as Laura is. I’m surprised you don’t know her name.” He says. 

“I’m more surprised that you do,” I growl.

“Of course I do. Logan asked me to talk to-“

“Logan is dead!” I yell at him. “You are insane!”

“Logan is alive,” Johnny says gently. “Baby… there’s never been a right time to tell you…. please don’t stab anyone. ”

I turn to him. This is the ultimate punishment he could have bestowed upon me. This ultimate twist of the knife.

“Johnny-“

“Shh.” he soothes. “Shh baby.” He kisses my cheek. “It’s okay. It’s fine. You’re doing great. It’s okay.”

“It is not ‘okay’.” I growl. “Why didn’t you tell me this!?” 

“Because I wanted to find a way to introduce you to the idea slowly.” Johnny soothes. “Okay? That’s it. There just wasn’t the right time to tell you…..” he glares at Len. “Which I thought we agreed on.” 

Len crosses his arms. “A secret that big should not be kept from him.” He says. “Especially considering the turbulent relationship he has with his father.” 

I can understand Johnny’s point of view. 

“I feel like we’ve hit an emotional minefield,” Len says. “We should go into my office.”

“So what? You can write it down?” I snap.

“So we can talk in private.” he even sounds like he’s soothing. “This is a big deal. I didn’t know that he hadn’t told you. Let’s talk about that.”

“Let’s not and say we did.” I snarl.

Johnny kisses me again. “Your dad came back a little over a week ago.” He says in my ear. “They found him in the Rockies…. something must have happened when all that multiverse colliding shit went down. He’s keeping his distance….. the Avengers brought him to Reed for a check up… to make sure he was he who said he was…. and Reed may have mentioned something about you being with me. He called me up and asked about you… I told him a bit but it was mostly Reed- okay? That’s how he was able to know what was going down. He was in on the conversation Len and I had with Reed while you were gone. Enough to ask that if we could persuade you- that Len does it.”

“And Johnny was able to persuade you after he hurt you so badly.” Len picks up.

Oh, Johnny. Why would he do this to me? 

“Johnny why? Why did you do this?” 

“I didn’t do anything,” Johnny says. “Please baby, please. I didn’t want to hurt you.” 

Maybe I’m not mad just for that reason. I mean, I’m mad enough. But not ‘leave mad’ or an 'attack mad’. Part of just sees this as another level of the punishment. 

What I did was bad. Now this is my consequence. 

If Logan knows about the session- then….

“Does he know?” 

“About what?” Len asks.

“About me? About Johnny? About what we do?” He was in the conversation. He must know something. 

“Your masochism? Or your relationship in general?” Len asks.

I’d love to be snappy with him… but this is a serious question.

“My masochism. If he thinks there’s some kind of deep emotionally rooted-“

“Okay first,” Len interrupts. “There is a deep emotionally rooted problem. I’ve heard your stories. There is something there. Second, it doesn’t matter if he knows or not- that’s not his business. What happens in this office is between you, me, and whoever you want to be involved. Obviously, Logan is not one of those people. So… he won’t know a thing besides the fact that you came to see me initially. If I continue to treat you, which I think is a very good idea at this point, Logan will know nothing.”

“You don’t have to see him. You don’t have to talk to him. We don’t even have to let him know you know he’s alive- okay?” Johnny says. “Please don’t be mad.” 

“So you’re punishing me. That was it. That was what your original plan was. It’s good. I didn’t see it coming.”

“No baby.” Johnny gasps. “No, no, no. I never meant to hurt you with this! You just…. I was waiting to tell you. I thought after you saw the doctor-“

“Who tricked me.”

“I didn’t trick you,” Len says, crossing his arms.

“This is bullshit.” I snarl. “I want to go home.”

I should have never come. Dammit, Johnny.

“Daken-“ Len tries. “Please, just come into my office.”

“No-“

“Please Daken,” Johnny begs. “Go talk with him. I’ll take care of you afterward… I promise.” 

“No.” I won’t. 

Johnny looks at the doctor helplessly. 

“You tried to attack someone and you lied about coming into the office.” He says. 

“What?” 

“You tried to attack the doctor and you lied about coming into his office...” Johnny says in my ear. 

“Are you-“ 

“Punishing you? Yes.” He nods. “Your punishment is that you have to go into his office for the next forty minutes.” 

I…. No. Him being bossy is turning me on. That’s not what I want to happen right now.

“Johnny-“ 

“Go into his office.”

“On pain of what?” I snarl.

“On pain of me not being around you for… two weeks.”

Two weeks? Weeks?

“Weeks?”

“Weeks.”

“Johnny- please. I don’t like those puni-“

“I know you don’t. That’s why they’re punishments. I don’t like them anymore than you do.” He kisses me again. “Come on baby. You were doing great.”

Was I?

No. I was tricked. I wasn’t doing great. I was trying to avoid this altogether. And now my father- my father the man who doomed me to this lot in life- is back. And worse- he’s telling this doctor that I need therapy?? ME???, not HIM??

“I’m so proud of you.” He tells me. And there’s that praise again. “You can do this.”

I’m no upset, horny, and somewhat enticed by the idea of this. Not to mention fearful of his ‘two weeks away punishments’. He’s done that before. Though- granted- when the two weeks were over we had probably the best sex I’ve ever had in my life. And that’s saying something. 

“So proud of you baby,” Johnny says again. “You’re taking this news so well… really. You’re being graceful and dignified after all. And I am so, so, so, proud.” 

That stirs up everything in me. 

“We’re fucking when I come out.” 

Johnny smiles. “If that’s what you want to do - sure.” 

I nod. “That is what I want to do.” 

“Okay.” 

“No lube.” 

He frowns. “Okay.” 

I need a small amount of pain to get me through today’s revelations. 

I sigh and open the door to the doctor’s office.

Inside is a rather intimate waiting room. A few chairs pressed against the walls. A tv set up in the overhead corner opposite the check in desk.

There’s a woman with bright red hair at the desk she smiles at me with perfect white teeth. “Welcome-“

“Don’t greet him.” Len is behind me. “He doesn’t want to be here. Don’t make him feel awkward.”

Like that wasn’t awkward at all.

“Right this way, Daken.” He puts a hand on my shoulder and ushers me down a small hallway, with dim lighting and a few lamps, to a white door with no windows.

“Here we go.” He sounds calming. He opens the door to a small office with book shelves lining a wall that houses two windows with the shades drawn. His desk is large and wooden. there’s a collection of chairs in front of it.

“Take a seat.” He pushes past me and goes behind the desk, sorting through some items before pulling out a notebook and a pen.

“Where’s Johnny?”

“First session is just you and me.” he doesn’t look up from his notebook. He’s jotting things down in a scrawl that hard to decipher from this distance. “Have a seat.”

“I feel like Johnny should be in here. All things considered.” 

“Sure. And then we can talk about you trading sex for an action or favor.” He nods. “Do you do that often?” 

I exhale slowly. “I’ll take a seat,” I say instead of answering him. 

“Good call.” 

I take a seat- against my better instinct which is telling me either a)attack or b) run.

Both A and B would get me in trouble. And I’m already in trouble.

The thought turns me on more than it should.

“You like praise.” The doctor says randomly. “I saw it. When Johnny started to praise you… you lit up.”

“And?”

“And… where do you think that comes from? Your desire for praise?”

I know exactly where that comes from Mr. Doctor. And I’ll be fucked if I tell you anything else.

“Not sure.”

“Does it go hand in hand with your Masochistic tendencies? After he hurts you do you like for him to tell you how well you handle the pain?”

Ah… yes. Actually. I do. Because I am a master at handling pain and I worked very long and hard to get there. I like for my effort to be noticed.But…….. he doesn’t need to know this.

I sit in this chair and take in the room.

Where is Johnny?

Why am I not mad at him?

Because I viewed this as a punishment. And emotional pain- whatever emotion that dragged up- is still pain. 

And he was so bossy. And in control. And I like that. I liked that pain. I liked not being in control. I liked him threatening me. 

I liked every part of that. 

….so why do I feel so shitty suddenly? 

Why do I still have half a hard on for something that literally hurt me? 

For the first time… I’m starting to think that maybe, just maybe, just for a fraction of a second- I might be in the right place. 

Where does Logan tie into this? Do I have to go meet him? Will Johnny make me? Now that he’s alive he could very well sliver into my life unannounced. If I don’t go actively seeking him out… will he go actively seeking me out?

“Johnny told me that you liked the pain…. but that you were at your most relaxed state during the aftercare process. I’m new to S&M so forgive my rudimentary understanding… but that’s the wind-down- isn’t it? Where he takes care of you and tells you how wonderful you are.”

I don’t like his phrasing. So I silently.

“That ties in with your desire for praise.”

Praise was the only thing I had to live for.

‘You’ve done well Daken. So well. You’re such a special boy. So… talented. You’ve pleased me so much.’

That was said on numerous occasions. Training. Missions. Sex. I was so special. I was so different from all the others. I handled pain. I handled sex. I was a small child. The things my body could do were amazing.

I charmed men and women alike.

“Let’s try something easier,” Len says after a few minutes. “When did you first realize you were bisexual?”

Hmmm. I’ve always been bisexual.

Little Tommy thought Jenny was cute and wanted to mess with her. I thought Tommy and Jenny were both cute and wanted to mess with them equally.

“How was coming out? Was it hard on you?”

“I never came out.”

Fuck. That was supposed to be in my head.

“You didn’t.” he scribbles something down. “Then were you outed? You’re quite a bit older than me. I can only imagine what would have gone on in the time you were discovering this-“

“I’ve always been Bi. Since I was a child. It was highly approved of in my household.”

“Highly approved of,” he repeats, writing something else down. “And what was your household like? You didn’t grow up with your biological parents… and you were trained to be an assassin from a young age…. tell me about that.”

“I’d rather not.”

“Okay.” He says easily. “Let’s talk about something else.”

“Let’s.”

“How about….” he pauses. “Johnny. Let’s talk about Johnny.”

“What about Johnny?”

“Are you mad at Johnny?” 

That takes a few seconds of introspection. “No,” I say finally. 

“Why not?” 

The thought makes me squirm. “I…. he was just punishing me. That’s what he does….” 

“Even with the Logan thing?” 

I nod. 

“That’s how you’re choosing to view that?” There’s a dense silence. 

“I know Johnny.” I say finally. “he probably was trying to find the right time.” 

That’s what he was worried about at that table this morning. I’d put money on it. 

“So how else do you feel about Johnny?”

“Hmm?"

“That’s what I ask you.” He points at me with the pen still in his hand. “What about Johnny? What do you like about him? How do you feel towards him?”

“I like Johnny,” I say simply.

“Just like?”

I glare at him. “I love Johnny.”

“That’s better. We’re getting somewhere now.” He smiles. “What do you love about Johnny?”

What do I love..? Pretty much all of it.

“…Everything.”

“Everything? That’s wonderful.” He smiles wider. “Really Daken, that’s wonderful. It’s great that you have someone like Johnny in your life.”

Yes…. it is. I don’t respond.

“How long have you and Johnny been together?”

“A while.” I’m revealing too much. I need to pull back.

“A while? Around how long?”

“A while,” I repeat.

“Okay, Daken.” He nods. “A while works.” He writes down something else.

“What are you writing?” Curiosity is getting the best of me. I want him to write me as strong-willed. Defiant. Well put together. The fact that I can’t read what he’s writing vexes me.

“Notes,” he says easily. “Want to see?”

Yes. “No.”

Yes. I do.

Will I let you see my moment of weakness? No.

I will keep my head up and pretend that you don’t exist. That’s what I’ll do.

“Are you sure? I’ve got nothing to hide.”

“No thank you.”

He nods again. Very agreeable Len is.

I’m so curious. How did I get here? I mean logically- I know. But…. this is odd. I didn’t want to come. He found me before he even knew I’d be missing. How did he do that?

“Why were you hiding in the stairwell?” I ask him.

“I was looking for you….. I saw you on the security cameras…. and it didn’t look like you were heading where you were supposed to be.” he looks up and smiles.

“You talked a lot more in the stairwell than you’re doing now…. maybe we should hold our sessions in there from now on?”

Fuck you. I didn’t know who you were. “You sure you’re not a mutant?”

“I’m meta, yes.” He points to his hair. “Gamma radiation.”

“What it about Gama radiation that makes me think green.” I tease slightly.

“You and me both.” He smiles. “My powers have nothing to do with my job- as you can imagine.”

“So you hulk out?”

“I hulk out.”

“All the way?” Johnny did say not to make him angry.

Len shakes his head. “No. Not all the way.”

“Good to know.” Good to know my ass.

“Why’d you get upset about your father?”

“I hate my father,” I say without hesitation.

“You… wow. You just came right out with it.” He smiles again.

“My life is his fault.”

“And what’s happened in your life that is so bad?”

I glare at him. “Things.”

“Things.” He repeats, scribbling something down. “Let’s hit on that. Things. What kind of things?”

“Bad things.” I grant him a little info.

“What kind of bad things?”

“The kind that hurt.” I love teasing him. This is actually quite fun.

“The kind that hurt.” He writes that down as well. “You were abused?”

That takes some of the joy out of it.

“Were you?” He asks.

I don’t know what to do. Before I can make up my mind completely, I feel my head nodding.

“Ah. I’m sorry to hear that.” He says gently. “Abuse can leave mental scars deep enough to wound even the strongest of people.”

“Is that so?” I don’t care. I’ve never cared about anything less.

“Relax.” He says randomly.

“Excuse me?”

Len looks up. “I feel how tense you are….. I think Johnny calls it ‘pushing’ when your powers create run off. You’re ‘pushing’ tense. I’m telling you to relax. This is painless. I’m not going to make you give me your life story.”

“…You’re not?”

Len smiles. “In session number 1? No. We work up to that. Piece by piece on a week to week basis based off what you want to tell me. I won’t ask for the full story out the gate.”

“You act like there are going to be more sessions. “

“In the beginning, I believe you’ll come because Johnny will order it as a punishment….. and I imagine that this being treated as a punishment will come with a great deal of aftercare once this is over. You like that. I think you’ll like it a lot. I think that will make you take this in stride. If you know what he’ll do afterward.”

Ah. So there’s going to be aftercare. Good to know. Come tho think of it Johnny did say something along those lines.

“Ah. You like that idea.” he nods. “What do you think he’ll do?”

“I don’t know. Hopefully, something to do with food.”

Len leans over his desk and picks up a small red circular container sitting on the right-hand edge. I don’t know how I missed it. “Candy.” He clarifies. “It’s got candy in it.”

He gives it a shake.

“No thank you.”

“No candy?” He frowns. “I thought you were hungry.”

“I don’t eat sweets.”

“Ever?”

“Ever.”

“Diet restrictions?” He asks.

Something like that. Romulus never let me eat sweets. I remember liking them a lot as a child… and I remember how he used to punish me. Major punishments. For eating. Needless to say, I lost the taste for them.

“Something like that,” I say aloud.

“Did I trigger a memory?”

“Hmm?”

“A memory.” He nods. “You just looked off into space for a few moments. You were remembering something.”

“Ah… yes.” That seems safe to tell him.

“So sweets has a story.” He nods. “Good to know.” Minor story. “I’ll ask about it again in our next session.”

“You’ll not get an answer.”

He smiles. “Perhaps.”

Perhaps my ass.

“How long do we have left?”

“Ten minutes.” he looks up from his notes. “You’re doing wonderfully.”

That… makes me feel weird.

I like the praise.

But…. I don’t know him.

But I’m doing wonderfully. This is something that I can do wonderfully. I’m good at it. I like being good at things. When I’m not, I usually send myself into some kind of pain trying to get better. Pain. I love it. I was hoping Johnny would spank me when I got home…. for disobeying him.

The jury may still be out for him… but I’m going to try to entice him in every way possible.

“You liked hearing that?” he asks with a smile. “You liked me praising you… I can tell.”

I stiffen.

“Do you get off on pain in general or does it have to be pain from a partner?”

That… is an odd question. “Pain in general.” Why does he ask?

“Ah. So not just sexual pain?”

I nod.

“I see.”

“Why do you ask?”

He holds up his notebook. “Notes. I’m trying to figure out what kind of masochist you are. Where your lines are.”

“I have no lines,” I say before I can really stop myself. Fuck I gave something away that I shouldn’t have.

“None at all?”

I nod.

“You just get off on pain. You don’t ever stop it?”

“Stop it?”

“Safewords.” he nods. “Most S&M ‘scenes’ involve safewords. Do you have any?”

“Yes.” I have safewords. Of course I do. Johnny wouldn’t do it if I didn’t.

“Okay, well do you use them?”

“Uh…. no.”

“Ever?”

I contemplate it all the time. I just don’t do it. For so long there were no magic words to stop it. It feels like I need to uphold my honor and training by not using them.

“No.”

“No safewords,” he says to himself. “Ever.”

I sit in silence for a few moments.

Len lets the silence sit. “When you come back next week… I’d like for you to write down the types of pain you enjoy…. and I’ll help you find a way to express that to Johnny in a way that will make him understand that you would like to do it in a sane and rational way.”

“Oh.” I wasn’t expecting that.

“Can you do that for me?” Len asks.

“…okay.” A list won’t hurt me. We can talk about a list.

“Wonderful. I haven’t dealt with many S&M relationships this could be quite helpful for me.”

Glad to help. “Does that mean I can go?”

Len nods. “Johnny should be in the waiting room.”

I awkwardly stand to my feet. Do I thank him?

“Thank you for your willingness to participate, Daken.” He says, still jotting notes down. “I really appreciate it.”

“Sure,” I say stiffly. He nods again. “See you next….. Monday?”

“Monday?”

“Johnny keeps up with the appointments… don’t worry. And don’t stress about it. Just write down that list for me in the next week- okay? Be honest.”

Be honest my ass.

“Sure,” I say stiffly.

“See you next week.” Like hell he will.

I walk into the waiting room and find Johnny reading a car magazine. When he sees me, he grins. “How was it?”

I shrug.

Johnny stands to his feet. “Let’s go home.”

I nod.

When I get close, Johnny takes my hand, rubbing a finger on my knuckles. “So proud of you.” He says. “I’ve got an awesome day planned.”

“Planned?”

“Well, yeah.” He nods. “The punishment is over. Now I get to take care of you.”

I like that. “I’d like that.” I nod.

“Good…. I thought we could start with a trip to the mall… you want to go to the mall?”

“You hate shopping.”

“But you like it.” He says pointedly. “We’re doing what you like today.”

That makes me smile. “You’re too good.”

“I am- aren’t I?” He returns my smile. On our way out, he holds my hand tight. “You did so well, Daken.” He says. “With everything considered…. do you think you’ll be able to do this again?”

That’s the real question- isn’t it. “We’ll see.” I grin. “We will see.”

That’s as good as he’s going to get… so he takes it.

 

Chapter Text

“I can’t really help you,” she says in a distracted voice. “I’m very- Gabby please I’m on the phone. I’m aware of how late it is.”

The phone in my hand is set on speaker. Laura’s voice fills my home with a loudness that attests to the strength of said speaker.

“Laura- come on. It’s five minutes. Just let me-“

“I can’t help you.” She repeats. “I’m sorry. Go to someone else. I’m very busy. Also, it’s very late. I’ve asked you not to call this late.”

Right. Being Wolverine is a full-time job. She’s probably tired.

Who knows what she’ll do now that that old bastard’s back.

“Fine, don’t help me.” I snarl, hanging up the phone.

I have a mark.

A big mark.

Well.. not a ‘big mark’. The same mark I let get away the other night. Gloria Stavis. Doctor extraordinaire. Philanthropist and loved by the masses. Except for the group of people that want her dead- that is.

I was pumping Laura for information. She was ridiculously unhelpful.

The internet is not helping either.

It will tell me where miss bitch will be and her back of the book information that available to anyone who purchases said book- but no real dirt. Not even on the usual sites.

That mob boss was awful insistent that I take the hit. He really wants this woman dead. Really.

Something about her sets me on edge.

it’s not the whole ‘save the children deal’- I swear it’s not.

It’s just…I’ve been one of those children. I know first hand- people don’t care that much. Why is this woman pushing it so hard? it’s not like these are even her kids. People who lost children to this type of thing- I would get.

Well almost.

If someone like oh say Logan were to start kicking up a fuss about these ‘poor helpless children’ I’d stab him through the throat.

Maybe that’s what I’ll do to her.

I just have to get close enough.

I don’t know what angle to work, however, and the internet is not helping me find one.

What good is the internet if you can’t find what you need?

I close the laptop and stare around the living room.

White carpet meets my black leather couch, all of it looking blue in the glow of the over the sink lights that are still on in the kitchen.

It’s two in the morning. Perfect time for calling people and light internet stalking.

There’s an unopened box of pizza from earlier.

Johnny was over today- hence the pizza.

I may have stolen a car or two on a three-day mission I had in Boston.

He made sure I … regretted that decision. Harshly.

I don’t know why I keep telling him these things.

I mean I do… but it’s become like a compulsion to tell him what I’ve done. He didn’t even ask for it. I willingly court my punishments. And if they’re not grand enough- I push him even further.

Maybe I am fucked in the head.

Maybe.

I pushed him into whipping me today.… it was pretty bad- even by my standards. It seems that here lately- I’m needing more and more pain. In greater quantities than before. Maybe it’s the change in my lifestyle. Maybe it’s the steadiness of the relationship. I don’t know. I’m not a shrink. Maybe I’ll ask the actual shrink when I see him in a few days. It can’t hurt- right?

The whipping- now there’s something that hurt. In all the best ways. I can still feel the pain- even though it’s long been healed.

He did it… but then he said I had to sleep on my own for pushing him.

Bossy.

I don’t like being told to sleep on my own…. we didn’t even do aftercare because my being on my own is still a punishment.

He really pressed the safe word tonight. Even when I made him see red. It was- ‘call it out, Daken. and it stops. tell me to stop and I will stop.”

Then it was, “You can still use it when I’m gone. Text me. Call me. Something- okay? Okay. I’m going to go now. Call me if it’s bad- okay? If you need anything.”

I didn’t call him.

Not yet anyway.

I’m not sleeping. And it is tempting to call this whole thing off.

My phone is right here. I pick it up and scroll through. A few missed texts.

A new one from Laura bitching me out for hanging up on her like that.

I do us both a favor and don’t respond at the moment. I’ve got to see her in the morning anyway. If she wants to bitch at me- it will have to be then. I’m not in the mood for it right now.

Johnny’s usual ‘goodnight’ text. I didn’t respond. He’s punishing me. I’m not supposed to be coddled when we’re doing this. He knows the rules.

But… it’s been about eight hours. Surely I can…

My fingers hover over his text. Then his contact info. I doubt he’s awake.

I doubt-

The phone is dialing. I put it on speaker and hold it in front of me.

“Hello?” Is mumbled on the other line by the third ring.

“Hey.” Not smooth at all. Not what I was going for.

There’s a sleep filled chuckle. “Hey, baby.”

“What are you doing?” There we go. Gaining a little bit of phone presence back.

That’s something I’m supposed to have at all times. I’m great at phone sex. Johnny loves it. And phone sex is becoming such a dying art form. With sexts and porn- who needs the talk- right? Lucky for me- Johnny loves phone sex. So it all works out.

I wonder if I could entice him into a session right now… if that would be something he’d like to wake up to.

Or, if since I’m still being punished technically I should be making a phone call at all.

Another chuckle. “Sleeping. You?”

“Uh.. nothing.” That was awkward. Dammit. We’re doing it again.

“Nothing, huh? I thought you went to bed hours ago.”

“I couldn’t sleep.”

“Yea?” He yawns. “You can safeword out and come over if you want…. you know that’s an option.”

Here we go again. Always back to this.

“I know it is.” I hope he drops it.

“And….” he prompts. He’s not going to drop it. Fuck.

“And I don’t use that word.” I remind him.

“Even tonight? Just call it off baby. Call it off and come see me. I can have you asleep in thirty minutes maximum.”

That makes me smile. I do sleep better with him around. “Yea?”

“Mm-hmm. Everyone’s asleep. I can meet you downstairs…. we’ll sleep in tomorrow. I don’t have anything to do.”

“I thought you had a race.”

“That was during your little mission…..” He pauses. “Which went well… I’m guessing? You never said.”

“The terrorist was dealt with in a timely and nonlethal manner,” I inform.

“I’m proud of you baby.” He says. “You turned him over to the police?”

“The Avengers.” I correct. “The kid ones I think.”

“Oh? Didn’t know they were in Boston this week.”

“They were the only team around,” I say. “It’s Boston. No one likes Boston.”

“Sue likes Boston.” He says.

“Boston is boring.”

“Sue doesn’t think so.”

“Sue is boring.” I tease.

He chuckles. “True dat.”

Now I laugh. “How was your day?”

We didn’t get to talk today. I told him what I’d done- he whipped me and then he left.

“Short. I did plan on taking you to see a friend.”

“We’ve seen enough friends this week.” I dismiss.

“Yea? Well, I ended up not going… after the whole whipping/leaving you on your own thing.” He pauses. “Did you heal up okay?”

“Mmm hmm. I healed.”

“Did you clean everything up?”

“No.”

“Do you want to leave it out and have me clean up in the morning? I’ll understand if you don’t want to touch it.”

I really don’t want to touch it.

“So you’re coming over in the morning?” I choose not to address the other part of that statement.

“That’s when this is over,” he says gently. “We can finish it then.”

Finish it?

“Finish it?”

“I wasn’t there when you healed… I didn’t get to take care of you.”

Right. “Oh.”

“Yea.” He yawns again. “If you’d call this thing off- I could do it tonight.”

That is tempting.

“Tempting.”

“Tempting enough to do it?”

“No,” I answer honestly.

“Not even if I promise to rub your back?”

Where he hit me.

“Hmm…”

“Or your shoulders?”

“That does sound good.”

“I was gonna make you some food…. and I got some documentary that I’m going to hate that you’ll probably love. It’s in French. I figured we could watch it without the subtitles since I know how you hate those.”

He’s pushing all the right buttons.

“And… if you’re up to it…. I got some new lube. Only if you’re up for it though. No pressure.”

“And you’d do all this right now. Tonight. At 2 in the morning.”

“You got it.” He says sleepily. “Just say the word and I’ll prince charming your ass.”

“How chivalrous of you.”

“Uh hmm.” He says. “So…. you gonna say it?”

I’m torn.

I never say it.

I never end this before it’s time.

It’s simply not allowed.

“Daken? Do you want to end it for tonight? It’s been hours… and I left you a bloody mess. Have you cleaned yourself up? Maybe I should come over to your place instead.”

“I can’t say it,” I mutter.

“You.. can’t? Or you won’t?”

“I can’t.”

“It’s your word, baby. You can always say it. You know that. I’m not gonna be mad. It’s okay. I promise. This one was harsh. I know that. I’ve felt terrible about it all night…. you were crying… like crying -crying.”

Because it was a whipping.

But it felt so good. The tears are involuntary. I’m enjoying myself more than they make it appear. It just reminds me of being a child. That’s it. That’s why whippings are a rare thing. He doesn’t like it when I cry. I try to keep that in mind. especially given the recent visit to the psychiatrist. I don’t want him to bring this up when I’m not expecting it.

“Do you want me to come over?” he asks.

“Of course I want you to come over.” I sigh. “Just… when it’s over.”

“Can I make an amendment to the punishment… since I’m the one who gave it in the first place?”

That makes me… wonder.

I mean… yea.

“Technically speaking? I guess so.”

Romulus did from time to time. Not when he thought he was being too harsh- he never thought he was being too harsh. Just when it was taking longer than expected.

Three days one time. Seventy-two straight hours. And he comes in and says- ‘You’re done. This is ridiculous. Go get clean.’

His associate was not happy with that. He was quite enjoying my punishment. I remember all the blood in the shower. It came off of me in rivers.

I’m still bloody from today.
Funny how little things can tie the past in with the present.

Blood. I’ve been bloody more time in my life than I can count. Not all from wet works missions- either. I’ve had the shit knocked out of me on several occasions.

And I didn’t always like it.

Why am I sill bloody at 2 in the morning when the actual physical part of my punishment was over about eight hours ago?

I guess because he didn’t clean me. Or tell me to get clean. it’s not over yet. Why would I clean up when it’s not over?

“You guess so…. so there’s a chance you might get upset if I do it?”

That…

“I don’t know, honestly,” I tell him. Because I don’t. We do this for me. And even the non-physical parts are important. He knows that.

“Can we give it a try?” He asks.

I’m silent.

Can we?

Would I get upset? I mean I called him. Obviously, I was missing him.

And I haven’t moved from my house since he left.

“I’m gonna come over,” Johnny says gently. “I declare this over. I’m gonna come help you clean up and put you to bed.”

“Put me to bed? I’m capable of going on my own.” There’s no heat behind this.

“I know you can.” He soothes. “But the bed sheets have to be changed… the whip needs to be sterilized. You probably haven’t washed up- have you?”

I look down at myself. There is blood.

I pushed him too far.

He was furious.

When he’s in his right mind- he never hits me when he’s angry.

“No. I haven’t.”

“Let me come give you a bath.”

“Oh, you’re bathing me now?” I smirk.

“Yep.” He yawns. “Hmm…. should I drive or fly?”

I think about it. “Which would be faster?”

“Hmm. Probably flight. I wouldn’t have to stop at any lights or stop signs.”

“I see.”

“It’s pretty dark out, though. I might get lost.”

“I’d hate for you to be flying around in the dark.” I laugh at the mental picture.

“I’ll be over in twenty minutes.”

“Okay.”

I hear him starting to move over the phone.

“Gotta get dressed.” He tells me. “So I gotta hang up.”

“Okay,” I repeat.

“Okay. I love you. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

“See you in a few minutes.”

The line clicks.

I stare at the phone for a second.

I should go back into the room and start cleaning up. It was a bad session….and he probably won’t want to see what’s left of it.

I stand to my feet and walk to the bedroom, barely pushing the door open. I turn the lights on and stare at my bed.

Large. King. Nice headboard. Plenty of bondage opportunities.

The bedspread has blood on it. The carpet has drops of blood on it. the sheets actually have a tear from the whiplash. I’ll have to go pick up new sheets tomorrow. The spare ones are still in a box somewhere.

To the side of the bed is a black nightstand. It’s got a random collection of chords for my various devices and my wallet in it. Normal stuff.

To the right of the room is the door to the bathroom. I see it in the dark. The large counter top. The glass walls that make up the shower. I’ve been in there once or twice in the last eight hours. I’ll be lucky if there’s no blood to clean up in there as well.

On the black bedspread back at the bed is the tool of the night.

Large handle. Long tail. Head? How is a whip labeled?

The thong- I think it’s called. That’s the long part. The thing that makes the noise… fuck I don’t know.

I like pain. But I don’t really like whips. Not enough to educate myself properly about them. I just know this is the painful part- the part I get- and that is the handle- the part he gets. That’s all I’ve ever needed to know.

This whip is a decent sized whip. Not as big as a proper one meant for actual use- but a little bigger than one meant for sexual play. In my years I’ve never really met another person who keeps a bull whip handy.

Maybe that’s part of my ‘fucked up’ head. I’m sure the doctor would love to hear about tonight. About our instruments. About our system.

Every relationship has a system. Something that consists of checks and balances. Something that makes it make sense. Something that holds the partners accountable. Ours is just… violent.

I touch the whip with just my finger tips- as if it could still hurt me.

There’s a fine coating of blood on it. Something that would definitely upset Johnny. That’s a fight I don’t want to have.

There’s a weight to it. Beyond what it’s done tonight. Something that ties the past to the present- yet again. Like the blood.

Looking at it takes me back. Years. Decades even. Back to when I was young. Back to when there was no pleasure to be gained from this.

Romulus had tons of whips and he was a rather large man. A mountain of claws and muscle. When he cracked that whip… you heard it. More than heard it- you felt it. When I was younger I started crying immediately. When I got older I started to treat it like a game. Seeing how long I could hold off on breaking down. I rewarded myself for making it past three minutes. Then five minutes. Then eight minutes. And so on and so forth. And then one day- one magical day- the switch flipped. I started to like it. I started to like all of it. It hurt- oh it hurt. But it was delicious. It showed me my place in the world. It molded me. I became stronger each hardship that I endured.

And he was proud. Above all else- he was proud. I served my Master well… and I was rewarded for it.

The whip… it represents a lot to me. I don’t even know why I have one. Let alone one like this. A Flogger is one thing. A riding crop is another. A bullwhip is an entirely new situation altogether. It’s a can of worms that Johnny doesn’t like opening.

But I pushed him.

I pushed him so he left me to deal with the emotional backlash of this session on my own.

It made me feel better knowing he felt guilty.

My Johnny has a pure heart.

He’s almost too good for this world.

Too good for me- at any rate.

Over and over again I’m reminded how lucky I am to have him. Over and over I wonder why he doesn’t leave.

Even when I push him to his limits. Even when I purposefully go too far. He’s still here.

What did I do to win this amount of devotion?

I’ve never had this before.

Sometimes the intensity is frightening. Not exactly ‘run away’ frightening. But frightening none the less.

Johnny never needs to know that.

He burns hot- even when he’s not lit. It floods over into every aspect of his life. Every single one. He just can’t help it. And if he could- I don’t think he would stop.

I hold the whip in my hand, testing its weight.

It stirs up something in me. Something better left forgotten.

I’ve got to get myself together before Johnny gets here.

It’s been hours. If he sees that I’m still upset he’ll not do this again for a very long time. And it took so much talk to get him to do it today in the first place.

I just keep thinking of the first time. All these years later. I kept thinking- that’s for an animal. That’s for an animal. He’s not going to hit me with that. I don’t deserve to be hit with that. I’m a child. Children aren’t hit like that.

From my original upbringing, I wasn’t hit at all.

Maybe that’s why I was such a little shit. Maybe.

Shit how my world was rocked to its core when I went with him. When he found me in the rain. An orphan for the second time in my life. Reeling from what had happened.

Natsume’s baby. There’s something I still think about.

I… didn’t kill that child. I hid the child. But I didn’t kill it.

I lied to her.

I don’t know why I didn’t tell her the truth.

Because I was a little shit.

I made that baby an orphan.

Who knows what he grew up to be?

Probably dead at this point.

It’s not like I never thought to check in on him before now.

Romulus would have probably killed him if he knew I took an interest in him.

So I kept my thoughts to myself.

Even when the telepaths on hand probed. It was my secret. The secret baby. Left in a fishing village for some new mommy and daddy.

Like I was.

It’s not that Akihira and Natsume were bad. They were…. I mean.. good-ish people.

It seems unlikely now, looking back, that they should’ve had to die.

I regret that.

I regret going with Romulus.

And this all brought on by this whip.

This bloody, bloody, whip.

I hate it....And I love it.

Why can’t I get a single thing straight in my head today?

Alright- focus. The whip needs to be cleaned. Sterilized. The bedspread needs to be washed. The sheets need to be stripped.

The-

The front door is opening.

Fuck my life.

“Hello?” he calls from the door.

Do I call out to him? Do I want him in here?

“In the bedroom!” Is out of my mouth before I can give it a second thought.

Apparently, I do want him in my bedroom or I wouldn’t have told him where I was so easily.

My back is to the bedroom door as I stand here and stare at what I should have had done twenty minutes ago.

“Hey, bab- oh my god.” He gasps from the door. “Your back.”

“It’s fine.” I shush him.

“How many lashes did I give you?” He asks, coming behind me and wrapping his arms around my waist.

“Twenty.”

“For stealing a car??”

“You like cars….” I try to make it make sense to him. Johnny kisses my neck.

“Shower.” He orders.

“I’ve got to clean the-“

“Shower.” He nips at my ear, adding a sense of playfulness to the order.

I hold my hands up. “I’m going.”

I put the whip down on the bed and turn around to face him.

He picks it up and observes it. “Covered in blood.” He whispers.

“It wasn’t that bad.” I turn around and make sure to catch his eyes. “Surface wounds bleed like fuck. You know that.”

He sighs. “I do know that.”

“So…….. It was fine.”

“Why were you staring at it? How long have you been in here?”

“Just since I got off the phone.”

“Are you… baby are you upset?”

“What?” I try to laugh it off. “Why would I be upset? It was hours ago.”

“You’re upset.” He accuses. “The whippings are too much.”

“No, they’re not.” I try to laugh.

“They’re too much and you won’t use your safeword.”

“Johnny-“

“You’ve never used it.”

“Listen-“

“Do you even know it?”

“Of course I know it.” I try to laugh yet again.

“What is it?”

I stop. “I don’t say it.”

“It’s not a bad word, Daken.” Johnny soothes. “You know that right? No one is going to think less of you for using it. I’m the only person who knows. Do you honestly think I would look down on you for telling me you’ve had enough?”

That makes me sigh. “Of course I don’t think that.”

“Then what is it? What’s the safeword?”

“I don’t say it,” I growl. “And I won’t be tricked into it.”

“I’m not tricking you. This punishment is over. This was too much for you and you didn’t use your word. Now you’re upset and you’re hurting because you didn’t trust me enough to protect yourself. You were too prideful and now you’re hurt. That is what’s happened here.”

“Johnny, please.”

He grabs me by the shoulder and turns me around, putting my back to him again. He lightly starts to touch my back in random places.

“What’re you doing?” I have to ask.

“Counting.” He says in concentration. “Shush. I’ll be done soon.”

“Johnny-“

“Shush.” He says.

“It's twenty, Johnny. Like I told you.”

“I count twenty-five.”

Fuck.

“Why are you hiding these extra five?”

“It’s not important.”

“Use your safeword,” he says lowly. “Please. Let me hear it. I want to know you still know it.”

“It doesn’t matter if I know it!” I snap. “I’m not allowed to use it!”

“You’re-“ he turns me around. “What do you mean?”

I blink in confusion. “That came out wrong.”

“I don’t think it did.” He soothes. “Why aren’t you allowed to use it?”

I try to look away, Johnny puts a hand on my chin and lifts my face until I’m looking him in the eyes again.

“Why baby?”

“Because I’m strong. Each hit makes me stronger. I learn. I get better. I didn’t kill the terrorist. I left him for someone else. I only cut off a little bit. He won’t even bleed out. Look how much I’ve learned just in the past week!”

Johnny thumbs my lip. “You can’t use it because you think it makes you weak?”

I nod.

“You’ve been pushing me a lot recently…. why?”

“I need more pain.”

“You need more pain.” He repeats. “Why didn’t you just tell me that?”

Because you won’t do it like I want you to do it. You won’t do it to the extent I need done.

“I don't know.”

Johnny stares at me for a second. “Where’s your list?”

“My list?”

“Your homework for the doctor,” he says. “Where is it?”

“Oh. I haven’t done it yet.”

“Why don’t we do it together?” He asks. “And you can tell me what kind of pain you like.”

“I like pain, Johnny. There’s no particular type I like more than-“

“You cum when I spank you. You like that better than being burnt. You cry when I whip you. You like that less . When I burn you-you get hard… but you don’t cum. if I choke you-you get hard but don’t cum. If I cut you you’ll cum if it’s in the right place and at the right number of cuts…. and-“

“You notice all of that?” I’ll have to admit I’m floored.

“Well yeah,” he says. “I keep a running catalog of what you like ..and what you don’t really like in case you don’t want to use your safeword and I have to make calls to keep you safe….”

“You do that for me?”

He nods. “Baby, I don’t like hurting you. You understand that, don’t you? That’s where the problem is coming from…..the last thing I want to do is hurt you. I understand that you need it- I do. I don’t know why you need it… maybe you can tell me later… but you need it. So I do it. But you won’t use your safe words. Or tell me when I step over the line… so I have to notice for myself.”

“…Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.” He smiles. It’s radiant. “Let’s get you washed up, hmm? Hot shower? Or bath? Which one do you want?”

Which one do I want?

Exactly what do I want?

“If I take a shower will you join me?”

“Duh.” He grins.

I smile. “Shower it is then.”

“Alrighty.”

He lets me lead the way to the bathroom.

The countertop that holds the sink is clear of everything except some hair gel and a comb. I’m glad to see there’s no blood.

I observe the shower box for a second. No blood there either. It’s a fucking miracle. Clean up will be reduced to just the bed. How amazing. It’s like a weight’s been lifted off my shoulders.

Once the water’s running, I remove my sweat pants and step in.

Johnny shrugs out of his shorts and t-shirt and joins me a second later.

I turn and face him resting my chin on his shoulder.

Johnny goes about washing the blood off my back. He’s acquired one of the washcloths I keep in here and is slowly lathering body wash into in my skin. The smell, feeling, and sound of the action bring me into an almost trance-like state.

“All that blood,” he says in my ear. “All gone.”

“Thank you.” I murmur, eyes heavy.

“Are you going to sleep on me?” he asks.

I nod.

“If I didn’t show up- would you have stayed up all night?”

“Probably,” I answer honestly around a yawn.

“It’s a good thing you called then,” he says. “I was gonna come over at five anyway.”

“Five? You’re usually not out of bed until ten.”

He nods. “I didn’t want you to wake up alone.”

“Awh.” I tease.

“Uh hmm.” He kisses the side of my head. “You’re clean.”

“Dry me off,” I order.

“Please?” He prompts.

“No please. It’s an order.”

“An order?” he snorts, reaching over and turning the water off.

“An order,” I repeat. “Dry me off.”

“Sir yes sir.” He laughs, stepping out of the shower and grabbing a towel off of the large granite counter top.

He dries me off with sure, sturdy, dabs of the towel. Moving slowly down my body. He pays more attention to certain parts of my anatomy than others. Not that I blame him. Those are my favorite parts as well. By the time he get’s to my legs I’m hard as a rock. And here I thought I’d be too tired for anything fun.

“Hello, stranger.” Johnny whistles, looking down at my erection.

“Mmm hmm.” I smile.

“I’m guessing you want me to take care of that.” He says.

“It’s your boyfriendly duty,” I smirk.

“Yea… well, I’ll take care of you if you take care of me.” He teases.

“Sounds like a fair trade.”

Johnny smirks. “Who’s going to be where?”

“Mmmm.” Who’s going to be where? Good question. Do I feel like doing all the work tonight? Not really. And Johnny’s already had some sleep. I’ve had none.

I could easily be on the bottom and lay back and relax.

“I’ll bottom,” I announce.

Johnny smirks. “Alright.”

He moves to my neck, kissing down to shoulder. “And where do you want me to take you?”

“Good question.”

Take me. I like the sound of that.

On the counter? Could prove to be uncomfortable. The bed seems forever away though.

We could do it on the floor. We’ve broken in every inch of this house- literally. I don’t think he’d mind.

"Make up your mind.” He whispers in my ear. “Because I’m going to fuck you unconscious.”

“That sounds wonderful.” I glance behind me a second before he lifts me up and rams me into the counter. “Like that.” I groan as he rubs up against me.

I’m facing the mirror, I can see the look of concentration on his face as he reaches over and starts to dig through drawers.

“Lube. Third drawer.” I nod to the said drawer.

“Thanks.” He retrieves it and goes about uncapping it and slicking his fingers in quick procession.

“Horny there lover?”

Johnny smirks at me in the mirror. “It’s been four days.”

That it has. Usually, we have sex at least once a day. Most of the time two or three times. He hates it when we’re separated for a long time- even if that ‘long’ time is only a few days. He’s pretty much hooked on what we can do together. It’s charming in every sense of the word.

“Ah. So it has.”

“Mm-hmm.” he kisses my neck again, the kiss blending into a small nip.

“You could always get a BOB.” I offer teasingly.

“I like to be inside of you,” he says huskily. “BOB can’t hold a candle to that.”

“Get a fleshlight.”

He nips at me again.

“How about…I just save all that energy up for when you get home….?”

I smirk. “That’s a reasonable solution.”

I feel his slick fingers toying with me. He’s dragging it out

His other hand wraps around my cock, pumping it before he’s even inside of me.

“If you make me cum before you penetrate me, you might not get the chance tonight,” I warn.

“I think you can cum multiple times if you want to.” He whispers in my ear. “The question is… do you want to?”

That makes me smile. He pushes two fingers inside of me, steady and smooth.

I exhale in content.

“That’s right.” He murmurs. “Breathe with me.”

He adds another finger. It’s a bit of stretch.. but nothing I can’t handle. I was trained in sex by someone bigger than him in every sense of the word. That’s not to say that Johnny’s small by any means. He’s got the kind of dick that you wouldn’t really mind getting a pic of. I have a few of those laying around my phone. God forbid it ever get hacked at the press find out that Human Torch sends dick pics to his boyfriend.

We have to watch out for shit like that- it drives me crazy. I’ve never had a relationship under this much scrutiny before.

But then again- this is only my second serious relationship. The rest were fake and done in the name of manipulation.

IE I had someone telling me what to do the whole time.

This is the first time I’ve been completely solo. And I don’t think I’m doing half bad.

“You with me?” He crooks his fingers, making a shiver of pleasure race up my spine.

“Mm-hmm.”

“I thought I lost you there.” He moves his fingers again, his other hand giving me a firmer stroke than before.

“Just thinking,” I admit.

“Yea?” He continues working me from both ends. “What about?”

That makes me smile. “Stuff.”

“Sexy stuff?”

I laugh. “Not exactly.”

“You should think about sexy stuff.” He smiles at me in the mirror. “It makes getting you off easier.”

That makes me laugh again. “I think I’m fairly easy to get off.”

“Not when it comes to plain vanilla sex.”

“Hmmm. Vanilla sex you say?”

“Uh hmm.” he lets go of my cock and turns my head to kiss me. It’s long and deep. “I want to make love to you.”

“I thought you wanted to ‘fuck me unconscious’.”

“I did…. but then I looked at you.” He moves his fingers again. “And I felt you…. and you feel like you need me to make love to you.”

That… has possibilities.

He won’t hurt me… but it can still be good.

If I push pheromones again, something bad could happen. And he wants to ‘make love’. He’s not in the mood for anything bad to happen.

“I do, do I?”

He kisses me again. “Spread your legs?” He slides his fingers out.

“Hmm. I’ll think about it.” I tease.

“Please?” He laughs.

I turn around to face him, pulling myself onto the ledge of the counter and wrapping my legs loosely around his waist.

“Aren’t you eager?” He teases.

He reaches his hand between us and slicks himself up.

“You could call it that,” I smirk.

Johnny pushes my back to the countertop, laying me flat.

“Uh… okay.” I didn’t expect him to reposition me.

He takes my legs and puts them on his shoulders.

“You look amazing like this.” He compliments.

The angle pushes my head flush with the mirror. Looking up I see only it and ceiling. I have to lift my head to look at him.

He pushes in inch by inch- it’s an exquisite feeling. One I’m not sure I have the words to describe.

He hisses. “Yes…. oh my god that feels amazing.”

Johnny is sure to lift me so he can get better access to my ass.

“Mm.” He hits my prostate almost immediately.

Johnny’s been well trained. I wasn’t his first…I don’t think so, anyway. He knew the basics when we got together. So either he was with someone beforehand or he watched a fuck ton of gay porn. And porn isn’t the most reliable of teacher’s from my experience. It gives unrealistic expectations for men and women alike. It’s fun to watch- sure. But that’s all movie magic. The real show is different. It’s more… well real.

His thrusts are slow and steady. His face a mask of pure concentration.

“Just like that.” I encourage.

“Yea?”

“Yea… like that.” He puts a hand on the outside of my right calf, holding my leg in place.

It’s quiet. This early in the morning it’s always quiet.

“You look amazing.” He repeats from earlier. “Just as amazing as you feel.” He kisses my right leg.

I have to bite my lip to keep from making noise and a particularly well-placed thrust.

“Yea?” He teases. “Trying to keep those noises from me?”

I nod.

This is a game. I try to be as quiet as possible… and he tries to make me make noise.

“That’s no good.” He tsks, speeding up just a fraction. “Come on baby. Lemme hear a little noise.”

I grin and shake my head.

Johnny returns my smile. “Come on.” He teases, thrusting ever so lightly. “Gimme a sound.”

“You’re a big boy. You can do without.” I tease.

Sometimes I go completely quiet. Again just to bug him. To vex him. Johnny puts up with my ‘quirks’. Which occasionally include me playing games while we’re having sex.

Games that he doesn’t always understand.

He scrunches his brows together, focusing.

The ride that follows his amazing. He snakes his hand in between us and pumps my cock in a smooth motion.

“Little bit of direction here?” He asks in almost frustration.

He doesn’t think I’m enjoying myself.

“Keep going.”

He gets deeper. “Baby… please. A Little bit of noise?”

I can see how frustrated he is. He hates it when he thinks he’s underperforming. It’s adorable.

“Right there.” I hiss.

Johnny perks up. “Yea?” He starts to move faster. “Okay.”

His hand slips from my dick and up to my chest. He tweaks one of my nipples- it’s a bright prick of pain that makes me shudder.

I let a single moan slip past my lips.

“That’s right.” He soothes with sigh. “Fuck.”

“Fuck,” I repeat.

This is pretty good for vanilla sex.

He’s not choking me… but it’s good. Lately, he’s been choking me. It’s a pain I’m coming to like when we’re fucking. There are no clamps either. Most of the time I like something clamped.

He squeezes harder. “Mm-hmm. You like that?”

“Yea.” I hiss.

He hits my prostate harder than before, making me rise up with his thrust. He moves his hand from my calf to my hip- pinning me down to the counter and thrusting thoroughly and deeply. Like he has a mission.

“Johnny…” I hiss.

“Uh hmm?” He gets deeper still. I don’t think I can take any more of him.

That’s an exquisite idea right there.

“More.”

One simple word.

“I hate to break it to ya…” he whispers. “But there’s not much left at this point.”

“More,” I repeat.

He squeezes my other nipple. “There ya go… my little pain junkie.”

“Yes…” I groan. “More pain.”

“More pain?” He grins. “I don’t think so.”

His hand moves up to my head, pushing some of my wet hair out of my face.

“You look like some kind of… succubus. Sexy.”

“Succubus?” I ask curiously.

“Like a sexy sex vampire thing- right? Succubus?”

That makes me laugh, which turns into a moan. “Demon.” I correct breathlessly. “Female demon. Sleeps with sleeping men.”

“Oh. Then uh… Incubus… Right? Like the band?”

He thrusts deep and steady.

“Still a demon. Sleeps with sleeping women.” I moan.

“Kinda rapey.” He exhales.

“Very rapey.” I agree.

“Then… let's see. Something sexy that’s not rapey… you look like…. a ….”

“Daken.” I moan. “I look like Daken.”

“I’m gonna call you my little devil.” He teases. “Temptress?”

“‘Temptress’ denotes a woman.”

“Dammit. Aren’t they’re any sexy creatures for gay men?”

I smile. “Sorry babe. No representation at all in the recorded mythology.” That’s not true. I’m sure we could find something.

But right now? Back on the bathroom counter, legs over his shoulders, and his dick in my ass- not the time to go through mythology.

“I’m gonna call you a guy succubus then. Or a gay incubus.”

“Doesn’t take care of the rapey part.”

He thrusts deeper, suddenly- making me moan louder than before.

“That’s your sweet spot.” He says gently. “You like it hit- don’t you?”

“Is that even a question?” I laugh.

“No.. but you’re making a lot of noise now.”

“What? You think My neighbors can hear”

“No….” Johnny grins. “It just means that I win. I made you moan. Repeatedly.”

“Only because you begged.” I close my eyes and enjoy the feeling of him filling me.

“I still won.”

“What do you want- a cookie?”

“How about you cumming all over yourself? That seems like a fair prize.”

“Oh, you’re going to make that happen hmm?”

He brings his hand back to my cock, pumping me. “You feel pretty hard….” He teases.

“Doesn’t mean a thing.” I moan. “I can hold an erection for hours…”

“Ya, I know. Edging.” he rolls his eyes. “But we don’t need you to hold one for hours. I think we can wrap this up in the next five minutes.” He’s getting a little out of breath.

“Aren’t you a confident one?” I tease.

He rams into me again. “How much more of this is it gonna take for you to accept my bedroom prowess.”

“Prowess? Someone found his dictionary.”

“Oh hahaha.” He kisses my leg. “Don’t make me bend you in half.”

“Oh,” I hiss. “Do that.”

He grins before repositioning me. “Now you’d better cum.” He whispers. “Or you’re gonna have one hell of a cramp.”

I glance back at us in the mirror. It’s more erotic than it should be- in my opinion.

The new position puts a strain on my back. It’s a little bit of pain for me to soak up.

“More.” I breathe.

“More?”

“More!” I yelp when he hits my prostate again.

His thrusts grow more erratic.

“I’ll give you more.” He says between pants.

“Yes!” I agree. “Give me more.”

“Oh, yea.” He whispers, leaning over me. “Let me give it to you.”

“Give it to me.” I encourage.

“Just like this…” He says with a well-placed thrust. “Just like… this.”

“Yes.” I moan. “Johnny-“

His thrusts grow increasing more erratic this time.

That’s just as well. I’m going to cum at any minute anyway.

If I hadn’t already played the quiet game with him, I would have made him think I still needed a minute to see if he could last.

Johnny doesn’t like that though. He’s not into orgasm denial.

Not that I blame him… but one of Romulus’ associates used it as a very effective punishment. Johnny refuses to do that to me. He says it’s something he can’t stand so he can’t possibly inflict it.

“I’m ready.” He says a little breathlessly. “You ready?”

“Hmm?”

“Are you gonna-“

“Don’t rush me.” I purr. “I’m enjoying myself.”

“I can’t hold out that much-“

“You don’t need to,” I promise. “I’m almost… almost-“

“Big finish baby.” He says. “Come on.. give it to me.”

“Oh, I’m gonna give it to you,” I promise. My forehead is sweaty, my back is sweaty- Johnny feels like a fucking furnace without it being painful. We’re both going to need another shower.

I can feel everything mounting. Building up and up until-

“Yes! Almost! Almost!” He slams into me- one hard time. It’s a sudden flash of pain. It brings me faster than I intended. “Done!” I yelp.

He cums a second later, practically collapsing on top me.

“That’ll do pig.” I nudge him in the shoulder with my hand.

“Pig?” He grins. “That’s what you have to say to me after I rocked your world?”

“Full of yourself tonight- aren’t you?”

He pulls out. As usual, the emptiness feels odd.

“I came inside you.” He announces.

That makes me chuckle. “So you did.”

“You’ll need to be cleaned up.”

I nod, closing my eyes.

There’s movement, him shifting positions. When I open them, he’s leaned over and is kissing my forehead. “You did amazing.. baby.” He says. “As always… I’m blessed.”

“You are, aren’t you?”

He smiles. “How are you feeling?”

“Hmm?”

How am I feeling? Fucking amazing. Why is he asking?

“We aborted the punishment early…. and you seem to be okay.”

I guess…. I do.

“Look at that.”

He smiles. “Why don’t you clean up? I’ll go take care of the bed.”

The.. bed?

Oh right. The whip.

“Okay.”

He nods. “Okay. I’ll call you in when I’m done.”

That makes me sigh. “I can look at it, Johnny. It’s not going to trigger anything.”

Johnny kisses my forehead again. “I know. I know. I’d just rather you not.”

He breaks away from me and walks into the bedroom- naked as the day he was born. It’s a nice view.

I keep myself reclined on the counter and watch him through the cracked bathroom door.

I need to clean myself… but the view is too nice.

Johnny gathers the whip and the bedspread, tossing them both off to the side. I guess he’s going to actually ‘clean’ clean tomorrow.

He gets another bedspread down out of the closet. One that I didn’t know was there.

Johnny makes the bed, rearranges the pillows and looks back over his shoulder. “The whip needs to be washed.”

“I know.”

“I’ll do it tomorrow.” he smiles. “Come to bed?”

Right. I was supposed to wash up.

“Hold on a second.”

I grab the washcloth from the shower and go about washing myself off as best I can in the sink. The general stiffness that goes along with sex is washed away in waves of relaxation as I move around and get ready for bed.

When I reach the actual bed, Johnny’s pulled himself into the middle, sleeping on top of the blankets.

“I might want under those.” I point out.

Johnny doesn’t need blankets. Ever. He uses them because it’s a force of habit.

“Right,” he says sheepishly, pulling them up and ushering me under. “Four-thirty.” He says.

“Hmm?”

“It’s four thirty. Do you have anything to do tomorrow?”

Do I… let me- oh fuck.

“Yes.” I hiss. “I forgot.”

“Oh?”

I nod. “I meeting the clones.”

“The clones?” he asks in confusion.

“Laura and her sister.” I shake my head. “In the morning.”

“What time?” he’s messing with his phone.

“I need to be up by eight.”

“Eight it is.” He sets the silver device back on the nightstand. “Go to sleep, my lovable incubus for guys who doesn’t fuck them while they’re sleeping.” He grins.

“We’ll find a better mythological reference tomorrow.” I snort.

“Please do.” he chuckles, leaning over and kissing me. “I love you. Thank you for calling me.”

I cuddle into him, soaking up his natural heat. “Best move I’ve made in days,” I respond.

He grins. “Go to sleep, baby. You’ve got to be up in a few hours.”

I nod. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

I never used to let my dates sleep in the bed with me. I always left during the night. Having him with me in the bed has a certain… calming factor to it.

It’s something I’ve never really felt before. And to be honest- it feels amazing.

Chapter Text

“What is that?” I point to the creature that furiously trying to crawl its way out of the young girl's lap to and escape to the ground.

“It’s a pet wolverine.” Laura says in a tone of ease one should not possess when talking about owning a wild animal.

The thing is small. Furry. Smells like it’s been sprayed with some kind of deodorizing spray. Febreeze maybe? It has a distinct scent.

“I can see that.” I roll my eyes. “What’s it doing at this restaurant?”

“His name is Jonathan!” ‘Gabby’ says. “He comes with me everywhere.”

She and Laura have just sat down in this nice little outdoor patio of one of my favorite coffee shops. The tables are an old rustic sort of wood-like look- salvaged I think is the word. It’s very ‘hipster’. I don’t like cliche cliques or styles- but I do agree a lot with ‘hipsters’ taste in things. Style wise some of it is quite… charming.

“How... quaint.”

Jonathan jumps off her lap and starts attacking whatever is in his immediate vicinity.

Cute.

Sort of reminds me of my own Jonathan that I left in bed this morning. He was quite grumpy.

Our late night didn’t afford him much sleep. I think he’s still passed out in my bed. I’ve contemplated bringing him some lunch… since our breakfast meeting as run over due to Laura being late. I’m betting it has everything to do with ‘Jonathan’ and his pint-sized owner.

Children. I’ve never liked children.
I myself never really got the chance to be one. Not for long.

When faced with them, I really don’t know how to act.

I’ve faced this when interacting with Johnny’s niece and nephew. I want to be nice- yes. But sometimes it comes off bored or worse- mean. Neither of them like me very much. I hate that. They’re so important to Johnny. He tries to introduce us slowly. I’m screwing that up. I always manage to fuck it up somehow. A word that didn’t land as it was supposed to. An expression that lasts a moment too long. Shit like that.

Children and I just don’t seem to get along.

Maybe that’s tying into my current mission.

Surely I don’t want to see them suffer. I’m not that fucked up. I can just never manage to make myself… kinder. People get kind when interacting with children. Children respond to that. I’m at my most kind when I do things like… leave hot water for Johnny when I’m showering. Or bringing him my leftover food. Filling his tank up when I steal his car for the afternoon. Things like that. Children don’t require that kind of kindness. They like presents and soft words and sweets. All I can off his a painted on smile that makes my face hurt.

Gabrielle is a child. But also a weapon. A weapon that acts, thinks, and behaves like a child. She’s a dangerous thing- Gabby.

In a sense, Gabby is related to me. She’s a clone of the clone that acts as some sort of fucked up sister. So that makes her my little sister (if she calls Laura her sister) or my niece (if she considers Laura her mother.) It’s tricky when you bring in clones. Really, really, tricky.

Gabby glares at me. “Jonathan is a fine pet.”

I glance at the creature. “It’s eating the table leg.”

Laura sighs. “Jonathan is a fine pet.” She repeats. “More so, he’s Gabby’s pet. So he stays.”

“Fine. It’s not my table.” I say dismissively. “Keep the beast.”

Although, if we’re taking things at face value- having a pet wolverine can be considered ‘cool’. I’ll have to ask Laura where she got it. Not that I want one- no. But I’m sure it’s got some kind of story.

Gabby nods. “You should apologize.”

Apologize? This child is naive. How on earth did she survive a government program?

“To who?” I smirk.

“Jonathan!” She groans. “You hurt his feelings!”

The animal, which has a harness and leash, looks up from his assault on the table leg. “Yea, I’m not apologizing to that.”

“He’s not a that, he’s a he.” Gabby glares at me again.

She looks just like Laura… I mean of course she does. She’s a clone. The only difference would be the scars on her face.

I’m sure she’s got some horrible story behind them…. but I don’t really care to hear it.

I’m not even trying to be rude. It’s just.. what can a child her age really tell me about the situation? She’s too attached to it. Give her a few years and she can articulate her pain in a manner that would be useful.

As is- she seems pretty ‘happy go lucky’. How on earth could a clone with scars from obvious abuse or experimentation be happy?

Not only happy- no. Innocent. She seems innocent.

No one in our ‘family’ is innocent. It just doesn’t happen. How she seems to have acquired this trait- I have no idea. It makes me uneasy though.

If Logan tries to take this one in- I will lose it.

Another daughter for him to rear. Another child for him to mold. Forget his actual children. Like he’s been good to any of us.

I- no. No. I’m working on this. I’m getting better. I’m not basing my mental stability on what Logan thinks or does. I can be logical. Logan’s already killed me once. I need to have tact when dealing with him- Not run into a hissy fit every time I think of him.

Johnny would like this. I like that Johnny would like this. I like it a lot.

As for Gabby… well, she’s one of those kids that seems to be a hot-button topic right now.

Maybe she’ll end up as one of Dr. Stavis’ interviews. I’m sure the aspect of cloning would be foreign to her.

Which brings me back to the reason for this meeting.

“So… Dr. Stavis-“

Laura holds a hand up to stop me. “I’m not giving you any information you could use to harm her.”

“Laura,” I groan. “Please. Be an adult.”

“I am an adult.” She huffs. “I’m a hero, more so. And I’m not letting you carry out an assassination on information I give you.”

“Why is everyone so defensive of this woman?” I slouch in my chair, defeated.

All of this time has been a waste. I know better than to try to persuade Laura. It’s pointless. You can manipulate her- sure. But I didn’t do any of the ground work. And to be honest- Laura is one of the people I don’t like manipulating.

“She’s doing good work helping children, Daken. Surely even you can see the reasoning behind that.”

 “She’s selling a crock of shit.” I correct. “Those kids are doomed and you know it.”

 “I was one of those children- thank you very much.”

 “Me too,” Gabby says, crossing her arms. “I’m not doomed, thank you very much. Laura says I have a long and happy life ahead of me.” She sticks out her tongue.

 “That’s right Gabby.” Laura nods.

 Wow. Bitched out by clones. Today is odd all around.

 “Sorry to have offended your delicate sensibilities, but you know how these things work. There are too many hands in the pot. Too many toes to step on. Something doesn’t smell right. Offing this woman may be the right decision. These people really want her dead.”

 “The children need her. More and more programs open up by the week. She’s doing a good job of manning rescue missions. If I recall right, Daken- you were also one of those children. Like Gabby and I.”

 “Yes yes yes. Poor us. Wah wah wah. Our lives are so hard.”

 Laura frowns. “If you’re going to be like that- we can go.” She jerks her thumb to the street.

The patio is deserted as we sit here. Me and Laura with coffees in front of us, Gabby with a brownie and a hot chocolate.

Laura looks at me with an expression that can only be called ‘calculating’. She’s waiting for my response.

 I could send her away. She’s not going to help me- after all.

 But….

 I… don’t want her to go.

I need information. I need to keep trying.

Plus… I like her company. Even with the brat tagging along. What else am I going to do with my day?

 “Don’t go.” I sigh. “I’m… sorry.”

 “Oh, you’ll apologize to her but not to Jonathan.” Gabby huffs.

 “Gabby,” Laura warns.

 “What? He’s in a bad mood. He’s always in a bad mood.”

 “No, I’m not.” I scoff. “You’ve only met me twice. That’s not enough times to generate an assumption of my moods.”

 “Yes, you are.” She crosses her arms. “Logan said-“

“Gabby!” Laura snaps.

 Gabby eyes her for a second before frowning. “Oh. I wasn’t supposed to say that.”

 Laura nods, looking at me somewhat sheepishly.

As close to sheepishly as she can.

 “He’s been talking about me?” I ask stiffly.

 Guess that answers the ‘will he go seeking me out’ question.

 Johnny says I don’t have to see him.

That makes me happy… but unsure.

 “Yes.” Laura nods.

“Did I tell you he asked a doctor to treat me?” I scoff. “Him. Asking them to treat me. How fucked is his logic?”

 “No, you didn’t. But he told me you were considering treatment. Which is wonderful, by the way. We’re all very proud.”

 “Who’s ‘we’?”

 “Johnny, myself, and Logan.”

“Please.” I gag.

 Like it’s not Johnny forcing my hand.

“We both know this isn’t my idea.”

 “Well… no.” She agrees. “I know it isn’t. But… you still went through with it.”

Because Johnny and I had a wonderful time afterwards. It was just what I needed. If he does that every time I have a session- I’ll willingly go back.

 “Like I had a choice.”

“Of course you have a choice.” She says. “Johnny just cared enough about you to force the issue. It’s a good thing, Daken.”

Now the question is… who told her about this.

“Who told you-“

“Logan mentioned that you had agreed to see Dr. Samson.” She says. “He didn’t say why or for what…. but I asked Johnny about it and gained some slight insight. This will be good for you.” She smiles. “Really. You and Johnny.”

Laura knows the tiniest bit about the arrangements Johnny and I have set up. Just a small amount. Enough to know that some weird- ‘unhealthy’ shall we say- shit goes down.

 “Please.” I gag.

 “What? You have deep rooted emotional scars that need to be addressed before you can have any semblance of a normal life. The fact that you sought it out on your own speaks volumes to how far you’ve progressed as a person.”

 “Yes. Well dismemberment will give you a new outlook on things.” I sigh.

 Losing my arm and my eye was hard on me. I truly and full heartedly wanted to die. Laura would not allow that. For months she kept me from going over that edge. All the simple “Daken- don’t forget to eat.”  “When’s the last time you took a shower?” “Have you brushed your hair today?”

 She was a mother hen of the worst degree.

 I… thank her. For keeping me on this side of sanity. For making me safe.

I needed someone at my back… and she was an ally when I expected none.

The fact that we managed to get away from Mystique like we did… well fuck. I don’t even remember how it happened. Then the universe’s collided. exploded. Whatever. Things got mixed up. I never actually died. And I remember being somewhere for a very long time. Dim lighting. Fluids. Lots of fluids. Morphine. Things to increase my healing. I would stare up at these masked people- unknown to me- fuck still are- and try to figure out what was going on. I was unconscious for most of it. Then one day I wake up in a hospital with my arm healing, my eye reforming, and everyone saying the world literally almost ended.

 It put things on track for me.

I found Laura first and foremost. She said I’d been missing for six months. Six months. That she tried to help me- that someone had come and saved the team. But I wasn’t there.

 I don’t know who took me- or why. And honestly- I don’t want to know. All I know is that the problem was fixed. That made me happy. Me being happy led me to go onto other things in my life. Like finding Johnny again. Like being with Johnny again. It was nice. It is nice. The past is easily forgotten in this way.

 She nods. “Speaking of dismemberment- you got your tattoo redone I see .”

 I look down at my arm, once again covered in its broad black lines. “That I did. Luckily I had enough pictures of the old one to recreate it.” Very luckily. I’ve had the same design for decades. I’m very fond of it. Changing it up simply was not an option. It had to match what was already on my chest- at any rate. Lucky for me, between myself and Johnny, we were able to scrape together a functioning outline of the new one from pictures of the old.

 “How long ago?”

 “A few weeks now.”

 “So things are back to normal for you then?”

 I nod. “It’s been a few years since the entire universe collapsed, you know.” It’s a joke among people now. “I survived that. I can survive anything.”

 “I didn’t notice it collapsing,” Gabby says, slurping her hot chocolate.

“Take our words for it- it did,” Laura tells her in a patient sort of way.

 “But… everything went back to normal?”

 “Almost everything.” Laura agrees.

 “Right. The displaced people.” Gabby says with a nod.

 “The old man version of Logan.” Laura rolls her eyes.

A version of our father that she didn’t get along with? Do tell.

 Me personally, I don’t think I existed in his timeline. Not a big problem with me.

I’ve actively avoided all versions of my father. Be they from alternate timelines or not.

 Gabby looks to be in thought. “He’s grumpy.”

 “All Logan’s are grumpy,” Laura says.

 “Is he going to go home now that the real Logan is back?” Gabby asks.

 “Gabby.” Laura hisses.

“For fuck's sake.” I groan. “You can say his name- Laura. I’m not going to throw a hissy fit.”

 Gabby whispers, “It sounds like he already is.”

 I glare at her.

We’re not off to a good start this child and me.

 “I’m not throwing a hissy fit,” I growl.

 “Then you’re bitchy. Logan said you were bitchy sometimes.”

 “Bitchy???”

 She nods.

 “He called me bitchy?”

 Laura looks down. “This is off to a bad start.” She mutters. “I was hoping to bring Gabby here to meet you again… so I could ask for a favor.”

 “A … favor?” I tear my eyes away from the clone. “From me?”

 So she didn’t come here to help me. She had ulterior motives.

How very…like me.

 She nods. “I’m going out of town.”

Oh no she doesn’t.

“Laura-“

“Gabby is far too young to be left on her own… and we’ve had a lot of people on our tails recently. Someone needs to watch her.”

 “I’ve set the house on fire on accident.” She nods.

 “That really makes me want to watch you,” I say with a nod in the most sarcastic voice I can manage.

 “I think we could have fun together,” Gabby says defiantly. “If you wouldn’t be so bitchy.”

 “Will you stop calling me bitchy!!??”

 “Will you stop being bitchy???” She counters.

“Get your clone- Laura. Before I push her into traffic.” I growl.

 “I have a healing factor- thank you very much,” Gabby says indignantly. “And claws. Like you.”

 “Well congratulations for being on the same genetic playing field as the person you were literally cloned from!” I spit.

 “Daken!” Laura snaps. “Stop being so mean!”

 “Mean? I’m being rational. I’m not taking care of her. She’s your responsibility.”

 I don’t know why I’m like this.

If we’re being honest, I am being a little ‘bitchy’. But this child is not my responsibility. I have things to do today.

On the top of the list- fucking my boyfriend at least twice. Which I won’t be able to do if I’m watching a child.

 He told me this morning he felt like bottoming. I don’t miss a chance to fuck him. Ever.

“I’m asking you because I trust you, okay? I know it’s imposition. And I’m sorry. But I’ve got nowhere else to go.”

 “Get Logan,” I growl. “He’ll do it. Another young kid to teach the ways of the world? He’ll be all over that shit.”

 “He and Ororo are on their honeymoon.” She says dismissively. “They’ll be gone for a week.”

“Their…. what?” I’m floored. Honeymoon? Honeymoon?

 “It was quite sudden,” Laura says with a nod. “Once he came back he said he ‘didn’t want to wait anymore’.”

 “Honeymoon?”

“They did an overnight wedding. I think only one other x-man knew about it.” She says.

“Honeymoon??”

 “Yes. They’re married. Legally.”

 “Honeymoon???”

 “Your repeating the word will not change this fact, Daken.”

 “He’s married???”

 She frowns. “I’m sorry this is coming as a shock to you…. I understand that your mother is one of his past wives.”

 “He’s married???”

 “To Ororo. She’s a wonderful woman.”

 “He married Storm? A man whose bones are coated in metal married a woman who throws lightning bolts.”

 “They’re happy together.” She says. “At any rate, he won’t be able to take care of Gabby. And the mission is only for a day and a night.”

 “Please let me stay with you,” Gabby says. “Me and Jonathan are great house guests!”

 “That thing is not coming in my house.” I point to where the wolverine has successfully chewed through the unoccupied chair’s front right leg. “And I’m not paying for that chair.”

 “Please, Daken.”

 Fuck.

 “Laura-“

“Need I remind you of who took care of you when you lost both your arm and your eye?” She says patiently.

I glare at her. “You only get to use that card once. Play this very carefully.”

 “Gabby needs someone who will keep her safe. I choose you. I know you’ll make sure she’s well provided for.”

 “Why are you doing this to me?? I’m in the middle of a mission myself. One that you’ve very helpfully declined to help with me, might I add. I have no time for babysitting.”

 “I’m not helping you kill an innocent woman.” She frowns. “Get that out of your head right now.”

“You don’t know if she’s innocent or not. A group of people really want her dead. Care to think about why- exactly?

 She pauses. “I’m sure they have some wayward form of logic.”

“I mean- it’s worth checking out- right?”

 “No.” She says simply. “And I think you're distracting yourself from my request.”

 I groan. “I’m not taking care of her.”

 “I’m a great houseguest.” She repeats. “You won’t even know I’m there.”

 I glance at her. She’s wearing some sort of black tracksuit like thing. Something that looks odd for a child to have. “The two of you aren’t letting me go from here until I agree to this- are you?” I sigh.

 “Nope.” Gabby smiles wide. “I’ve only ever had sisters. It will be cool to have a big brother for a change.”

“I am not your big brother.” I correct.

She frowns. “Is this you being bitchy again?”

“I’m not bitchy!!” I snap.

“If you do this, I’ll be sure to tell certain people of your good deed. They might rethink the whole ‘pushing you into therapy’ thing.”

Now that? That I like.

“Oh really?” I smirk. “Keep talking.”

 She nods. “You taking in Gabby out of the kindness of your heart would be a major step in the ‘good guy’ direction. They might see it as enough to stop pushing you…. and we both know you want that. The last thing you want to do is continue with seeing a doctor- of all things. We all know you think that’s beneath you. So do this… and find a way out of it.” She smiles. “It’s a simple as that.”

It’s…. not a bad plan by any stretch of the imagination.

 “Fine.” I concede defeat. “She can stay.”

 “Alright!” Gabby says, punching the air with her fist in a ‘happy’ motion. “And Jonathan?”

 I glare at it. “I guess he can stay too.” Johnny will be doubly pleased.

No therapy for me. He’ll call up Samson and we’ll be done. And then? Then we can go back to having fun.

 ….not that yesterday wasn’t fun. It was by every stretch of the imagination perfect.

 “That’s amazing, Daken.” Laura pats me on the shoulder. “Really.”

 Like I wasn’t doing it solely for myself.

 I mean- it was her idea. Surely she can’t expect me to-

 “I’ll pick her up tomorrow. Her bag is in the car.”

 “Uh what now?” I stare in confusion.

 “I’m leaving today.” Laura clarifies.

 “Today?” I repeat.

 She nods. “Let me go get her bag.” She stands up from the table and walks towards the row of parked cars. I didn’t know she had a car. Go figure.

 “I like your hair,” Gabby says quietly. “How do you get it to be long like that?”

 I stare at her for a second. “I grow it.” Duh.

 “And you shave the sides?”

 I nod.

 “What happens if you want all of it the same length?”

“I don’t.”

“But what if you did?”

“I don’t,” I repeat.

“But what if you did?” She asks again.

 “I don’t,” I growl.

 She sighs. “Laura is better at answering questions than you are.”

 “Then hold your questions for when you see Laura again,” I say simply. “And it won’t be a problem.”

 Gabby gives the leash in her hands a tug, pulling Jonathan away from the table legs and back to the now toppled chair.

 “Why do you have a pet wolverine?” I ask, unable to take the curiosity anymore.

 “We got it from Squirrel Girl.” She says happily.

 “Squirrel Girl?” I laugh. “There’s a hero named ‘Squirrel Girl’??”

 She nods. “Yep.”

 “And she gave you a wolverine.”

 “From a testing lab.” Gabby smiles. “He’s like me!”

 That kills what was going to be a scathing comment.

 He’s like her. That’s why she likes him.

 I think… I had a similar feeling to an animal when I was younger. They killed it- of course, why wouldn’t they- but I had one. A rabbit if I remember correctly. It’s been several years after all… but I’ve always been partial to rabbits. Not that I would tell anyone that.

But yes. Pets. Pets are things that are good for people- I suppose.

This is another one of those ‘ties to the past’ things. Like the blood on the whip. Or the whip itself.

 She likes the animal because he has similar experiences. She can relate to him.

 If I were to be cruel, I would separate them.

But.. I’m not being cruel. I won’t do what they did to me.

This is… progress.

 “You got quiet,” Gabby says. “Did I make you mad?”

I shake my head ever so slightly to clear it. “No,” I say simply. “Just thinking.”

“About wolverines?”

I frown. “Sure.”

 Now she frowns. “So that wasn’t what you were thinking?”

 She’s so… young. So innocent. As much as I want to be hateful- I can’t really put my finger on why.

She’s like Laura.

In a sense- she’s like me.

Laura and I are very different. She could have turned into someone like me if she’d been given the shit hand that I had been given.

That’s not saying that the cards she dealt were good by any stretch of the imagination.

 They were just... .better than mine.

Well no- not better. Just…. different. That’s the best way to put that. I have no doubt Laura has suffered. I know she has. We all have.

I was just kept longer. I’m a good fifty years older than she is. My ‘captivity’ lasted several decades

 She could have turned into me.

She could have turned into Logan.

Instead, Laura’s turned into her own person. Very much not what she was intended for. But she seems to be thriving. I’m sure Logan’s very proud. Prouder than he is of me- at any rate.

 I’m also curious as to what’s going to happen to her now that Logan’s back. If she’ll go back to X-23…. or if there will be two Wolverines now.

 I have questions.

 “What were you thinking?” Gabby asks. “You look sad and you feel funny.”

 “‘Feel funny’?”

She nods. “Like the air around you is tingly.”

 “Pheromones.” I correct. “Everyone has them. I can manipulate them.”

 “That’s cool.” She says with a nod. “What can you do with them?”

“I can make people angry…. or sad… or lustful. Or unaware. Or…” I stop. “A lot of things actually. It’s a very useful gift.”

 “That’s cool.” She repeats. “I like having bone claws better though.”

 “I have-“

“I know you do.” She cuts me off. “You have three. Two in your hands and one in your wrists. I just have the one.”

 “You only have one?”

 She nods. “I like it though.” She smiles.

 Gabby’s a happy little fucker. I wonder how she can retain all this joy.

 “How old are you?”

 “Thirteen.” She grins. “How old are you?”

 “Seventy-seven.”

 “You look younger than that.”

“Thank you,” I smirk.

 She nods. “You’re welcome.”

Gabby plays with Jonathan at her feet. “He’s a good boy.” She says. “You want to pet him?”

 I glance at the creature. it glances back with a slightly confused look on its face. “I’m good,” I tell her.

 Gabby shrugs and goes back to petting, playing, and talking to her pet.

 I stare at her for a while. She’s just so…. happy. How can she be so happy? “Can I ask you a question?” I ask. I have to know. This has to be an act.

 Gabby stares at me for a second. “You just did.” She grins.

“Another question then.” I groan.

 She nods, sitting up straight in her chair and taking a large bite of the brownie in front of her.

 “How are you so happy?”

 “I’m with Laura and Jonathan and I have a brownie.” She says simply.

 “Not why are you so happy. How are you so happy?”

 She looks to be in thought. “I don’t know.” She says finally. “I just am.” She looks at me. “Why are you always so mean?”

 “I’m not mean.” All the time- anyway.

 “You are to me.” She says.

 I stare at her for a second. “I’ll work on that,” I say finally.

 All the adults in my life were mean to me. All of the children in my life were either cruel or murdered. There was no in between. I would meet them, they would be nice to me, and then they would die. I preferred the cruel ones because they stayed alive longer.

Maybe this is why I don’t know how to talk to children. I was never really treated well as a child. Hence I don’t know how to treat a child.

Gabby doesn’t deserve my wrath. She’s done nothing to me. She’s not cruel or mean-spirited. I can try to be better. It won’t kill me to play nice.

 She breaks into a grin. “You mean it?”

 I nod.

 “We can be friends after all?”

 Her voice has this crushing ring of… hope to it. She really wants me to like her- to be nice to her.
Fuck it all. Why are children like this? Does she not see how this could be used to hurt her? Has she not been taught the suspicion that may very well keep her alive? Surely Laura’s been over this with her. Even letting her guard down around me- me- is dangerous. Surely Laura told her that.

I’m wondering just how this child is being educated. Laura herself was taken in by heroes. Gabby just has the one. One Laura.

 I wonder if Laura’s considered dumping her somewhere…. like what Logan did to her. It would make sense. Surely they would do a better job of making the kid… normal. Or at least slightly normal.

 But then- what do I know? I’ll never have kids. I purposefully make sure of it. I insist my female partners take Plan B even if I was wearing a condom. No kids for me. Johnny never said anything about wanting them. I’m sure he would tell me if he thought it was something he wanted to look into. A surrogate or adoption. Something like that.

 “Friends?”

“The best of friends.” She nods.

 “Let’s start with acquaintances.” I have to admit I’m smiling.

 “It’s better than enemies!” She chirps. “I’ll take it!” She offers her hand to me across the table. I lean forward and take it.

“Acquaintances it is then.” We shake hands, her smiling wide.

 Gabby goes back to eating her brownie and talking to Jonathan.

 We quietly wait for Laura for another few moments. My coffee is cold and I’m starting to get hungry.

 What is taking her so long?

 Jonathan chews the leg off another chair- the one Laura was occupying. If she doesn’t return soon, there won’t be a table left to sit at.

 Laura makes her way back over to us in full costume. Explaining why she took so long without a word.

 “Well look at you,” I smirk.

 She pulls her mask off. “Saving time.” She says with a nod.

 “Did you change in the car?”

 She nods.

“I’m sure passerby’s got a wonderful show.”

 “Here is her bag.” She says, ignoring me as she swings it from over her shoulder to the table top. It’s a purple book bag with tears along the seams. I’m guessing from Jonathan.

 Gabby takes the bag and puts it in her lap. “Be safe, Laura.” She says.

 “I will.” Laura smiles. “Be good for Daken.”

 “I will,” Gabby says. “We’re acquaintances now!”

 Laura frowns. “I’m not sure that is a good thing.”

 “That’s the best thing!” Gabby says. “He’s almost my friend.”

 “Having Daken as a friend is a tricky thing,” Laura says before she turns her cold eyes to me. “Do not hurt her.”

 “I’m not going to hurt her,” I assure her overprotective big sister. “I’m taking her back to the house. Johnny’s already there. I figured they could hang out together while I ran some errands.”

 She stares at me for a second. “Okay.” She says finally. “I believe you.”

 “As well you should.” I huff.

 Laura rolls her eyes and pulls her mask back down. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Gabby.”

 Gabby nods. “Knock ‘em dead Wolverine.”

Laura grins as she walks off towards her car.

 I take my phone out and text Johnny. Just a simple rundown of what’s happened. Mainly me asking him to make sure nothing ‘embarrassing’ and ‘adult’ is left out in the open where Gabby can see it. Not that I mind scarring a child- but Laura would probably have my ass if I showed Gabby the seedy underbelly of nice, normal, relationships.

 “Who’s Johnny?” Gabby asks as I’m texting.

 “My boyfriend,” I say without much thought.

 “You have a boyfriend?”

 I nod.

 “Not a girlfriend?”

 I glance up over my phone. “I’m Bi. I like boys and girls. So I can have a boyfriend or a girlfriend. It's all the same to me.” Simplified. Not much to it. Being Bisexual really isn’t that big of a deal for me. It’s just… me. It’s how I am. It’s how I’ve always been.

 “Oh.” She nods. “I just thought you’d have a girlfriend.”

 “Nope.”

 “I’ve never seen two boys together.” She says thoughtfully.

 “It’s not much different than a boy and girl.” I go back to my phone.

 “If you get married do you both wear suits?”

 Johnny hasn’t texted back. “We’re not getting married.”

 “But if you did-“

“We’re not,” I say dryly.

 I think about her statement for a minute.

“And yes, we’d both wear suits. Neither of us dresses like a woman.”

 “Oh.” She plays with the leash in her hand.

I nod.

 “But if you had to-“

“We wouldn’t.”

“How does sex work? Neither of you has a vagina.” That was blunt. A little too blunt. “Sex has to be between a man and a woman.”

 “That’s uh-“
“Well?”

 “Private,” I say. I’m not usually prudish. But I’m not explaining anal sex to a thirteen-year-old.

 “Can I ask Johnny?”

 “He won’t answer,” I say. “You’re too young. Talking about sex with you is weird.”

 “I heard Logan and-“

“I don’t need to know what you heard Logan doing.” I can only imagine. With his… ‘appetite’ for women.

 She nods. “Okay.” She says easily. “Are you going to leave now?”

 I put my phone back in my jacket pocket. “Why do you ask?”

She points over my shoulder. “I think the manager just saw Jonathan… and what he did to the chairs.”

 I look over to see a large man with a reddening face coming our way. “Yep.” I stand up. “Let’s go.”

 I walk into the street with Gabby and Jonathan trailing behind me. My car is parked three blocks away in a parking garage. It’s a brisk walk for me.

Gabby and Jonathan are tagging along at my heels- the latter has a tag on his collar that makes a jingling sound that’s driving me insane. At least, on the bright side, it will be easy to keep up with him when he’s in the house.

 “Are we going to get lunch?” Gabby asks. “I only ate the brownie… and you didn’t eat anything.”

 “Yes.” I guess I should feed her. Laura won’t be happy with me if I don’t feed her.

 My phone buzzes. ‘Cute!’ Johnny says. ‘You can bring her over to play with Val and Franklin.’

 That’s an idea.

 “I would like some mac and cheese.” Gabby is saying.

 ‘Oh? Are they available today?’ I ask Johnny.

 “I don’t have any mac and cheese,” I tell her.

 The phone buzzes again. ‘Sure are. Sue was asking if I’d watch them, actually. This would be awesome. I’m sure they’d love it.’

 “Do you have any pop tarts?” She asks.

 “Uh… no.”

 “Then what do you have?”

 “Sandwich stuff,” I say.

“Peanut butter and jelly?”

 “Tuna, ham, cheese, and vegetables.” I correct.

 “That’s it???”

 “That’s it.”

 We arrive at the parking garage and trek up to the third level. I retrieve my keys out of my pocket and unlock it from a few feet away. Red is the color this year. Every two or so years I got a new car. This year it’s red. Sports car. Fast. Everything you need in a getaway car.

 “Jonathan eats, shits, or pisses on nothing in this car,” I tell her, glaring her down. “Do you understand?”

 Gabby has wide green eyes as she nods.

 “I’m serious Gabrielle.” I use her full name for measure.

 “You said my name.” She says.

“That’s how serious I am.”

 Gabby nods again. I open the back door to the car and let her and Jonathan slide in.

 A few minutes later I’m in the car, we’re all buckled in, and we’re pulling out of the garage.

 I go to turn on the radio only to have the music stall as my phone rings over the Bluetooth.

 I push the button to answer while making the right turn out onto the street.

“Yes?”

 “You stopped texting.” Johnny’s voice is relaxing to hear.

 “Got busy,” I smirk.

Traffic is utterly dead at this time in the morning in this part of the city.

 “Yea? You busy now?”

 “No,” I answer.

“Good.” He chuckles. “I was wondering if I could go ahead and get Val and Franklin… bring them over for a play date?”

 “A play date???” Gabby gasps from the back seat.

 “Shush,” I tell her. “And that’s fine.”

“I’m going to pick them up some snacks. Anything Gabby wants?”

 “She’ll take-“

“Mac and cheese, chocolate pop tarts, french fries, potato chips, and a pack of doughnuts, please.” Gabby has unbuckled herself and leaned in between the drivers and passengers seats and is yelling into the speakers.

 “Loud and clear.” Johnny laughs.

 “Thank you.” She says quieter.

 “No problem,” Johnny says.

“Who are you?” Gabby asks conversationally.

 “Johnny. I don’t think we’ve met yet.” He says.

 “OH. You’re the boyfriend.”

 “I’m the boyfriend.” Johnny agrees.

 “And you know Val and Franklin? Like in Mr. Fantastic's kids?”

 “I’m their uncle,” Johnny says, happily.

 “You’re Val and Franklin’s uncle?” She gasps. “As in The Human Torch?”

 “Yea. That’s me.”

“But you’re a good guy!” She continues. “Why are you dating Daken??”

 Johnny bursts out laughing.

 “Will you get back into your seat?” I growl at her, pushing on her with one hand.

 “Stop!!!!” She whines. “I’m talking to Johnny.”

 “So am I,” I growl.

 “Baby play nice.” Johnny chides. “She’s like… ten.”

 “Thirteen.” She corrects.

 “Thirteen,” Johnny says. “My bad.”

 “That’s okay.” She leans back between the seats. “Hey if you and Daken get married does one of you have to wear a dress?”

 I could stab her.

Johnny, however, busts out laughing again. “I think that would be Daken’s call….. I think he’d look lovely in blue, though- don’t ya think?.”

 Gabby turns her head and looks at me. “Yea. He’d look okay in blue.”

 “See that babe? You’d look lovely in blue.”

“Fuck you,” I growl at him.

 “You gonna talk like that in front of the kid?” He teases.

“You gonna make me stop?” I fire back.

 “Me? Never.”

I have to laugh. “Go get the kids and the food,” I tell him. “I’ll meet you back at my place.”

 “Okay.” He says. “I’ll see you in a little bit.”

 The phone clicks as I push the disconnect button.

 Gabby slowly retreats to her backseat. “He called you ‘babe’.” She says.

 “He does that.”

 “You don’t look like a ‘babe’ to me.” She says. “You’re too serious.”

 “Johnny doesn’t think so,” I say offhandedly.

 “Does he love you?” She asks.

“Where do you get these off the wall questions from?” I counter.

 “I’m curious,” Gabby says. “I want to know things. Laura answers my questions.”

 I can’t imagine Laura putting up with this any more than I can.

 We sit quietly.

“So does he love you?”

I’m pulling into my neighborhood.

 “Yes,” I answer.

 “And you love him?”

 I glance at her in the rearview. “I don’t use that word.”

 I leave off the ‘and neither should you’ that’s dying to be said.

 Someone’s got to teach this kid. As of the moment- I’m not sure Laura is.

 “You don’t use the word ‘love’??” She sounds floored.

“That’s right.” I bite my tongue yet again.

 Then he doesn’t know how much you like him?” She asks.

 “He knows how much I like him,” I assure her.

 “Are you sure?”

 Am I sure?

Yes. I’m not going to let this child fill my head with doubt.

 “I’m sure.”

“That’s good then.” She says simply.

We pull up to the house in silence.

 Johnny’s car is gone. I knew it would be- but I was hoping he would hang around until I got here.

 “This is your house??? It’s so pretty!”

 That makes me smirk. “Thank you.”

 I park the car and open the door.

 Gabby and Jonathan take a while to get out of the car- but manage it without any damage in the form of a ‘playful’ wolverine.

 “And Val and Franklin Richards are coming over?” She keeps saying their last name.

“Yes…. why is their last name so important to you?”

 “Their parents are famous. And Franklin’s really powerful mutant.” Gabby walks in, pulling Jonathan behind her. I close the door once their inside.

 “That thing stays on its leash.” I point at Jonathan.

 “Okay.” She walks around the front room in a small circle. “You have nice things.”

 “I like nice things.”

“You must be rich.”

That makes me chuckle. “I’m not rich.”

 “Laura doesn’t have a lot of nice things,” Gabby says. “She should ask you for money.”

 Given the right circumstances, I might loan Laura some of my cash. I can’t see it hurting anything. And personally, I’d love a chance to help her out in the wardrobe department. Honestly. She’s either frumpy or goth stripper. This is no in between.

 “Maybe.” I walk into the kitchen, depositing my keys on the counter. There’s a pan of eggs on the stove as well as a few crispy pieces of toast.

 “Does Johnny live here?” she follows me. I can hear Jonathan’s claws scratching on the tile.

“No.” I turn on her. “Keep that thing out of my kitchen.”

 Gabby tugs Jonathan into the living room. “Sorry.”

 I go to the fridge and pull out a bottle of water, closing the door then reopening it and pulling out another. I offer the second bottle to Gabby.

“Thanks!” She chirps.

“Don’t spill it,” I warn.

 Gabby rolls her eyes. “I won’t.”

“Good.”

 We stand in silence for a second. The only sound being Jonathan sniffing around.

“What does he eat?” I point to him.

“Hmm.” Gabby swallows far too much water. “I feed him what I eat.” She says finally.

“He doesn’t have.. special food?”

 “Like dog food?”

“Yes. Like dog food.”

 Gabby shakes her head. “We couldn’t find any wolverine food. So he eats what we eat. He seems to like noodles.”

 “Noodles,” I repeat. “Good to know.”

 She nods. “Are you Val and Franklin’s uncle, too?”

 Back to them- huh? “No,” I say flatly.

“But your their uncle’s boyfriend.” She says.

 “That doesn’t mean anything.” I dismiss.

“That means you could be their uncle. If you got married.”

 “We’re not getting married.”

 “You should get married.” She says.

“Why are you so obsessed with marriage?” I groan.

 “Logan and Ororo got married.” She says. “We didn’t get to go.”

That makes me sneer. “I’m sure it was really something to write home about.”

 “Why don’t you like Logan? I like Logan. He’s pretty cool.”

 “He is not ‘cool’.” I snarl.

 “He thinks you’re pretty cool,” she says innocently.

He… what?

 What does she mean?

 What does he- you know what? Never mind. I don’t care. I’ve never cared. I refuse to care.

 “He talks about you. He thinks you being nice to Laura is really good.”

 Oh does he?

 “Really now?”

 She nods. “He asked her to look after you.”

“Me? He asked her to look after me?”

 She nods again. “He says that sometimes you get confused…. and do the wrong thing. But that with guidance you could do the right thing. Like us. We’re heroes you know.”

 Gag.

“He thinks you’d make a good hero.” She says with a smile. “And then you and Johnny could get married. And then you’d be Val and Franklin’s uncle.”

 “Why do you know so much about Val and Franklin Richards?” I have to ask.

 She frowns. “I’d really rather not say.”

 I cross my arms. “Oh there’s a story- is there?”

She nods. “It’s not a good one.” Then she crosses her arms as well. “Well I mean, it’s okay- I guess. Nothing bad happened.”

“Was something bad supposed to happen?” I ask. If she means to harm them, I have a duty to Johnny to find out.

 Gabby frowns again. “Back at the base- where I came from? They wanted to kill Franklin.”

 Oh.

“I see.”

Not surprising. Sometimes the kid’s too powerful, smart, and courageous. Being raised by the Fantastic Four will do that to a kid.

 “My sisters and I didn’t do it though.” She says quickly. “We never even thought about it. It made our handlers very angry with us.”

Ah.

“I see,” I repeat.

“I’d like to meet him.” She says. “He seemed like he was special.”

 I nod. “How about you not tell him the whole ‘they wanted you to assassinate him’ bit.” I offer her a smirk.

I’ll tell Johnny, however. And watch her around him very closely. It’s my duty. To Johnny. To Franklin himself. In a sense to Laura by means of keeping Gabby out of trouble.

 She nods. “Okay.”

 “Okay.”

 Gabby pulls Jonathan into the living room. “You have a big TV.” She says. “Do you have any games?”

 I have to think about it. “Johnny may have his X-box over here,” I say out loud. “I doubt any of the games are age appropriate, however.”

 Like I care. Laura would want me to say this, however. And we’re doing everything by the book so she’ll be happy.

 “I’ve never played video games.” She says. “I’ve always wanted to.”

 “You’re not missing much,” I tell her, watching her take a seat on the couch and stare longingly at the television.

This is almost too sad to watch.

 “I could text Johnny to see if he could bring over some other games…..” I offer. “if you’d like.”

There. I’m being nice. I can be nice. To a child. I’m better than I thought I was.

 Gabby grins ear to ear. “Please!”

 I nod, fishing my phone out of my pocket and dialing him up.

 Johnny picks up on the second ring, “Hey babe.” I can hear children in the background and the sound of air coming in from an open window of a moving car. He’s en route. Good to know.

 “Hey. Do you have your x-box over here?”

 Johnny hums for a second. “Ya, I think so. I got one for your place and one for mine- so yea. I did.”

 He got two consoles?

Very thoughtful of him.

 “Any games appropriate for a thirteen-year-old?”

 “Hmmm… no. Not really.” He says. “I have Halo. If she keeps it off the campaign mode and plays with someone else- there shouldn’t be any foul language.”

“Yuck.” I’d have to play with her.

Not my cup of tea.

“I have four controllers.” He says. “Play with her.”

 “Me? Really?” I snort.

 “Yes really.” he chuckles. “Franklin can play when we get there. Until then- play with her.”

 “That’s not going to happen.”

 Johnny hums again. “Come on babe. Play with her. Make her day. Kids love it when grownups play with them.”

Besides the fact that I don’t want to play- I’m not very good at video games. It’s something that was far before my time that I never picked up. I play with Johnny occasionally when he’s been a really good boy…. but other than that- I find them pointless.

 “I’ll give it a shot.” I sigh.

 Johnny laughs. “There you go. Love you. See you in like… thirty minutes.”

 “See you.”

He hangs up.

 Gabby’s opened the doors to the entertainment center the tv sits in and has found the x-box. A slim, white, console. In front of it are four controllers. All white. On the other side, a stack of games waiting to be played.

 “He has one, but I have to play with you,” I tell her. I didn’t think her face could light up anymore.

 “Really???” She asks happily.

 “Really.” I walk over to the black entertainment center- which I think I got at IKEA. It’s a relativity cheap piece. The x-box can be turned on by a push of a button- so I start with that. Turn the TV on to its proper channel and pass her a controller. Everything is handled in an easy three minutes.

Then the actual play starts.

Gabby can’t work the controls. She doesn’t know how to make her soldier person look up or down. I get five kills easily.

 We keep playing until I get twenty-five. I expect some kind of adverse reaction from her. A fit about her losing. Instead she turns around with a large grin and asks sweetly, “Can we play again? I think I almost got you at least once.”

 That makes me smirk.

“Johnny’s here,” I say as I hear a car pull up. “You can play with the other kids now.”

 Gabby nods. “Okay. But I did almost get you.”

“Sure you did.”

 The doorknob twists, pulling Jonathan to attention. He’d been dozing by Gabby, the two of them sat on the floor in front of the TV.

 The door bursts open and Val comes running at full speed. The kids have never been to my house. I don’t know where she thinks she’s going. “He’s got a lizard!” She squeals.

 Franklin comes in next. “I think it’s a Gecko!”

 I doubt it.

 Gabby watches with interest and the kids stop running once they’re situated with one of them down the hall-Val- and one in the living room doorway-Franklin plus Gecko.

 “Guys, I told you not to run,” Johnny says from the doorway.

 “We-“ Franklin stops, looking in Gabby’s direction. “Look! A wolverine! On a leash!” he starts to make his way towards Jonathan. Who - to his credit- has not reacted negatively to children. He’s tamer than his earlier assault on the table and chairs would make him seem. It’s good knowledge to have. Especially if he’s really staying the night. I mean, I can’t very well make her put him outside. She doesn’t want her pet to run away or be snatched up by wayward animal control. So he stays.

Laura would be pleased with this. Besides- he’s already living with them. He can’t be wrecking shit that much if Laura’s kept him this long.

“Put the lizard outside,” Johnny says. “Then pet the wolverine. Carefully.”

Franklin, the blonde boy with the blue eyes- much like his uncle- turns around, squeezes by Johnny and set his captive reptile down on the lawn before running back in.

 “Daken got a wolverine??” He asks with a smile. “That’s so cool!!”

 “It’s not mine.” I correct. “It’s Gabby’s.”

 “Who’s Gabby?”

 Gabby raises her hand. “Hi!”

“Hi!” He waves at her enthusiastically.

 Kids are never awkward. At least, not the Richards kids. “Who are you?”

 “I’m Laura’s sister!”

“Laura is awesome!” Val adds from down the hall. “I didn’t know she had a sister.”

 “She had four sisters,” Gabby says with a smile. “I’m the baby.”

 “Wow,” Val says. “Logan had a lot of girls.”

 That makes Johnny chuckle.

“But Laura is the most awesome.” Franklin declares. “She’s a great babysitter.”

 “Laura is awesome.” Johnny agrees. “How was Laura?” He asks me.

“Unhelpful.” I smile.

“Unhelpful in what exactly?”

 I glance up at him. “We’ll talk about it later.”

 “He’s on a mission,” Gabby tells him. “With some doctor lady who helps kids like me.”

Johnny cocks an eyebrow. “Oh really?”

He walks further into the room.

I glare murder at Gabby.

 “He wants to kill her.” She ignores my glares. “But Laura said she wouldn’t help him.”

“Kill her, hmm?” Johnny crosses his arms.

 “Talk about it later?” I offer with a shrug.

 “You didn’t tell me about this yesterday.”

 Ah. That I did not.

 “Why’s Daken going to kill a doctor?” Val asks, sweetly.

 “He’s not,” Johnny says. “He was just hired to do a bad thing. But he’s not going to do the bad thing because he’s trying to be a good guy now.” Johnny tells his niece. “Isn’t that right, Daken?” He turns to me.

 “Right,” I say stiffly. “Trying to be better.”

 “Logan says that Daken get’s mixed up sometimes,” Gabby says.

 “Daken does get mixed up sometimes.” Johnny agrees. “But we’re working on it.”

 Fuck them all. I’m taking this hit. It’s my mission.

 “Daken?” Johnny walks behind me. “Baby?”

 “Hmm?”

“You okay?” He wraps his arms around me and I practically melt into them.

“I’m fine.” I turn my head as much as I can to look at him. “Really.”

 “You didn’t tell me about the hit yesterday,” he says very quietly.

 I sigh. “No. I didn’t.”

 “Didn’t want me to punish you?” His voice is hard to read. Hopeful yet it has a ring of uneasiness to it.

I smile. “No. I did. I mean- I do. I’m just not ready to drop this.”

 “Not ready?” He asks.

“Something fishy is going on with this woman,” I tell him.

 Johnny kisses my cheek. “Let it go, baby.” He says gently. “Just let it go.”

 “I don’t want to let it go.”

Johnny squeezes me. “Let it go.” He repeats. “Do the right thing. Let it go. She lives. She made it out of the event alive. She’s gotten this far and she’s doing good work. Call the hit off. Tell them you can’t do it, give back the money - if you’ve taken any at this point- and let it go.” This is all said in the gentlest tone he could have managed.

 “Johnny-“

“Jonathan!” Gabby cries. “Drop it!”

Johnny’s head jerks in that direction.

“Drop what?” He says in confusion.

“The wolverine is named Jonathan,” I tell him. “Relax.”

 I shake him off of me and go towards the kitchen.

“Great name.” He smirks. “I thought I was in trouble.”

 “Mom calls him ‘Jonathan’ when he’s in trouble,” Franklin says with a grin. “Jonathan Spencer Storm!” He giggles. “Like that. Only her face starts to get red.”

 “Your middle name is Spencer?” I ask him, putting a hand on my hip and using the other to drink from my recently discarded water bottle. I take a moment to locate Gabby’s and make sure it hasn’t been spilled.

 His middle name is Spencer?

How… fitting.

 I can see it. He looks like it would be something like that.

 “Yup.” He says. “It is.”

“Spencer." I repeat. “I like it.”

 Johnny smiles. “Well thanks. I didn’t get to pick it. But thanks.”

That makes me smirk.

I wonder why she was screaming at the wolverine anyway.

 “Jonathan is trying to eat the controller,” Gabby says, yanking the creature across the living room. “Stay put Jonathan.” She says. “Please.”

 Ah. That explains it.

 “What are you playing, Gabby?” Franklin asks.

 “Halo. I’m really bad at it.” She picks up a free controller and hands it to him. “Play with me?”

 “Sure!”

Val settles on the floor beside Jonathan. “Does he bite?”

 Gabby shrugs. “Sometimes.”

 “Does it hurt?” Val asks.

 “Sometimes,” Gabby repeats.

 “Why don’t you move over this way, Val?” Johnny motions to the couch.

 Val stares him down. “No, I think I’ll sit with Jonathan.”

“We don’t know if Jonathan will bite you or not,” Johnny says. “Why don’t you sit on the couch?”

 Val reaches out a delicate hand and pats Jonathan’s head. The animal pauses what it’s doing- digging at my carpet at the moment- and stares at her for a brief second before going back to his business.

“It’s okay Uncle Johnny.” She smiles. “We’re going to be friends.”

 Johnny frowns.

“So far as I’ve noticed,” I tell him, “It only attacks furniture. Laura doesn’t seem concerned about Gabby having him and he hasn’t bitten anyone all morning.”

 Johnny raises an eyebrow. “Are you… sticking up for an,” he gasps. “Animal?”

 I smirk. “I’m just saying that based on his behavior so far this morning, Val will be fine. That’s it.”

“That’s it- huh?”

Val pats Jonathan’s head several times.

 The other children go about setting another game up.

 They play a few rounds while Johnny and I talk about nothing in particular. I love having these kinds of conversations with him.

To be honest, however, I’d love them even more if we were in the bedroom. But thanks to Miss Gabby- that probably won’t be happening today. I can set her up in one of the guest rooms- sure. But she could probably still hear us. I don’t know if her hearing works like Laura’s and mine. If it does, she’d probably not take too kindly to hearing me and Johnny go at it.

Especially now that he knows I’m still planning a hit.

He’ll probably want to enact some kind of punishment to ‘correct’ me.

The idea makes me a little happier than I thought it would.

He can punish me as much as he likes- as of this moment it’s not changing my mind.

 “I left the food out in the car.” I zone back into what he’s saying. “I gotta go get it.”

 “Then can we eat lunch?” Gabby asks- running into yet another wall on the screen and being shot in the back by Franklin.

 “Yea.” He agrees. “With hot dogs.”

 “I love hot dogs!” Gabby says.

 “You got it, buddy,” Johnny says. “Sit tight.”

 I’m now faced with the fact that if he leaves I’ll be left with all three children on my own.

Not that he’ll be gone for long… but-

“Relax.” he tells me. He’s reading my mind. Or.. my emotions. I must have emoted something. “They don’t bite.”

 “Funny.”

 He nods. “Be right back.”

 Johnny heads out the front door, leaving a dense silence in his wake.

 “Daken?” Gabby breaks it. I’m almost happy for it- if we’re being honest.

“Yes?”

“Where am I sleeping tonight?”

 “I have a guest room,” I tell her.

“With a bed?”

“Of course it has a bed.”

“But you never have anyone over.” She says pointedly.

“Not true. Laura stays over sometimes.”

When I was recovering. She stayed over frequently. Not so much anymore.

 “Uncle Johnny stays over a lot,” Val says.

 “That’s true,” Franklin adds.

“Oh. What room will he be sleeping in?” Gabby asks.

 “They sleep together,” Franklin whispers. “You know. Like grownups.”

 “I thought that was only mommies and daddies,” Val says.

 “It’s any grownups couple. They like to cuddle and kiss. It’s really gross.” Franklin says.

 “It’s only gross to you because you’re young,” I say, trying to sound interested in the conversation.

 “I’ll never sleep in the same bed with my girlfriend.” He says. “She’d take up too much space.”

Cute.

 “I never thought about having a boyfriend,” Gabby says. “But I would share my bed with him. Laura shares her bed with Warren sometimes.”

Oh really. Hmm…

 “And Ororo shares her bed with Logan.”

And we’re back to this.

 “But they’re married.” She says waving her hand to dismiss it.

 “Married?” I jump when Johnny speaks. “When did that happen?”

 “This week apparently.” I drawl.

 “I wanted there to be a wedding,” Gabby says, running into yet another wall in the game.

 “Hmm.” Johnny nods to me. “You okay?”

 “Of course I’m okay.” I scoff. “I don’t care who that moron beds. It’s not my business.”

 “It is your business,” Gabby says simply. “She’s your stepmother now, you know. You should at least go say ‘hi’.”

 “‘Hi’? I don’t say ‘hi’. I don’t care.” I spit.

“You should.” She turns around. “She’s a nice lady.”

 “I don’t care,” I growl.

“You should.” She repeats.

“But I don’t.”

“But you should.”

I glare her down.

 “Who wants lunch?” Johnny shakes the bags in his hands for emphasis.

 “ME!” Val sticks her hand in the air and waves it.

 “Me too!” Franklin says.

 “Great.” Johnny looks at me pointedly. “Daken why don’t you come help me in the kitchen?”

 How about he kisses my ass?

I don’t like him diffusing this situation. If he’s going to do that every time something happens between me and this child, nothing will get done.

“Come to the kitchen.” He smiles. “Please?”

Oh fuck. Why not?

I can’t fight with the kid anyway. What good would it accomplish? If anything word could get back to Logan that I slightly care about his affairs. I need to be careful. I could be inviting him back into my life without realizing it. That would suck.

If we’re away from children, I could steal some affection from Johnny. Nothing major, of course. But a little something. It’s better than nothing.

If that’s all I’m going to get, I don’t see why I should refuse an opportunity to take it.

Who knows? It may be the highlight of my evening.

Chapter Text

My room is my favorite place in the house. Only because it’s where I can relax 100%. No one gets in that I don’t allow. No one sees what I don’t want to be seen. No one hears what I don’t want to be heard.

Fun things happen in this room as well….. and it’s where I sleep. Who doesn’t like sleep?

I shared a room with others for so long that any time I could get a home or an apartment with a room to myself- I was overjoyed. Imagine my happiness when I realized I could get whole houses on my own. Without certain people looming over me.

My Master was always bad about dropping by my dwellings unannounced and staying. It was nerve wrecking more than anything- never knowing when he would show up. Then I had to be his little servant in my own home. I had no personal space. He watched me do everything.
So now- with everything that’s come to light in the past few years- I have my own room. With my own bed. In my own house. It’s something I really enjoy owning.

Even one as small as this one.

After an eventful day, I want nothing more than to climb under my sheets and blankets and slip into unconsciousness.

And.. well it’s been an eventful day.A little dull- but interesting in the way of amassing a child I didn’t want and then caring for that child. Of course shit blew up at the end- but you could call my babysitting a semi-success.

Laura should thank me. She should be in my debt.

I doubt she’ll see it that. In fact, I know she won’t see it like that. Not after tonight. She’ll probably actually be pissed with me in fact. Who knows?

Johnny’s brood left a few hours before dinner. All the same to me. It was loud and there wasn’t enough food to go around. Not food food anyway. He brought over some junk food- which he so kindly left in case Gabby wanted it. I cooked Gabby some fish and rice. She didn’t really complain. I’m thinking Laura’s cooking skills most be lacking. I’m not the best of cooks- after all.

Johnny came back over to talk about tomorrow. Tomorrow being my second ‘appointment’. Fuck will he have a lot to tell the doctor. Especially after tonight.
Not that I’ll answer for any of it. Let alone to a stranger. A doctor even more so. I love Johnny- yes. He is important to me- but he can shove this up his ass. I’m done humoring him.

As for right now- I’m not sleeping yet. It’s still a little early.

Johnny was left with Gabby in the living room. Probably finishing up the game. She’s been on that fucking x-box all night. Hardly torn her eyes away from the screen.

On second thought, it sounds like someone’s coming to the door. Johnny may be closer than I thought.

“Hey.” The door to my bedroom creaks open. “Is it safe to come in?”

Johnny pokes his head in. It’s hard to read his face… but from what I’m picking up, he’s… distraught. “Is she asleep?” I counter. It’s only safe if she’s not with him.

Johnny frowns. “No… but she’s calmed down a little…. is that okay?”

“She’s not with you?” I rephrase the question.

He shakes his head. “In the guest room… the one furthest down the hall. All things considered, I thought it best to keep you apart.”

Johnny’s dressed in his jeans, tank, and socks. No shoes. He’s staying. I don’t know if I like that he’s staying or not yet.

“Just as well,” I say dismissively.

“‘Just as well’?” He closes the door behind him. “You wanna talk about tonight?”

Something happened. More importantly, something happened with Gabby.

I just knew this child would be a hassle. I knew it. I knew it and I took her anyway. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

What happened was on me. I’m sure Laura will see it like that. I’m sure Gabby’s probably already found a way to tell her. I guess that’s really on me.

“What’s there to talk about?” I ask stiffly, pulling my leg underneath me on the bed. I’m supposed to be painting my nails. I got distracted however because of tonight’s events. Fuck her for making me falter in something as simple as nail painting. It’s not like it’s terribly hard.

Johnny should tread carefully. I’m in what Ben calls a ‘mood’. And Johnny’s not holding any of the materials required to bring me out of it. In fact, his hands are painfully empty. Part of me wonders if he’s come to ‘correct’ me for my behavior. That part holds out hope that he’ll find something to do with hands soon. Even more hopefully, very soon.

“I think there’s a lot to talk about, actually.” Johnny comes to the foot of the bed. “Where do you want to start?”

His voice is steady. He’s scent is unwavering. Johnny has lost his fear of me. When we got together there was always a twinge of…. well not fear. Something close to fear- but not quite it.

He doesn’t have that anymore. he’s starting to know me. I’m by no means declawed- no. But he knows I would never intentionally hurt him. Not on purpose. If I did it on accident I’d still feel terrible about it. It just…. is something I’d rather not think about. In fact, the thought of him in distress isn’t something I like to think about. I don’t exactly know how to handle him when he’s hurt. Or depressed. Anger and spite- I can address. I let him use me. Like I was trained to.

But Johnny- in this conversation, seems like he’s willing to do some hurting of his own. I court that idea with glee.

Hurt me. Make me understand. I don’t feel bad. Make me feel bad.
Make me better. Make me…human.

“How about… we not start.” I offer quietly. “We could drop it entirely.” I cap the half empty bottle of black polish and set it on the nightstand. I’ll have to start over. I try to remember if I have any remover left.

“Daken, she’s thirteen. You can’t flip out on her like that… I think you scared her.” Not exactly angry. Not exactly punishing. But his gaze is intense.

“If she’s seen what she says she’s seen…. then there’s nothing to be frightened of.” I dismiss, staring at the night stand. It’s easier than looking at him.

“That’s bullshit and you know it’s bullshit. Stop.” He says. “What were you thinking?”

Thinking? I wasn’t thinking. I was reacting. What does he possibly want from me?

“Look- I went to my room to avoid ‘scaring’ her,” I tell him. “That’s a good thing.” Praise me if you won’t hurt me. I ‘flipped out’ and didn’t claw her to shreds.
Though to be honest- what she did? Stab-worthy.

Johnny nods. “Yea, I guess. But she’s really upset. Baby, what were you thinking? She’s thirteen. You were scary as fuck. Fuck- I was scared.”

“You were scared?” I ask.

He nods. “I thought you were gonna kill her.”

I sigh. “I wasn’t going to kill her.”

“She didn’t know that.” He says, sounding like he’s trying to make a point. “She really didn’t know that. She was scared. For her life. Literally.”

“My claws never came out.” I try to point out.

Was I really that terrifying?

“I know that. But they looked like they might. She didn’t know how to defend herself in that space.” he jerks his thumb to the door. “She’s crying- Daken.”

“She can be upset. Laura will pick her up in the morning. It’ll be like nothing happened.” Crying is a good way to let out weakness. Obviously, she’s not as strong as she thinks she is. She should work on that. If she wasn’t ready to defend herself from me- who knows who else she’ll just let hurt her. And from the conversation, we were having? Someone is trying to hurt her.

“She’s scared,” Johnny says. “You should try talking to her.”

“And say what?” I ask, sincerely. “I’m not sure what you want here, Johnny.”

“I don’t know. “I’m sorry” comes to mind.” He stands there- unmovable. “Or, “I promise not to hurt you”.”

“You’re going to make me apologize for that?” I scoff. “Really? Obviously, I was upset. People get upset, Johnny. I can’t just switch it off.” Not anymore, anyway.

Is he seriously going to stand here and tell me she’s completely blameless??

“Yes, you should apologize for that. She thought you were going to kill her. Literally. You made a thirteen-year-old fear for her life.”

His voice… His…

I look down. “Do you hate me?”

“What?” He sounds thrown.

“After tonight. Do you hate me? Do you hate what I’ve done? Are you scared of me?”

“No baby.” he soothes. “No, no, no. I don’t hate you. I was scared. I really was. But…. I’m not afraid of you. I don’t hate you. You… don’t know any better.”

I don’t know any better- he’s right. He’s completely right. “I was upset,” I say. “I’m sure it was scarier than intended.”

There. I take partial blame.

“Right.” He nods. “Let’s talk about that.” He takes a knee in front of me, crouching on the floor so he’s not towering over me. “Why are you upset?”

Why am I upset?

For good reason. This child is courting death. She’s courting destruction. She’s bringing about the end of my happy little existence with a few well-placed words and connections. She thoughtlessly brought my boogieman back into my home. Threw the name around like it was nothing. It’s not ‘nothing’. The child is stupid. The child is thoughtless. The child is….

A child.
Like me. Like I was. Like …. she is. She is like me. She is in a position of immense danger and I felt like she was trying to drag me with her.

“Because she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. I hate that. If you’re going to talk about something- do so intelligently.“ I try to keep it vague. Johnny probably learned more from that conversation than I wanted him to. More than he’s learned about me in the past two years- that’s for sure. I hate her for that. I hate her for making me lose control.

“She sounded like she knew what she was talking about.” He says quietly.

“She didn’t,” I growl.

“Why?”

“Why what?” He looks at me for a second.

“Why do you say she doesn’t know what she’s talking about?”

Because she said his name. She knew him enough to know his name. If you know that name- you are in danger. If you know that name everyone around you is in danger.

She’s put us all-
She’s put Laura in danger. I’m not okay with that. And I don’t even know if Laura knows.

“Because she said his name,” I say lowly. He won’t know what it means.

“ Because she said a name?” Johnny says. “You flipped out on her when she said a name. She didn’t even say that much. She was talking about meeting a man. Did you know who she was meeting? The two of you slipped into like three different languages. I couldn’t follow it. ”

Good, then he didn’t gather as much as I thought he did. Kudos to Gabby for being able to keep up with me though. Maybe she’s smarter than I give her credit for.

“She doesn’t know what or who she’s talking about.” I hiss.

“But… you do?” He presses.

I glare at him.

“Well? Do you?”

“Yes,” I growl.

“And….”

“And she doesn’t know what she’s talking about!” I snarl.

“Daken… baby…. calm down.” Johnny soothes. “It’s just a name. A name can’t hurt you. If that name means anything- that’s Gabby’s business now. Okay?”

Of all the names she could have said…. of all the people she could have brought up- she talks about him. I don’t know how she knows him. I don’t know if she even really does.

But the point is she said it.

She’s mad that I flipped out on her? She should be far more careful with what she casually talks about.

“It’s not just a name,” I growl. “It’s never just a name. That name has weight. It has meaning. Those who know it are doomed to nothing but pain and suffering. And I have worked too long and too hard to go back down that path. And she just brings it in here. Into my home. Into my HOME. She brings him. I don’t want him. I don’t want to go back. And she brings him in here. She throws around his name like it means-“

Johnny has his arms around me. “Baby,” he soothes. “It’s okay. It’s all okay. It’s fine. Shh now.”

This feels … nice. But I’m not ready to drop my argument.

“Why are you shushing me??” I demand.

“You’re upset.” He says. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you again.”

Is he scared now?

I scent him. “Don’t sniff me.” He says gently. “I’m fine.”

“Johnny-“

“I just don’t want you upset again tonight.” He says. “That’s it. I don’t hate you. I’m not scared of you. I don’t think another upset would be good for you mentally. Especially with your appointment tomorrow.”

If I still go.

“I’m not going to scream,” I promise him.

She’s probably trying to sleep. Again, I don’t know how her hearing works. So I don’t have a single clue as to what she can and can’t hear. If she hears? So what. It’s her fault. She brought this on herself in her own stupidity.

Only and idiot would talk like she was talking. Really. I should know. Once upon a time, I was that idiot. I talked the same way she was talking and all it led to was use and abuse.

If they- any of them- think I’m going down that road again they are sorely mistaken.

“Don’t get upset.” He soothes. “Just calm down.”

“I am upset.” I agree. “Because she’s being an idiot.”

“She’s thirteen.” He continues to soothe. “She doesn’t know what she’s talking about- like you said. There’s no need to get upset with her.”

“I was eight!” I snap. “It’s inexcusable! Completely inexcusable!”

“You were… eight?” Johnny’s eyes are big.

“Eight.” I nod. “That’s when that name started to mean something to me. That’s when he-“

“Wait, wait, wait. The person who trained you- that’s who she’s talking about?” Johnny asks. “That’s who that person is?”

I nod. “That is who she was talking about. Stupidly.”

“Does Laura know?”

“Who knows what Laura does and doesn’t know?? There’s a chance he wouldn’t even address Laura. He’d go after Gabby alone. Laura will know nothing until the day Gabby up and disappears.” I spit. “That’s how he works.” I’m angry. But…. I’m more scared. She can’t bring him into my home. If she’s associated with him- then in a way associating with her puts me in the same circle as him. And I’ve worked far too long and far too hard to end up back in the same position I was in.

I won’t give my life up. I won’t give my body. He can’t make me. He won’t make me. He doesn’t get to do this to me. Her? That’s her decision. Me? No. She can’t drag me into this. I refuse. I simply refuse.

“You should tell Laura.” Johnny presses. “Or talk to Gabby. She might be in danger…. if he does to her what he did to you….”

“She is in danger,” I repeat. “He’s very persuasive.”

“You should go talk to her,” Johnny says. “Without yelling. Tell her what she’s talking about and she might be more careful.”

I lean into his embrace, resting my forehead on his shoulder.

Johnny gently alternatives between petting and scratching my back. It feels wonderful.

“You’re okay.” He says gently. “It’s all okay.”

“I screamed at a child,” I say. “She thought I was going to kill her.”

“Uh hmmm.”

“And you don’t hate me?”

“I don’t hate you,” he assures.

“But you’re upset with me?”

Time for things to go a little more in my direction.

“I’m a little upset- yeah. If we’re being honest.”

“Is that…. bad enough to need correction?”

“Correction?”

I nod. “We can do it quietly.”

Make me better. I feel a twinge of fear.

Johnny shakes his head. “No baby. I’m not hurting you tonight…. you look spooked. I don’t think that would end well for either of us.”

“I’m not ‘spooked’.” I try to argue.

“You look spooked. I think you might accidentally stab me if I hurt you.”

“I’ve never done it before,” I say.

“Yea.. but you’ve not reacted like you did to Gabby in a while.” He kisses my cheek. “You did fail to inform me that you were still taking the hit- though.”

Right. I’d almost forgotten.

“That I did.”

“Might be worth something once you’ve calmed down.” He says.

“Might be worth something”?”

He nods. “A lick or two.”

“With-“ My eyes roam to my closet- where we keep the heavier things. Whips. Cattle prods. Things like that.

“My hand?” He offers. “Or a belt.”

That’s no fun.

“You’re frowning.” He says.

“I was hoping for something-“

“More painful?” He smirks. “You’ve got to see the doctor tomorrow…. I thought that would be painful enough for you without adding anything too harsh.”

“How thoughtful of you.” I huff.

“Yep.” He pulls back. “The man who trained you… why would he be in contact with Gabby?”

I groan. We’re back to this. “He’s in touch with and behind a lot of government programs. One of the most popular being Weapon X. Fuck he may have been involved in Laura’s creation. Maybe Gabby’s. Who knows? He likes to train young. Gabby’s a little old and she’s already received basic training. She’s ripe for him.”

“She said he told her she was pretty.” He says.

“He’ll say things like that.” I dismiss.

“She said he said it a lot. And that he was older.”

“He’s over a millennium. Easily.” I look down. I was once pretty. When I was young it was ‘pretty’. ‘Beautiful’ only came about when I was older. I guess he still considers her young.

I mean- she is young. But not as young as he usually takes them. Not like me. Not like any of the other children he and his followers ‘trained’.

At one point there were six. By the time I was sixteen- there was one. Me.

“Would he try anything with her?” Johnny asks.

“He’d try a lot of things with her.”

“I mean- is that one of his things?”

“Is what one of his things?” I’m honestly not following.

“Liking underage-“

“Stop.” I hold a hand up. “Just stop.” That’s what he wants to talk about?

“You said you were assaulted before. Did he do it?” Johnny presses. “How old were you?”

“Please.”I scoff. “Well?” “How can you ask things like that?” I demand. “It’s personal.”

“I’m your boyfriend,” Johnny says, hand on his chest. “You can tell me these things.”

“There’s nothing to tell.” I huff. “It was a long time ago. It doesn’t matter.”

“If he abuses children- she needs to know. If you have that information then it’s your job to tell her.”

“My JOB is not to protect her.” I snarl. “She should be doing that on her own. When I was her age- I had this under control. I knew what I was and what I wasn’t. I knew how to protect myself. IF she hasn’t learned this yet then that does not fall under my responsibility. Someone has failed her. That someone is not me.” I clap my hands together. “I wash my hands of her.”

“You were hurt by this man. If you know what he does and how he does it, don’t you think the right thing to do would be to make sure he doesn’t do it again?”

“No, because then I’ll be interfering. The more I interfere the closer he gets to me. I don’t want him to be close to me.”

“Daken when he was hurting you- when you were little- I bet you wanted nothing more in the WORLD for someone to help you.” He says, pain obvious in his voice. “And no one did.” He looks me over. “There were other adults- you’ve said he had followers. I’m betting they were a lot older than you. Stronger. And not a single one of them helped you- did they?”

I look down at the comforter. It’s the blue one. Johnny changed it today.

“Well?” He presses.

“No,” I say quietly. “They never helped me.”

“You suffered for sixty years because no one would stand up to him and help you. Because no one looked at what he was doing and decided to stop him.”

“Yes,” I mumble.

“You can be the person you needed.” He says. “You can stop this cycle.” I continue to bore holes into the comforter with my eyes. Johnny takes me by the shoulders, making me look at him. “You were obviously hurt by him. Help her. Help her stop him before he gets his claws in her and it’s too late.”

I turn away from him. “Fine,” I say quietly.

“Baby, I’m so proud of you.” He starts. “Really. I know this hurts. I know talking about this hurts-“

“It doesn’t hurt, Johnny. There’s really nothing to talk about.”

Johnny smirks and shakes his head. “I’m proud of you regardless. You talking to her will be something good for both of you. You could stop whatever he seems to be planning before it starts. You can stop him- baby. You can be what you needed. You can save someone from your pain.”

“I don’t want to stop him. I don’t want to go near him. I just want to be left alone.” I whisper.

“Do this, Daken. It won’t take much effort. Just tell her what’s in store. Tell her how to stop it.” He takes my hand. “Please. Daken- please. If you can save her- you have to. Okay? You have to. There’s no other option. You don’t have to get overly involved. Just give her the information she needs to make a safe choice. And then… talk to Laura- okay? Tell her about it. Keep Gabby safe.”

“Keep Gabby safe,” I repeat.

“Yes.” He nods. “Because she’s young. Because she’s part of your family. Because it’s the right thing to do- okay? Keep Gabby safe.”

I sigh. “Fine. I’ll talk to her- okay? I will not, however, apologize. She deserved being yelled at.”

“She deserved-“ There’s a knock at the door, killing his statement.

We both sit quietly and stare at each other.

“Daken?” There’s another knock.

Johnny flicks his eyes between me and the door.

“Daken?” More knocking. “Can I come in please?”

“Let her in,” Johnny whispers. “Please Daken. She is in danger.”

“Fine.” I hiss. “Fine. I said I would. Fine.”

“Can I come in?” She asks again. “Yes,” I answer after a few more awkward moments.

The door squeaks open. I’ll have to do something about the hinges.

“Hey.” She waves. She’s dressed in a baggy t-shirt and shorts. It looks like something Laura would wear. “I’m sorry for making you angry….”

Her voice is weak. It has almost a tremor in it.

“It’s fine,” I say.

“No, it’s not.” She shows me a phone in her hand. “I talked to L-“

“I don’t care if you talked to Laura.” I snap. “She can be pissed. You deserved-“

“She did not.” Johnny cuts in. “She did not deserve to be yelled at like that.”

“I talked to L-“

“Let me talk to Laura- how about that?” I argue. “I can explain it much better than you can.” There. I’ll warn Laura about Romulus and never even have to mention it to Gabby. I just have to make Gabby think I’m still mad at her. Which won’t be hard. I am slightly mad at her. It’s wearing off quickly after talking to Johnny. But it’s still there.

“I didn’t talk to Laura.” She says impatiently. “I talked to Logan.’

Oh, this is great.

Even better.

“He told me that you knew Rom-“ She stops. “The man I was talking to. He said he was dangerous. And sneaky. And a bad person.”

Oh, he did? How wonderful. Truly. Logan knows so much. Logan is such a hero. Logan is such a shining example of caring and nurturing. I bet he’s rushing home from his sex-a-thon to be with her in her moment of need. Less I’ll have to do. If she talks to Logan- who needs me? Right? Logan is all anyone needs. I’m second class. Second rate. Second fiddle.

Romulus was all about Logan.

“Daken has more to tell you.” Johnny blocks my attempt for escape. “Stuff that can help.” he nods to me. “Tell her.” He mouths.

I’m silent. Stubbornly so.

“He’s bad?” She asks quietly.

“He is.” I grit my teeth. “Very bad.”

“Logan said he would try to trick me.” Gabby looks down. “And make me into something else. A weapon. Or a tool.”

“He would.” I agree full heartedly.

“He also said that he tricked you…. when you were younger than me.”

I go silent. Who the fuck is Logan to tell her these things? Where the hell does he get off spraying my personal business everywhere???

“He said he killed your mom…. and took you from her stomach. And that he be-“

“I know what he did to me.” I snap. “You don’t have to remind me.”

She nods, fidgeting with her fingers. She’s nervous. “I uh... want to know how to make him go away. Logan said to stay away from him… he’s so big. I don’t think I could fight him off.”

“I can’t fight him off.” I agree. “I can barely fight him off… and he literally trained me how to fight. I know his style better than anyone.”

Johnny glances at me. “Help her.” He whispers.

“Help me.” She agrees. “How do I make him go away?”

Should I even bother asking what he wants with her anyway? He wouldn’t tell her the truth. It’d be a lie from the start. That’s how it was with me. Lies from the beginning to the end. Long live the emperor of perpetual shadows. Hail to the King.

“The only way to make him go away,” I drawl, “Is to never have contacted him in the beginning.”

Gabby frowns and looks down at the carpet. “He said I was special.”

She’s really gaining the sympathy vote here.

“He said we were all special.” I dismiss.

“He called me beautiful.”

“We’re all beautiful when he wants something,” I say.

She fidgets some more. “Who’s ‘we’?”

“His followers. His wards. His prisoners. His pawns. Everyone. WE is everyone else who’s not HIM.”

Once I stupidly thought that ‘we’ was referring to just him and myself. I thought so, so, so stupidly. There was an ‘us’. And ‘we’. And a, “come sit with me, Daken. Let me show you my plans.” There were hours of exquisite pain that followed as I surrendered myself to him. My body. My mind. My past. My future- all his.

All for a, “My special boy. So talented. So thorough. So exact. Exquisite. An example for all to follow.”

He pads the ego just until the exact moment when he can rip it out from underneath you. All those moments could easily be traded by a snarl of, “Worthless.”
“Idiotic.” “Useless.” “Ugly.”

He told her she was beautiful. He used to tell me I was beautiful.

Not handsome- no. Beautiful. He said there was a difference. I didn’t care. He liked me. He liked looking at me. I brought him joy. I was valued. I was beautiful.

It’s so easy to fool someone with flattery. But him? I believed it. I believed every word of it. His beautiful little slave. Right up until the very end.

Gabby isn’t the next Laura… Gabby is the next me.

Johnny’s right. I have to warn her. I can’t doom her to my pitiful existence. To what Logan so foolishly doomed me to. I wonder if he told her that part. If he told her that Romulus only ever wanted ME to get to HIM.

I wonder who he’s trying to reach through her. Laura? Maybe. Has he ever gone after Laura? She’s never said. I’ve mentioned my upbringing in the past- high off my ass on pain medication and trigger words when I lost my respective body parts. She never said she knew someone similar. It seems like something she would have at least mentioned by now. Especially if he’s been talking to her and Gabby.

“So.. he was lying?”

“He preys on what your weaknesses,” I tell her. Free advice. “I wouldn’t show him any if I were you.”

“He preyed on your weaknesses?” She asks me with wide eyes.

I grant her a nod. “I was a kid.”

“How long did you stay with him?”

I glance down. I don’t know why my time in his shadow is shameful now. “Sixty years and some change.”

“Wow.” She gasps. “He tricked you for a long time.”

“Yea. I guess he did.” And he lived. After all this- the bastard’s still kicking. “You should be careful,” I tell her. “He uses you. In several ways.”

Johnny nods. “You’re doing great baby.”

“Yea?” She moves closer to the bed.

“He’s … abusive.”

She nods. “Logan said he beat you.”

“He did.” I agree. “He said he did mean things to you.”

I hope Logan didn’t define ‘mean’. Because I never told him that part. I never told anyone that part. I guess besides Johnny just now.

“Go on.” Johnny urges.

“If you go with him,” I say dryly. “He will beat you. He will beat you, he will torture you, he will rape you, he will break you- got it?” I say all this with a hiss. “Are you happy now?” I ask Johnny.

Johnny nods. “That’s great baby. I’m so proud of you. I know it hurts.”

No- he doesn’t. He has no idea how this feels.

“He… raped you? When you were my age?”

I stare at her for a second. “Younger.”

She nods. “I get it.”

“It’s not uncommon in the time he was raised in.”

“Don’t defend him,” Gabby says, looking at me for a long second. “He’s not a good man. Why would you defend him?”

Why would I defend him? Because I was trained to. Because it used to make me feel better if I thought it was just something he was used to.

I don’t think about it more than I should- but some of what we did was not... normal.

Okay- a lot of what we did was not normal. The word ‘illegal’ comes to mind.

It was easy to justify it for him.

I made sure to tell myself that it was just the way of the world. I remember visiting other masters who trained children and wondering if their master’s loved them like mine loved me. Love. Pointless.

Before Johnny, I never engaged in it.

“He hurt you. He is sick. You should not stick up for him.”

Sick?

Was Romulus sick?

There’s a notion.

“If he raped you- he should go to jail.” She says. “Rapist go to jail.”

In this day and age? Not likely.

“Sure, Gabby. Put him in jail.”

Gabby looks down. “I’m too little.”

“We’re all too little. That’s why he gets what he wants.”

“Has he… talked to you?” That brings everything to a screeching halt in my mind.

“No. Did he say he was going to?”

She shakes her head. “He asked if I knew you- though.”

“And what did you say?” I drill her for information.

“I said yes.” She says quietly. “That I’d met you a few times.”

“That’s all you said?”

She nods. “That’s all I said.”

“He didn’t press for any more information?”

She shakes her head. “Did he ask about Laura?”

To that, she nods. “He said he wanted to meet Laura. That the three of us should talk.”

“Do not take him to Laura,” I growl. “Do you understand me?”

“Yes.”

“I mean it.” I press. “Do not lead him to Laura. Do not lead him to your home. Do not lead him to any of your friend’s homes. Do you understand?”

She looks down. “How much trouble am I in?”

That makes me laugh. And laugh. And laugh.

“Daken?”

“You’re in more trouble than you can imagine,” I tell her.

“Really?”

“Daken,” Johnny whispers. “Reel it back in.”

Reel it back in indeed.

“Just be smart,” I growl. “That’s all it takes.”

She’s quiet for a second. “You’re upset.”

“What?”

“I upset you… but you’re not yelling.”

“What do you want from me- kid?” I snarl. “I yell- you cry. I don’t yell- you ask why I’m not yelling. What do you want?”

“Romulus upsets you.” She says. “I can tell.”

“Gabby- go to bed.” I sigh. “Go to bed. Don’t talk to strangers. Don’t blindly trust people.”

Gabby nods after a second, turning her back to me and heading for the door. “Okay….. I’m sorry I upset you… again.”

“…I’m sorry you thought I was going to kill you,” I say to her retreating form. “I wasn’t.”

The apology shocks even me.

Gabby smiles over her shoulder. “It’s okay. Big brothers are grumpy sometimes.”

I don’t feel like correcting her tonight.

So I just nod. “Close the door behind you.”

“Okay.” She opens the door. “Good night.”

“Don’t let Jonathan eat the blankets on that bed,” I tell her.

She nods. “I won’t.”

“Okay.”

“Good night Johnny!”

“Good night Gabby.” He says warmly. “See you in the morning.”

She closes the door behind her, leaving us in silence.

I stare at my lap.

“How ya feeling?” Johnny asks.

Slimy. Uneasy. Unsure. I shrug.

“You did good.” He says.
I shrug again.

“It’s over now.”

“Is it?”

“Yep,” he says. “Want to do something to take your mind off of it?”

It would take a hell of a lot to clear my mind right now. I shrug and continue to look down. I’m so intent on not looking at Johnny that I’m taken by surprise when he tackles me, sending my back to the mattress. I go to complain but then he’s kissing me. His hands are firm. A little bit of pain, a little bit of pleasure.
He kisses my neck and shoulders, sliding his leg in between mine. “What mood are you in?” He asks.

I smirk. This has possibilities.

It won’t work for the long term- but for right now? Fucking may be just what the doctor ordered.

“You can proceed.”

After the whole ‘did he rape you’ bit I didn’t think Johnny would want to touch me. I didn’t think anyone would want to touch me.
He kisses me again.

“Proud of you.” He says when we break apart. “So,” he kisses my neck, “So,” He kisses further up, “So,” another kiss. “Proud of you.”

“Thanks,” I grunt as he rolls us over, putting me on top.

“You feel like a workout?” He says.

“Hmm. I could be tempted.”

He smirks. “Go easy. It’s been a long day.”

“Of course.” I kiss him gently. Johnny tastes like heat. Almost … spicy. It’s hard to describe.

I have to get my head cleared. No better way to get out of my head, like making him lose his own. AKA sex brain. Johnny get’s sex brain. Sluggish. Lazy. Eyes rolled up into his head and moans dripping from his lips. Sex brain. He’s wonderfully sexy when this happens.

He starts to awkwardly shift underneath me- trying to strip.

“Hold still.” I lean back, sitting on my heels and place my hand on the hem of his jeans. “Relax.”

Johnny nods and takes a deep breath. I remove his jeans once I’m sure he’s going not going to fidget.

“Have you been commando all day?” I smirk.

Johnny grins. “Haven’t done laundry in a few days.”

That pulls a grin from me as well.

I help him out of his shirt and sit back to enjoy the view.

Johnny takes a moment to stretch his arms- looking like a big house cat.

“Comfy?”

“Proceed.”

I lean over him and fetch the lube off the nightstand.

With him there’s no need to warm it up- it’ll heat up as soon as it touches him.

I go to coat my fingers but he lets out a giggle. “What?”

“Oh I have to get naked but you can keep your clothes on?”

I smile. “Is this impatience, Mr. Storm?”

“This is impatience.” He agrees. “I wanna see.”

“See what exactly?” I tease. “Exactly what I wanna see.” He sticks his tongue out.

“Like… this?” I lift my shirt off over my head.

“That’s a start.” He nods. “Definitely a nice view.”

I nod. “Oh, so you’d rather see….”

“Hurry it up.” He says. “I’m anxious.”

“Anxious?”

“I haven’t bottomed in a while.” He says with a nod.

“You don’t have to- you know. If you’re too nervous.”

Believe it or not- consent is something that’s important to me when it comes to Johnny. I know sometimes I fuck him over with my pheromones. But most of the time, when he’s bottoming- that is- I want to make sure it’s how he wants it. I don’t want him to see me as a sexual predator.

“I want to,” he says quickly. “I just always have to get over the macho bullshit.”

“Macho bullshit?”

He nods. “The things that make me uneasy about bottoming.”

“Ah.”

He nods again. “I don’t know how you do it so easily.”

I lean down and kiss him. “You have a nice dick. It makes it easy.”

Johnny grins. “Take your pants off.”

So he’s unsure about bottoming. Nothing new. I ought to tease him tonight. Stretch it out. Make him squirm with pleasure. In fact- I think I’ll do just that.
Sometimes giving pleasure can be just as fun as getting it. Sometimes. With the right person. I get off watching him get off sometimes. Like when we watch porn together. Johnny likes porn. He likes big tits and big dicks. Perfect for any given porn there is. He’s easy to please- in other words.

I stand up and strip, slow and deliberate.

Johnny’s hard when I’m done.

I position myself over him. He has a blush that runs from his cheeks to his ears.

“Johnny?”

“Yea?” His legs are too close together. Missionary isn’t exactly a position I find desirable tonight anyway.

“You need to move. We can’t get anything done with you laying like that.”

He spreads his legs.

“Hmm…not quite what I had in mind.” I hold my hand out to him. Johnny tentatively takes it and lets me pull him up to a seated position. “Good.” I praise him. “Now on all fours.” Doggie should do the trick.

He nods, stumbling a little when he tries to get where I’ve told him. It’s adorable really- Johnny when he’s like this. He’s so… sure in the bedroom. But this is new to him. He wants to be sexy- but he comes off cute.

“Now relax.” I lube up my fingers.

“I’m relaxed.” He doesn’t sound relaxed.

“You’re not relaxed.” I shake my head.

“I am.” He insists.

I tease his opening without warning him. He actually yelps when I touch him. “Johnny?”

“You surprised me,” he says. “I can’t see you. Tell me what you’re doing.”

“Okay.” I soothe. “I’m going to finger you for a bit.”

“Now?”

“You’d prefer later?” I tease.

“No, no. It’s just… I can’t see what you’re doing.” he says again. “If you’re going to plunder my ass- I’d like to see what you’re doing.”

“You’ll like this position,” I promise. “I can get to your prostate a lot faster this way.”

“Okay.” he nods. “That sounds fun.”

“That is fun.” I agree. “I promise you’ll like it- okay? And if you don’t- we can switch it up.” There. I’m giving him options. Plan B is to make him lay down on his back and watch me.

I plan to be giving him a lot of attention right now. A LOT of attention. He’s got such a cute ass. It’s nice to get to enjoy it every so often.

“Okay. I’m going to enter you now.”

Johnny nods.

I slide one finger in. He’s tight. A little above average body temp.

A few seconds of that and he starts to groan.

“You like that, don’t you.”

“MM-hmm.”

I add another finger, stretching him out. “I’m getting you nice and slick.” I narrate. “So I can fuck you into the mattress.”

“Ya. Do that.” he hisses.

I work him over for a few minutes.

“Yes.” He groans.

“Yes?”

“Mm-hmm.”

“You like that?”

“I like that.” He agrees.

“One more finger.” I go at him for a good ten minutes. All the sounds he’s giving off tell me he’s really enjoying himself. I like that.

“Daken,” he hisses finally.

“Hmm?”

“I’m going to cum.”

“No, you’re not.” I soothe. “It just feels good.”

“No really.” He groans. “I’m going to cum.”

Hmm. Curious. I hit him just right again and he yelps.

“My baby likes being finger fucked.” I chuckle. “How did I not know this?”

“It’s ah..well-“ He hisses.

“Have you been experimenting without me?”

I crook my fingers again. My hands don’t get tired. I can work him just like I need to for as long as I need to.

“Yes!” He groans. “Yes.”

“So if I keep this up… you’ll cum. Without me touching your dick.”

He nods.

“And you didn’t tell me?” I laugh.

He shakes his head.

“I have to say I like the idea of you playing with yourself.” I tease. “How did you do it?”

“What?”

I crook my fingers again. “How did you play with yourself? Did you use a toy?”

Johnny hesitates before nodding.

“One of mine?”

He shakes his head.

“You bought one for yourself?” I gasp. That’s new.

“Yea.” He says. “I wanted to get better…”

“At bottoming?”

He nods.

“So you bought a toy to play with yourself?”

He nods. “From Amazon.”

That makes me laugh. “I bet you cleared your browser history after that.”

“Oh yea.” He groans. “Three times.”

I play with him some more. “And you like your toy?”

He nods.

“Did it vibrate?”

He nods again.

I like this conversation. “Tell me about how you used it.”

“Na uh.” He groans.

“Jonathan.” I tease. “Tell me about how you played with yourself.”

Johnny shudders. “I laid on my back..”

“Yes?”

“And slid it in.”

“Okay.”

“And turned it on.”

“Did you cum?”

Johnny nods.

“More than once?”

He nods again.

“Such a naughty boy.”

“Oh yea.” he chuckles.

“Uh hmm. And maybe making you cum all over yourself would teach you a lesson about playing without me.”

“Are you… punishing me?” He laughs.

“Like a naughty boy.” I make sure that every thrust of my fingers is precisely placed. “You have to cum from foreplay.”

Johnny groans.

His body is shaking. He’s not lying- he’s close.

“Of course I could keep you on the edge for a while.” I muse out loud.

“Oh no.” He yelps when I hit him just right. “No. No. NO.”

“Naughty boys who play with themselves have to be taken care of, Mr. Storm.”

“Don’t do that.” He groans.

“You don’t want to cum?”

He huffs, “Of course I want to cum. Later.”

“So I shouldn’t do…this.” I hit his prostate.

“No.”

“No. I shouldn’t do that.” I do it again.

“No, you shouldn’t.” He laughs.

“I’m still unclear on this premise.” I tease, teasing him in just the right way.

“Daken!” He yelps. “Seriously- I’m going to cum.”

“Because I did… this.” I hit him again.

“Get inside me.” He hisses.

“I am inside you.”

Johnny hangs his head. “I’m going to cum. I can’t hold it.”

“Don’t hold it.” I smooth my hand up his back, feeling his muscles tremble. “Let me have it.”

“I wanted you to fuck me.”

“I am fucking you.”

“With your dick!” He laughs.

“Hmm…” I move my fingers, drilling into him. “I think you like this.”

“I do like that.” He agrees with a hiss. “I just wanted to do something you liked.”

“I like this.” I slow my hand down. “I’m hard.”

“Then fuck me!”

“I am fucking you,” I repeat.

This is fun. Sexy. Fun.

“Gonna cum.” he grunts. “Please- gonna cum.”

“Uh hmm.” I encourage. “Come on then.”

“Why won’t you just fuck me?”

I lean over him, fucking him all the while. “Because I have an appointment tomorrow.”

“Daken!” He yelps.

“Come on baby.” I’m in his ear. “Come on. Go ahead and cum for me. Let me have it.”

“No.” he grits his teeth. “No. Not until you fuck me properly.”

“You want me to jerk you?”

“How would that help??” He laughs.

“It wouldn’t.” I grin. “I could… help you in other ways.”

“Don’t you dare use pheromones on me.” He hisses. “Please- just fuck me.”

“Are you sorry for what you’ve done?” I put a lilt to my voice.

“For making you see the doctor?” he pants.

“Uh hmm.”

“No!” He whines when I hit just the right spot.

“Come on Johnny.” I tease him. “Cum for me.”

“No. Not until you fuck me.” He grunts.

“I should record this.” I rub his shoulder with my free hand.

“You wouldn’t dare.”

“I would dare.” I correct.

“Please,” he begs. “Daken please.”

“Relax.” I soothe. “Just cum.”

“I don’t want to cum from your hand.”

Now we’re playing into Johnny’s hang ups.

“Oh?”

he nods. “It’s… pathetic.”

“No. It just means you’re enjoying yourself.”

He’s breathing is heavy. “It’s pathetic.” He says again. “It means I can’t last.”

“It means I’m good with my hands.” I correct. “And that you like ass play. You’re not ready to hear that.”

He whimpers. “I’m gonna cum.”

“You are.” I agree. “So come on then.”

“I wanted you to-“

“I like this plenty,” I assure him. “It’s okay to give yourself over to pleasure- Johnny. Being on the bottom doesn’t make you less of man. Liking it doesn’t make you less of a man.”

“Daken-“

“You wanna shift positions?” I ask him. “So you can see?”

“See?”

“Yes, see. Do you want to see me finger fuck you? You look amazing.”

He’s body heat rises. A blush. It’s adorable.

“I look amazing- huh?”

“Oh yes.” I remove my hand and flip him onto his back, spreading his legs. “Hard as a rock.”

I should take mercy on him.

“You feeling okay?” I check in on him.

He nods.

“Okay.” I slip my fingers back into him. He’s beyond slick.

“Mmm.” he bites his lip.

“Watch,” I demand.

Johnny has a small kink where he likes being bossed around. He doesn’t like pain. He likes a little bit of humiliation. Dirty talk. Name calling. Begging is a thing he likes to do.

He props himself up on his elbows.

“Ah. Ah. Ah.” He’s clenching the sheets in his fists.

“That’s it.” I soothe. “Cum for me.”

“Na uh.” He grunts. “Not until you fuck me.”

“Should I add another finger?”

He shakes his head. “Should I speed up?” I do so.

“Please!” He yelps. “Fuck me!”

I slow back down.

“I think you’re ready for something bigger.”

He nods. “Yes. Please.”

“I have just the thing.”

I remove myself from him and stand to my feet.

“Where are you going??” He sounds dumbfounded.

“Watch.” I go to the closet and pull out a cardboard box.

“You’re not serious.” He groans.

“Dead serious.” I remove a smaller vibrator from the vast array of sex toys the box contains. Black, not that big. It’s fast though.

“Since you like toys so much.” I shift through the box and pull out a pair of handcuffs.

Satisfied I put the box back and walk back to the bed.

“Don’t melt these.” I hold up the handcuffs.

He grins. “You’re gonna cuff me?”

“Mm-hmm.”

“And-“

“And-“ I raise the vibrator.

He groans. “That’s not your dick.”

“It’s better.” I wait for a second. “Are you opposed?”

Johnny shakes his head. “Cuff me.”

“And the toy?”

He nods. “And the toy.”

“I told you I’d let you play with them if you wanted.”

“You did.”

“This one’s small.”

“I was hoping for something bigger.” He says pointedly.

“I have the big one,” I say wistfully. “If you want…”

“No.” He says quickly. “Little is fine.”

I cuff him, making sure the strain isn’t too much on his arms and shoulders. Hands behind his back, cuffs looped around one of the slats that make up the back of my headboard. It’s got slots in between individual pieces of wood- like a ladder almost. It’s almost impossible not to engage in bondage at some point or another.

“Spread.” I tap his right leg.

He complies ever so slightly.

“Wider.”

A little more.

“Wider.”

He’s grinning.

“Jonathan.” I say ‘warningly’. “Spread your legs.”

He bites his lip again, finally holding his legs apart wide.

The angle is bad.

“Lift your hips.”

Johnny blushes again.

“Hips.”

He lifts himself slightly. I place the toy at his entrance.

“You’re going to cum now,” I tell him. “Maybe twice.” he nods. “And you’re going to be a good boy.”

He nods again.

“And if you’re not a good boy, I’ll leave you cuffed to the bed with the toy until you decide to be one.”
He moans.

“Okay then.” I push the toy in slowly. “Alright?”

“Alright.” He agrees.

“I’m going to turn it on now.”

He nods.

The toy springs to life at it’s highest setting.

He yelps.

“Feel good?”

He nods quickly.

“I should record you,” I repeat from earlier. “Helpless. At my mercy.”

“You call this mercy?” He teases.

“I could be a lot meaner.” I grin. “I could take your picture and post it somewhere.”

Johnny moans again.

“How do you think your friends would react?”

He bites his lip.

“Seeing you like this.”

“Daken-“ He gasps.

“Let me see… who would I show first?”

I would never do this… but the idea that I might turns him on to no end.

“How about… Peter?”

He shakes his head. “No?”

“Gonna cum.” He whines. “

Then I should definitely record you.” I smile. “Because I haven’t touched your dick once.”

It’s a big day for us sexually speaking.

“How do you feel?”

“Full.” he moans.

I take his knees and push them further apart. “Exposed?” I prompt.

He nods.

“Submissive?”

He nods again.

“Good?”

“Oh yes.”

“And you just wanted me to fuck you.” I watch him closely. “What a good little fuck toy you make,” I tell him. “Still want to cum?”

He nods.

“What if I made it to where you couldn’t?”

“NO.” he gasps.

That makes me chuckle. “Cum for me Johnny.”
He shakes his head.

“Come on naughty boy. You know you want to.”

He makes an appealing sight- I’ll give him that. I reach my hand down to my own neglected cock, stroking myself firmly.

“So close.” He whimpers.

“I’m impressed,” I say honestly.

Johnny closes his eyes, a look of pleasure and concentration playing on his face at the same time.

I go to my knees, sitting knee to knee with him. He opens his eyes. “Yes?”

“You held out for a while…” I gently graze his dick. “Maybe we should go to the second level.”

“This was the first???”

I smirk. “Yes.”

“Can I ask how many levels there are?”

I take his dick in my hand and start pumping it- slowly.

“As many as I say there are.”

He groans.

“You like that? Hmm? That toy up your ass… what a big slut.”

“Not a slut.” He groans.

“Whore?”

He shakes his head.

“Surely not a prude.” I gasp.

“Gonna cum.” He moans. “Really.”

“Let me help you.” I grip him firmly.

“Daken,” he hisses. “Daken-“

“That’s my name, yes.”

“Too much.” he pants. “It’s too much.”

“Does it hurt?”

“No.”

“Do you want to stop?”

He shakes his head.

“Are you sure?”

Another shake.

I bend down and take his cock into my mouth, sucking slowly.

“Daken!”

I can feel the vibrations pulsing through his body. There’s an aftertaste of heat.

He thrusts into my mouth.

Not what I would like for him to be doing but I’ll allow it.

“Yes.” He groans. “Baby yes.”

I suck him off for a few minutes.

“I’m gonna cum.” He says. “Please…. please… please..”

So close. I suck him hard. He moans louder. Finally, he groans and gives a final thrust, spilling down my throat.

Swallowing is a … acquired taste. I picked it up very easily- given the fact that if I didn’t- I was beaten most thoroughly. If I ever told Johnny that? He’d never let me suck him off again.

“That’s hot.” He gasps.

“You taste so good,” I tell him.

“Fuck.” He gasps.

“Now you stay right there,” I tell him. “While I get off.”

“The toy-“

“Enjoy,” I smirk.

“Daken…” he gasps.

“I’m close baby. You only have to keep it in until I’m done…. I wanna watch you.”

I go about watching him. He makes a stream of moans with choice expletives mixed in.

When I cum, he’s red in the face and drooling a little bit. “Such a good boy.” I praise, removing the toy and switching it off. “I’m so proud.”

He smiles wide.

“Let’s get you cleaned up.”

Johnny nods.

“I’ll suck you off in the shower,” I tell him.

he nods harder.

“Good boy.”

I reach up and kiss him. A kiss which he eagerly returns.

“And then you’ll fuck me?”

“You still want to be fucked?” I’m surprised.

“Level three.” He grins.

“Level three it is, then.” I return his grin and uncuff him.

All things considered- sex keeps the demons away. And with what Gabby’s done tonight- there a lot of those hanging around. Johnny’s lucky if I let him sleep at all tonight.

It’s an appealing thought.One I plan to see to fruition as much as humanly possible.

It’s a fair trade for a therapy appointment- I suppose.

If it’s not… well I think it’s the only trade I’m going to get. So I’m taking it anyway.

Chapter Text

“Hey sleepy head,” Johnny says in my ear. “Good morning.”

I crack one eye open, ignoring the sleep driven blurriness. “Good morning,” I say around a yawn.

“Laura’s here.” He says. “I cooked her and Gabby some breakfast.”
“Great.” I close my eye again. Johnny leans over and kisses me. “It’s time to get up.”
“Oh?” I keep my eyes closed.

“You’ve got your appointment today.”

“Oh.” I groan.

He thumbs my lip. “You could grab a shower real quick. There’s plenty of hot water.” There always is when Johnny showers. He doesn’t need to heat the water. If he maintains a certain body temperature all the water is warm regardless of what temperature it comes out as originally.

“How about you let me sleep… and we forget the appointment?” I offer somewhat sleepily.

“After last night?” Johnny says gently. “Not a chance.”

“And if I don’t go?”

“You won’t see me for three weeks.” I frown. “Last time it was two.” “This time it’s three.”

The other night was bad enough with him being absent.

“One day I’m going to take you up on that.” I grouse.
“Maybe.” Johnny chuckles. “What do you want to wear today? I’ll pick it out for you.”
“Oh you’re dressing me- are you?”

Johnny laughs. “You take forever getting dressed and we’re running late. I’m trying to speed the process along.” He smiles. “You’re like my own personal Ken doll.”

“Ken can’t pull off half the looks I can.” I grouse, keeping my eyes shut.

“If you don’t tell me what you want to wear- I’ll pick it out myself.”
“The horror.” I gasp.
“Hey! I have great fashion sense.” Johnny says.

“Half your clothing has some kind of flame on it.”
“I look good in flames.” He defends.

“It’s a little on the nose- don’t you think?”
He swats my leg. “Tell me what you want to wear.”

“I should be specific so you don’t know what clothes I’m talking about,” I warn.

“Then I’ll just dress you myself- like I said. … So if you don’t want to end up wearing something I would wear- you better give me some direction.”

“You wound me.”
“Outta bed.” Johnny chuckles.

“I don’t want to get out of bed.” I grouse.
“Then I’ll pick something… plaid.”

“You wouldn’t dare.” I gasp.

“I don’t know why you have it if you hate it so much.” He teases.

“I have one of everything.” I dismiss.

“Plaid it is then.” He starts to go to the closet.
“I’m not wearing plaid.” I groan.
“I’m walking to the closet.” He sings. “Going to pick out the most hideous thing I can think of…. unless you stooooop meeeee.”

“Fuck.” I sit up in bed. “Get me a pair of slacks, a short sleeved button up, and a vest.”

Johnny nods with a grin. “What colors?”
“Gray.” Gray ought to do it.

Johnny himself is wearing a shirt with- gasp- flames around a Fantastic Four logo. He’s a walking brand. I love it.

He digs through my closet for a second. “There’s a lot of gray.”

That makes me chuckle. “Yes. There is.”
Gray is ‘in’ right now. You can never go wrong with gray.
He pulls out gray pinstriped slacks. “Like this?”

“That will work.” I motion to the closet. “Get a gray vest.”

“Which gray?”
Right. Two grays in the pants. He’s learning. “The light one.”

Johnny digs again, pulling one out. “Right. And the shirt?”

“Hmmm…” “How about….” He digs some. “Red?”

I think about it. “Okay. Red will work.”

Johnny lays the clothing on the bed for me to inspect. “Looks good already.” He grins. “I can’t wait to get you out of it.”

That’s…. promising.
“I could just not put it on if you’d prefer.” I offer.

Johnny bites his lip and inhales deeply. “Tempting.” He says, crossing his arms. “Really tempting.”
I may actually be onto something this morning.

“But you need to go to the doctor.” He says finally. “Really. A lot has happened this week. I think you need to talk to him about it.”

Yea… right. I’ll get right on that.

 

On that topic, I’ve been semi-stressing about what I’m going to say to the good doctor all week.
I’ve come up with three different situations. One in which I’m not interested at all. One in which I ignore him completely. And one- and this one shocks me- that I’m honest.

I don’t know if Johnny’s coming in this time or not. If he is, I’m sure he’ll bring up something about last night.

Last night… Fuck. Gabby.

I should talk to Laura. Tell her what danger Gabby is in.

I should….. but then it would seem like I care. I hate people thinking I care. Even if I do slightly. I’m not overly fond of Gabby- that’s true. But she doesn’t deserve to suffer like I did. I guess really when I think about it… no one does.

Laura would be grateful for the help- I’m sure.

I’m not sure what kind of relationship she has with Gabby. At first, it looks like they’re sisters…. but then… I don’t know.

Laura is Logan’s clone and she’s his ‘daughter’. Gabby is Laura’s clone… wouldn’t it serve to reason that she would be her daughter as well?

And what does that make her to Logan?
Who cares?
I don’t care. …. do I?

I’m not sure where I settle on this whole ‘Logan back alive’ deal.

I’m glad no one's forced our meeting as of yet. But… with the Romulus thing coming into play it seems very likely that eventually, we’ll end up having ‘words’.

Now the question is… do I want that?

I don’t want to fight him- which again, shocks the hell out of me.

I don’t want to annoy him. I don’t want to take anything from him. I don’t want to be around him.
And don’t even get me started on my ‘step mother’. I have no desire to meet her either.

Even though I’m decently sure Storm and I have met in the past.

She’d probably be scared of me.
I don’t know if I like that or not and I find it best to just leave it as is at the moment.

So… what do I tell the doctor?

“Get dressed,” Johnny says gently, tugging be back to the current clothing situation. “I made you breakfast too.”

I nod.

“Hey.” He says after a moment of silence. “It’s gonna be okay.”

I snort. “Oh really?”
“Yeah, really.” He nods. “I’ll be with you this time. We can talk about it all together. Help you get through whatever it is that’s bugging you.”

He doesn’t know what’s ‘bugging’ me. I can’t explain it to him.

Honestly, since my conversation with Gabby last night, my skin’s been crawling. There’s an ache behind my eyes- right down in the socket. Reminiscent of when I lost the eye. I keep touching it to make sure it’s there.

If we’re being honest, I’d rather- at the moment- take a punishment than try to go and hash these feelings out.

But Johnny’s not offering the kind of punishment I need.
He’s doing one of his.

I could make do with a thorough beating- if we’re being honest.
Maybe a few broken bones? Just the sharp sting of something snapping.

That’s too ‘extreme’ for a day that has an appointment, however.
I can only imagine what Johnny would say if I brought it up.

“I know the whole thing with Gabby has to be stressing you out.” Johnny soothes. “And I know you said you wanted to keep her safe…”

Keep Gabby safe. Keep her unharmed.
Keep her out of his hands. I can’t imagine what he’d do with her. Something that…. innocent.

I wasn’t innocent.

I was already jaded.

Sure the torture and the abuse helped that along- but Gabby would have to be broken immediately. I can’t imagine what would happen to her under his care.
I’ve never met a child who has gone through so much yet still has such a positive outlook. It’s baffling to me.
And of course there’s the chance that he’s just using Gabby to get to Laura. And I’ll be fucked if I let that happen.
No. Romulus can have neither of them.
They’re good girls- they deserve to be kept that way.
As annoying as that may seem originally.

“Keep Gabby safe.” I sigh.

Johnny nods. “Yeah baby. Keep Gabby safe.”

“Have you talked to Laura?”

Johnny shakes his head. “I didn’t think it was my place.”

It’s not. He’s right.

“I’m guessing you want me to?”

Johnny raises an eyebrow. “Do you think you shouldn’t?”

I sigh. “No. Two of us on the look out will keep Gabby safer.”

Three if you count Logan. God only knows how involved he’ll get.

“I think that’s a good call,” Johnny says. “You should talk to her.”

But I don’t want to. At all.
But then… I guess I do.
Fuck. I don’t know what I want. How can I possibly figure out what to say to any of them if I don’t know my position on any of the situations at hand?

“I know.”
“You sound so…..” he stops. “Baby- it’s okay.”

What’s he on about now?

“You’re scared,” Johnny says.

“I am not scared,” I growl.
Johnny shakes his head. “You are, baby. I feel it. I hear it. I see it. You’re scared.”

Fuck.

“I am not scared, Johnny.”

“He terrifies you,” Johnny says. “After all he did- even the sound of his name rattles you.”

That’s not entirely inaccurate.

Johnny takes my hand to his lips. “You deserve to be scared, Daken. If anyone’s earned that right- it’s you.”

I exhale slowly.

“Talk to Laura. The two of you can shut him out entirely…. and keep Gabby safe.”

“Keep Gabby safe,” I repeat- again.

“She can have a good life still,” Johnny says.

I know she can.

She… deserves that.

She was created to be brought into messes just like this. We can stop the cycle.

“I’ll talk to Laura.” I hiss.

“And the doctor?” He presses.

I shake my head. “I don’t know where to start.”

“You could start with your…. triggers.” He says after some thought. “The things that set you off.”

I snort. “I don’t have any triggers, Johnny.”

“Romulus is a major trigger,” Johnny says.

“He’s not a trigger.” I defend. “He doesn’t upset me. It’s not like that at all.”
“Last night seemed to suggest otherwise.”

“I was… caught off guard.”

“So it triggered you.”
We sit in silence for a moment.

“It’s too fucking early for this.” I groan, laying back into the mattress.

To my surprise, the bed shifts as Johnny joins me. “Anything I can do to help you?”

“Help me?” I turn my head and look at him.
He’s laying on his side, head propped up on his arm. “Make today go down any easier?” He offers.

I have to think about it. Finally I sigh. “No. I really don’t think there is.”

He nods. “I’m gonna go brush my teeth then… finish getting ready.”

“Sure.”

He kisses me.

I listen to him rummage about in the bathroom for a few minutes. It’s relaxing.
I even toy with the idea of getting dressed.
However- I really wanted to fuck.

And certain manly morning problems have to be taken into account.

Johnny comes out of the bathroom with a grin. “You look great.”
“What? I’m naked.”

“Naked looks good on you.”

Okay…. a little turn around from the seriousness of the conversation before hand.

“Thank you…. I guess.”
Johnny nods. “Can I… cuddle you for a bit?”

“‘Cuddle me’?”

He never asks to cuddle me. He knows I can’t stand much of it.

He nods. “Cuddle you.”

That…. doesn’t sound horrible.

But….

“We only cuddle when we’ve finished a scene.” I scoff.
He plops down on the bed, flopping onto his side and grinning like an idiot.

“Can we make an exception?” He asks before holding his free arm in the air and making what he calls ‘gimme hands’. A motion a child would do.

“Johnny.” I snort.
“Daken.” He responds.
Something smells off… when he’s this close.

“What have you been eating?” I ask.

“Nothing.” He jerks his thumb to the bathroom. “I used some of your mouth wash…. maybe that’s what you’re smelling?” His words are slurring.

Mouthwash?

“I don’t have any mouthwash in that bathroom.”

Johnny grins. “Yes you do.”

“No. I have some alcohol. But no mouthwash.”

“Alcohol? In the bathroom?”

“It’s from Madripoor. It majorly negates healing facto-“ I stop. “Johnny- what did you drink?”

“Gimme cuddles.” He whines.
“No Johnny- show me what you drank.”
“Cuddles.” He makes his grabby motions again. “Mr. Grumpy ‘don’t drink my mouthwash’.”

“I didn’t have any mouthwash in that bathroom.” I restate.

“It was in your cabinet.”

“Why would I put mouthwash in the cabinet?”

“It tasted muy delicious.”
“Did you swallow any?” I press. He giggles. “You said ‘swallow’.”
“Johnny this is serious.” I watch as he starts to snuggle the bed.

“Smells like yoooouuu.” He sings.
“Johnny- did you swallow any of the ‘mouthwash’?”

He nods. “Forgot to spit.”

Fuck.
“How much did you swallow?”

“Not that much.” His words are starting to slur more noticeably.

Fuck. That alcohol is- on top of something my boyfriend should not have ingested- expensive.

Johnny smiles. “Cuddle me. I need affection.”

“Johnny, listen to me,” I lean over him. “You drank something that you should not have drunk. You’re going to be very intoxicated and we need-“
“I need your love!” He cries, cutting me off.

“Johnny-“

“Love, love, love.” He sings.
“You’re drunk,” I tell him.
“I had a gulp.” He slurs.

“That’s a shot. A shot is enough to get ME fucked up. And YOU don’t have a healing factor.”

“Did I lose it???” He asks in horror.

“Lose what?” I ask in confusion.

“My healing factor!”

“You never had one.” I try to remain calm.

“I did lose it!!!” He cries, flopping down into the pillows- smothering himself. “Console me!” Comes his muffled cry.

“There, there.” I pat his back. Comforting him for his ‘loss’ while trying to think of the symptoms of overdose. Or alcohol poisoning in this case.

Johnny turns his face to the side. “Mr. Grumpy.” he giggles.

“How big of a gulp did you take?” I press.

“Two.” He holds up three fingers.

“Two what?”

“Three!”

“Three what???”

“I don’t know!” He cries.

“Jonathan,” I say slowly. “I need to know how much you drank.”
He closes his eyes. “Don’t tell my sister.”
“I won’t,” I promise. “I just need to know how much you drank.”

He shakes his head. “Cuddles first.”

“Johnny!” I snap. “How much??”

“Cuddles!!!”

I get up and go to the bathroom. The bottle is a clear plastic bottle with a purple liquid inside. Easily mistaken for mouthwash. That’s how I got it through customs.

He drank a good portion.

Fuck. Did he hit this twice?

Part of me says ‘fuck it. drink with him.’ The other part knows that I have to watch for signs of alcohol poisoning.
I walk back into the bedroom where he’s honest to god humping one of the pillows. “Yea.” He whispers. “Yeah baby. Tell me how you like it.”

“Johnny?”

His head shoots up.
“Daken?” He looks down at the pillow. “But- you- were-“ he grins. “Sneaky sneak.”

He falls onto the floor by the bed, landing on his face. “I’m coming to get you.” He slurs.

“Stay put,” I order, walking over to him and flipping him on his back.

“Such shiny hair.” He mumbles, eyes hazy.
“Why did you drink so much?” I question. “Tastes like cherries.” He slurs.

“No it doesn’t.” I scoff. “It tastes like lime.”

“But it’s purple.”

“Cherries are red?” “Not black cherries.” He says indignantly.
“Baby,” I try a different tactic. “How are you feeling?”

“MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM.”
“That’s not a feeling?”

“My tummy is dancing.”

“Fuck.”

“Can we??” He pleads.

“Can we what?” I ask distractedly.
I need to get Laura in here. And then we can watch him. And then decide if he needs to go to the hospital.

“Fuck.” He nods.

“No. You’re drunk.”

“pssht. I’m not drunk.”

“You’re drunk.”

He flails his arms to the side. “You’re drunk.”

“Why did you drink so much?”

“I told you.”
“It does not taste like cherries, Johnny.” I snap.
“Uh oh. Someone needs a spanking.” He clumsily makes like he’s going to hit me. I easily avoid it.

“I don’t want a spanking right now,” I growl. “I want you to tell me why you drank so much of this liquid that you knew from the moment you tasted wasn’t mouthwash.”

Johnny closes his eyes. “I love you.” He says. “Do you know that I love you?”

I sigh. “Yes, Johnny. I know that you love me.” “Do you know that I want to spank you?” He whispers.

“You’re not spanking me.” I snap.

“Come here sugar.” He slurs. “Come to daddy.”
“Johnny,” I growl.

“I’m the best ride you’ll ever have sugar.”

Fuck.

I exhale slowly. “This is not how I wanted today to go.” I sigh.

“Then,” he says crisply. “Don’t leave booze in your bathroom.” He dissolves into giggles.

I lean to the side, searching the floor for some pants.
“Wow.” He says, raising up. “That is a big dick.”
That makes me smirk.

“Like a biggggg dick.”

“Yes.” I watch him struggle with his words.

“Huge.”

Not doubting my own manhood… but I think he’s exaggerating a little now.
“That was inside of me?”

“Yes.”

“All of it?”

I nod.

“Do I have a big dick?” He whispers.

I nod again.

He struggles to pull down his pants, finally getting them to his knees. “Boxers in the way.” He mumbles, struggling for about two minutes before pulling his dick out. “It is big!” He gasps. “And I’m not even hard!”

“Yes Johnny. You have a very nice dick.”
“And it all goes inside of you?”

“Yes.”
He whistles. “Wow.” Suddenly he curls up on his side. “I’m Bi. Did you know I was Bi?”

“Well… you’re dating me… A man.”

“But did you know I was Bi?”

“I suspected.” I can’t help but smirk.

“Does Sue know I’m Bi?” He asks.

“Yes.” I watch him closely.
“Does my dad know I’m Bi?”

“You never talk about your dad.” I remind him.

“Does Ben know I’m Bi?”

I sigh. “Yes. Ben know’s you’re Bi.”

“Does Reed?”

“Yes.”

His mouth is wide open. “Do I know I’m Bi?”

That makes me snort. “I’m guessing yes?”

“We should do a threesome.” He says with a nod. “You, me, and me.”
“We’ve already done a threesome. You didn’t like it.” We picked up a friend of his at a bar one time. It wasn’t bad as far as threesome’s go. But Johnny got a little jealous. He was all good and fine until she started fingering me. Apparently my ass is for Johnny only.
“I want another threesome. I want Reed to clone me so I can fuck your ass and your mouth at the same time.”
This is… entertaining.

“I think one of you will suffice for now.”
He’s quiet for a second.

“Does Laura know I’m Bi?” His head shoots back up.

“Yes, Johnny.” I sigh. “The whole world knows you’re Bi. It’s been in magazines ever since you came out.”

“I came out?” He gasps, laying down again.
I nod. “Did I have a party?”

“Uh.. .no.”

“It’s Peter’s fault,” Johnny whispers.

Oh?

“What?”

“I sucked his dick.” Johnny snickers. “Don’t tell Daken.”

“When did you suck his dick?” I growl.

“In high school.”

Oh.

Oh. Ha. That’s laughable.

“You sucked Spider-man’s dick?”

“In high school. It was decent.”

I didn’t need to know that.

“Okay well-“ “You sucked your ex-boyfriend’s dick.” He accuses. “I know you did. You had to. You’re too good at it to have not.”

Uh… okay?

“Yes-“
“And he’s a bad guy.” He sounds like he’s making a point. Or trying to. The level of his intoxication is getting worse by the minute. I think just maybe we should start heading to the hospital.

“Which one? There’s been several.”

“Lester.” He says with a nod. “Good ol’ Lester. Bullseye. The psycho boy toy.”

Lester knows better than to come within ten feet of Johnny. It’s something I made sure to impart on him.

“You sucked his dick.” He says with a nod. “You sucked a lot of dick.” He sounds to be in thought.
“What are you trying to say, Johnny?” I growl.
Johnny shakes his head. “That you’re good at sucking dick. I like it. I like that you know how to do it. You’re the best. Better than anyone. The bestest of the best!”

I like him singing my praises… but I’d rather he do it in a way that doesn’t make me sound like a whore. Even if, if we’re being completely honest, I’ve been a bit… let’s say ‘whorish’ in the past.

“Can he hit things with his dick?”

“Who?” He’s jumping topics.

“Lester.” He says, closing his eyes. “He ‘never misses’. Did he hit the sweet spot every time?”
His aim was… spot on. That’s true.

“Well-“

“I can imagine it.” Johnny cracks an eye open. “It’s hot. My baby being fucked into the mattress.”
“I’m sure there’s some footage of it somewhere lurking around on the internet,” I say dismissively.

“Footage?”

I nod. “He liked porn. Specifically the kind we made ourselves. When he was mad at me- he’d leak it. When we broke up, I’m sure a decent portion of it ended up online someplace or another.” No big deal. He outed himself as much as he outed me. And I, unlike him, wasn’t hiding anything. Oh boo hoo. My ex posted naked pictures. I look good in those pictures. They’re not compromising to my reputation because everyone thinks I’m a slut already.
That’s not saying I can’t see where an ex doing that would ruin someone’s life or anything like that. I understand that fully. Honestly, no judgment. I’m just saying that for me- I really had nothing to lose.

“He made porn… with you?”

“You wouldn’t like it,” I tell him. “He carved me up pretty bad.”

“So it’s like.. snuff?”
I nod. “What else would he be into?”

He frowns. “I’m glad he’s in jail.” He says with a determined, yet slurred, voice. “My baby is not to be hurt like that. No carving. Just normal cuts. Not deep. Did he take care of you? Did he wash you up and…. I don’t know. Make the bleeding stop?”

“No.” I shake my head. “He didn’t.”

“I’m glad he’s in jail.”
“So you’ve said.” I sigh. “He’s in jail. I promise.” He pauses. “Do you think he’s taking it up the ass or giving it?”
“Probably giving.” I shake my head to clear it. “Why are you talking about Lester?”

“He hurt you.” He says simply.

“If you’re going to be upset about everyone who hurts me- you won’t get anything else done. It’s best to just let it go.”

“But I don’t want him to hurt you.” He pouts.
“He’s not hurting me- Johnny. You just told me he was in jail. Why are you getting so upset about this? It was like … four years ago.”

“I’m making conversation!” He slurs. “Sue me.”

“Johnny-“ “NO PLEASE.” He says suddenly. “Don’t sue me! I have no money!”

“One, not suing you. Two, you have plenty of money.”

“Someone paid Lester to take out Doctor Stavis.” Johnny slurs. “I thought you were working together. I was j-e-a-l-o-u-s.”

“Johnny-“ I sigh. “I wouldn’t cheat on you.”

As for Lester taking the hit….

“I thought you said Lester was in jail.”

“Did I?”

“Yes.”

“Well he’s not.” He frowns. “And you’re going to leave me for him because he can hurt you better than I can.”

“I’m not going to leave you, Johnny.” I sigh. “Or cheat on you.”

“He’s in jail.” Johnny nods.

“You just said-“ “He’s on parole.” He nods.

“Okay Johnny. Whatever.” I dismiss. I don’t care about Lester’s whereabouts. As long as he stays the fuck away from me and mine- it doesn’t matter. He can do whatever the fuck he wants. Honestly, it’s not worth the time or the energy to spare much thought towards him. Not when there’s so much more pressing matters at hand. On of which is how much Johnny drank, how he’s reacting to it, and if we should seek medical attention.

“I thought you’d cheat.” he pouts.

I sigh. “I’m not going to cheat on you, Johnny,” I say as sincerely as I can manage. “I don’t want anyone but you- I promise.”
“But you’re so pretty!” He whines. “Everyone wants to touch you.”
That makes me smile. “And you’re funny.”
“Alright-“ “And you smell good.”
“Okay now-“ “And you’re so smart.” He slurs.
“Thank you.” I laugh.

“You,” He sits up and pokes a finger into my chest. “Are so, so, so special.”

“Johnny-“ “And you don’t hear it enough.” He shakes his head. “You’re wonderful.”

“You’re wonderful,” I repeat with a smile. I always forget what a pleasant drunk Johnny is.
“But you don’t love me.” He pouts.

I inhale deeply. “Johnny-“ “You never say you love me.” He says. “Never, ever.”

“That doesn’t mean I don’t love you,” I say gently. As gently as I can while I’m watching my boyfriend teeter on the edge of needing to go to the emergency room.

“I could sing it to the rooftops. I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you. You are my missing piece of a pizza. Without you, I’m a pac-man.”

“You’re a ‘pac-man’?” I ask in confusion.

“I’m a pizza missing a piece. I love you, Daken.” He slurs. “Love. Love. Love.”

That’s…. sweet.

“And you’re so smart.” He continues. “And you’re so pretty. And you’re such a good fighter. And you act mean sometimes but I know you care. You just don’t know any better. Because of how you were raised. And we go see the doctor so he can help you get over your raising and be happy.” “Hey-“ How dare he say that. How dare he-“I just want you happy.” Looking into these big blue puppy dog eyes, I lose the fire to be angry. “You were beaten. And raped. And tortured. And it makes me sad. I don’t like to think about it. My baby. Hurt. My baby. You’re-“ He slurs. “You’re my baby.”

I inhale deeply.

“You’re drunk.”

“Drunk on love!” He slurs. “My baby. Come here. Come here, baby.” He motions me closer with his hands. “Come here.”
I lean forward.

“I love you.” He says inches from my face. “And I want a life with you. I want to give you all I have to offer. And more. And bring you pizza when you’re hungry. And make you breakfast. And take you to the movies. And go clothes shopping. And take you to dinner with my sister. And kiss you. And make sure none of your wounds hurt anymore.”

“Wounds?”
I don’t know how to take this conversation.

“Wounds. Your inside boo boos.” He whispers.

“‘Inside boo boos’?”

“The things that make you…. edgy.”

I exhale slowly. “You’re drunk,” I repeat.

“And in love.”

This conversation has made me… I don’t know. Feel something.

He loves me. He really loves me.

“I love you.” He coos. “You’re the best. You keep booze in your bathroom. Booze that makes me really drunk… and I love you for that. And I love your fashion sense. And your shoes. And your smell. And-“

“What am I going to do with you?” I interrupt him.
I mean I wanted out of the appointment…. but I didn’t want it this way.

“Love me.” He says, almost brokenly. “I just want you to love me.”

Fuck. Why is this coming up now? Now of all times?

Johnny burps. Sounding a little too close to vomiting for my liking.
Right. Fucked up Madripoorian giggle juice. Racing through his poor little nonmutated veins.

“Love me.” He repeats. “I love you so much.” Now he sounds close to tears.

Fuck me.

Because I do love him. I just… can never tell him that. And up until now, I thought he understood.

I guess from his perspective, with me withholding things from him- our relationship can seem a little one sided.

 

I lean over and kiss him. “I love you very much, you drunk idiot.”

He glows.

His eyes flash yellow- like flames behind them. “You’re going hot,” I warn him.

“Hot?”
“Hot.”
“I don’t feel heat. Do you know that? I don’t burn.”

“I do know that.”

“I can eat straight from the stove.”

“That’s very interesting.” I nod.

“I love you.” He smiles.

“I love you too.”
He smiles wider.

“I love you.”

“I love you too.”

“I-“ “I’m not saying it again.” I cut him off.

We’re silent for a minute. “My eyes are all dotty.”

“‘Dotty’?”

“Gonna puke.”

I quickly lift him from the floor and carry him to the bathroom, putting his head in the toilet.

He wasn’t lying. He’s sick. Violently sick.

Fuck.
“Baby?” I’m in his ear. “You’re going to have to go see a doctor.”

“Doctor?” He wretches.

“You’re getting sick.” I rub his shoulders. “I’m going to take you to a doctor.”

“What about your doctor?” He whines.
“I’ll call him,” I promise.

Johnny nods.

He pukes for a few more minutes- each wave that hits the toilet water brings a new level of fear to my heart.

Time to get rid of the alcohol.

I lay him out on my bed and dress him. Sloppily. Then I pull some sweats on.

“No underwear.” He sings quietly.

“Shush.”

“I love you.”

“I love you too,” I say distractedly, going to my door and opening it. “Laura?”

It takes a few seconds for her to answer. “Yes?”

“Come here, please.”

She walks down the hall and stops at the door. “What?”

“We need to take Johnny to the hospital.” I motion to the bed where he’s lazily kicking his legs.

“What did you do to him?” She asks suspiciously.

“Oh please. He’s got alcohol poisoning. Calm down. I didn’t do it.”

“Alcohol poisoning? Why was he drinking?” She crosses her arms.

“Laura?” He slurs from the bed. “Hi Laura! Hi! Hi! Hey Laura!”

“He thought some of my alcohol was mouthwash….. it’s meant to negate healing factors…. so…” “Not meant for non-healers.” She says. “I understand.”

“Get the keys to my car and get it started,” I order her. “I’ll help him to the car.”

She nods.

“Bye! Bye Laura! Bye!”

“Shush,” I call back to him.
Laura looks over my shoulder. “Has he vomited?”

“A lot.” I nod.

“How’s his heart?”

“Steady.”

She nods again.
Laura’s dressed a little worse for wear. If I weren’t having to drag Johnny’s drunk ass to the emergency room- I might ask what happened. I might. No promises.

“I’ll get Gabby.” Laura turns and walks down the hall, saying something I don’t track.
I lift Johnny to his feet and pull him down the hall, out the door, and into the car.

As I’m arranging him in the back seat, someone shoves a plastic bag in my face.
“Get that out of here!” I snarl impatiently.

“It’s for Johnny,” Gabby says, making me look at her. “In case he’s sick.”

Oh.

“Uh….” “You’re welcome.” She grins, jumping into the passenger seat and closing her door.

Laura takes the driver’s seat and I pile into the back with Johnny.

“Love you.” He says weakly.
“Love you too.” I pull his head into my lap.

“Really love you.” He gags.

“Love you too,” I repeat, helping him put his head in the bag.

“Love them.” He lazily throws his hand in the direction of the front seat.

“We love you too!” Gabby leans back and pats his head.

“I don’t love this bag.” He slurs.
“I do.” I watch as the hospital approaches, hoping no paparazzi gets wind of this. When Laura pulls the car to a stop, I haul him out, carrying most of his weight. When I get him to the door, I try to get him to walk- but he just collapses.

I’m running out of time. I gather him up in my arms- bridal style and carry him through the large automatic doors.

I’m swarmed by nurses immediately.

They call for a gurney, IVs, heart monitor- all the works.
The whole time, Johnny alternates between mouthing something and vomiting.

I play the good boyfriend. I hold his hand. I answer the questions. I keep him calm. Three hours and one stomach pump later, he’s sleeping in a bed while I sit in the only available chair and watch the news.

Johnny lets out a groan. “My stomach.”

I reach over and hold his hand. “You’ll feel better soon.”

He cracks one eye open. “Love you.” He says weakly, with a grin.

I sigh. “I love you too. Don’t drink strange liquids in other people’s bathrooms.”

“It was purple.” He says, still in that weak tone.

“It was dangerous.” He opens his other eye.

“Thank you for taking me to the hospital.”

“Yes well, it was that or have you die.” I offer him a smile. “I’ve grown… accustomed to you. I think I’ll keep you around a little longer.”

“Gee thanks.” He closes his eyes. “I called the doctor,” I say into the small silence.

“Oh yeah?”

I nod. “He rescheduled us.”

“For?”

“Two days from now,” I say. “Provided you’re feeling better.”

“Will it take two days to get over this?” He asks with a groan.
“Probably not.” I soothe. “He said to take your time in feeling better though and that he’d talk to you about your functioning alcoholism at our next appointment.”

“He didn’t.” Johnny’s eyes shoot open. “Did you tell him I was an alcoholic??”

That makes me chuckle. “A joke, Johnny. I tell those occasionally.”
Johnny exhales slowly. “Not funny.”

“It’s a little funny.”

He breaks into a small smile. “Are the doctors giving me a clean bill of health?”

“Hmm….” I hum. “Not quite. They may have to pump you again.”

He looks terrified for a second before asking weakly, “A joke?”

I nod. “That’s a joke. You’ll be fine.”

He nods, resting more securely into the pillows.

“Did you call anyone else?” He asks.

I nod. “Sue.”

“Is she mad?”

“No.” I shush him. “She’s not mad. She’s in the waiting room last I heard. They had to change you into a gown… she didn’t want to be present.”

“Oh.” He looks down. “I thought I felt a little underdressed.”

I nod. “The nurse really seemed to enjoy her task…..”

“Oh?” He smiles.
“You’ ve got amazing abs and I’m ‘a lucky man’.” I quote.
“You are a lucky man.” Johnny motions to himself with his right hand- the one attached to the arm attached to the IV. “I am a catch.”

“You’re something.” I chuckle.

We’re quiet for a second. “Daken?” He asks finally.

“Hmm?”

“Did you mean it?”

Ah.

Did I mean it?
Yes.
Full heartedly.
Should I tell him?
Hmm. That’s the real question here. Would it be so bad to let him know how I feel?
It goes against everything I’ve been trained in… but isn’t that a good thing? Shouldn’t I be ‘defying’ my conditioning?

Decisions, decisions.

And no answers.
I guess….

“Yes,” I answer after a few minutes. “I rarely say things I don’t mean.”

Johnny smiles. “I know that.”
“Mm hmm.”

“You love me,” Johnny says.
“I love you.” I agree.
“And you want to be with me.”
“So you’re not a quote ‘pac man’.”

“Pac-man?”

I smile. “A pizza with a piece missing. A pac-man pizza.”

“Oh.” He chuckles. “Drunk Johnny is very entertaining when he’s not poisoning himself.” I take his hand and kiss his knuckles. “I’m glad you’re okay.”

Johnny nods. “Me too.”

“I don’t think the tabloids caught news of this yet,” I tell him. “You may be able to make a clean escape.”

“Wonderful.”

“Uh hmm.”

The room is small and cold. I’m sure not for him. For me? In just a pair of sweat pants- it’s a little uncomfortable.

Instead of a door there’s a green curtain, closed at the moment. The curtain hangs in the doorway of a wall made up of windows. Also curtained at the moment.
To announce themselves, the doctors tap on the glass.

I’ve trained myself to listen for that sound. It means news. For a while- there wasn’t any good news. That’s passed. And I couldn’t be happier that it has.

As if I willed it into existence, there’s a tap on the glass. “Everyone decent?” A new voice asks.

It sounds vaguely familiar.

Too familiar.

Johnny freezes. He hears it too.
“Not here,” he whispers. “Not here, baby. You’re doing so well. Not here- okay?”
My blood runs cold. Usually it runs hot in these situations. But right now? Cold as ice. “Johnny?”

Cold has the Arctic.

“Not here,” Johnny says. “Daken, not here. You can get thrown in jail. You can get thrown out of the hospital. Don’t do it here.”

“Shush,” I tell him. “I’m thinking.”
There’s a window that opens into a hallway on the other side of the room. I could easily escape.

I could- “Son, I know you’re in there.” The voice says. “I can smell you.”

I inhale deeply. “What do you want?”

“A talk?”

“A ‘talk’? A phone call would suffice.”

Logan chuckles. “Like you would answer a phone if I called you.”

He has a point. “Can I come in?”

“I’d prefer if you didn’t.”

He pauses for a second. “Are you mad?”

“What?” I spit.
“Mad. At me.”

“I”m always mad at you. It’s my default state of being.” I dismiss.

“I wasn’t going to talk to you.” He says through the curtain. “But then I talked to Gabby…”
Keep Gabby safe. Keep her unharmed. Keep her free. Keep Gabby Safe.

“Oh? And how do you like our new family member?”
“Sweet kid,” Logan says. “Good kid.”
“Perfect for you.” I snarl.
Logan sighs. “This would be easier if I could see your face.”
“This would be easier if you weren’t here at all.” I counter.

“He’s moving on her. I know you know he is. I know you could probably find him.”
“My boyfriend almost dies and you’re talking to me about this?”

Logan never falters. “You can find him, son. I need to know where to find him.”

“You need to forget it. If he takes her-“ “He’s not taking another member of this family.” Logan spits. “That’s out of the question. I need intel.”

“I don’t have any.” I spit.

“But you could find some.” He presses.
I’m starting to see red.
Johnny grips me. “Not here,” he repeats. “It’s not worth it.”

He’s right. It’s not.
Logan’s not worth it.

“I thought you were going to be gone a week. Your ‘honeymoon’ and all that.”

“Ro understood that we had to come back.” He says.

I glare at him through the curtain. “And is ‘Ro’ with you now?”

“Me? No. She’s with Gabby.” Gabby is safe then. “Then my job is done.”
Johnny lays his head back and closes his eyes. “Gabby is safe.”

“What?” Logan asks.
Right. He doesn’t know about ‘keep Gabby safe’.

“Gabby is with the two of you and I’m guessing a slew of other x-men. She’s safe. She no longer needs me. This conversation is pointless, useless, and a waste of time. You can leave.”

Logan sighs. “I want intel, Daken.”
“I have none.”
And I don’t want a thing to do with this. If Logan wants to invite him back into his life- then so be it. Me? Not a fucking chance. Not going to happen.

Logan stands there for a second. “I’m going to go.” He says finally. “I have hope that you’ll do the right thing. You know as well as I do that he needs to be stopped.”

What? Bullshit. When have I EVER ‘done the right thing’??”

“Go away,” I tell him. “Don’t talk to me again.”

Logan snorts. “I got my ways, son.” He says. “You’ll be seeing a lot of me.”

“Is that a threat?”
“Yes.” He says simply. “Yes, it is. You’re going to help me. You’re going to help Gabby. And you’re going to do it soon.”

“Oh am I?” I snarl. “I didn’t know you had so much input into what I did and didn’t do.”

“You’ll see.” Logan chuckles. “I’ll talk to you later.”
I glare at the curtain, but it seems that he’s gone.
A few minutes later, each of which is filled with me slowly boiling over with anger, a doctor comes in with Johnny’s release form.
It’s going to be a long week- I can feel it. Logan’s gone and fucked everything up. I just know it. And what the fuck did he mean he had ‘ways’?? I don’t have to do what he said! I’m keeping Gabby safe because of me. Well… also Johnny. Johnny…..

“Hey,” Johnny leans over in the bed.

“Hmm?”

“Gimme a kiss,” he says sweetly. “I know Logan pissed you off. Gimme a kiss and take me home.” I sigh and lean over and peck him on the cheek. “Let’s go.”

So much to think on. So much to do. So much to plot. It’s like there isn’t enough time in the day. Logan is in for a rude awakening. I am not helping him. I am not going near him. How dare he come to me like this?
How dare he come to me in a time like now? Fuck him. Fuck him and everything he holds dear. He wants to go play with Romulus? Fine. Fine. Let him do that.
ME?
No. Not happening. And he’s probably right- I probably could find him. I know him better than anyone else. I know the hangouts. I know the safe houses. I know the banks he uses. The governments he owns. The organizations he runs. All of it.

And I know how to access each and every one of them. But the second I do that- the very second- he knows where I am.

He knows he can get to me.
And I won’t walk in to find him waiting on me. I won’t put myself through that. I won’t put Johnny through that either. He always goes after lovers. If I’m with him- Johnny’s not safe.
Sure, Johnny could probably hold his own for a while, but he wouldn’t last for ever. No one does. Fuck I even don’t. It’s impossible. Truly impossible.

The only one who stands a chance is Logan. So, logically, Logan should go alone. There. Problem solved. He doesn’t even really need me. A little digging int he right places, I a little PI work and BAM. He knows where he is. He can go fight him.

Johnny squeezes my hand. “I love you,” he says for the millionth time. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want. Logan can’t make you.”
That makes me … somehow feel better.

“I know.” I sigh. “He just… rattled me.”

“I know he did.” He holds his hand out to me. “Help me get changed. I wanna go to bed.”

I help change him back to his clothing and help him to my car. I don’t care to know where Gabby and Laura went. Or if they told anyone where I lived or where to take them. I take Johnny back to the house and lay him in my bed. He’s out by the time his head hits the pillows.

I watch him for a second before walking to the bathroom, taking the alcohol in hand, and dumping it down the drain.

Better safe than sorry.
For Johnny- we’re all about safety.

If I get involved with Logan, Johnny’s not safe. So I need to stay away from him. But he says I’ll eventually end up working for him anyway. That means that someone is pulling strings I can’t see. I don’t like that.
In fact- I hate it.
I suppose I’ll have to just wait it out and see what happens. I’m not very good at that, however.
I guess all I need is a little patience.

That I’m good at when it suits me.

All I have to do is have patience and everything will work. Everything.
Patience, patience, patience.