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no one but the pure at heart

Chapter Text

 

’cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
and love dares you to care for
the people on the edge of the night
and love dares you to
change our way of caring about ourselves…
—Queen, “Under Pressure”

 

James sits in the chair, and looks at Michael. Michael sits down, too, and looks back.

His bag’s in the hotel-suite kitchenette, perched on the bar; James had been washing a teacup when he’d arrived, and had said, “Sorry, hang on, let me finish—” and had, a bit nervously. Michael had been impressed, and said so. He’s not certain how many celebrities would clean and dry and put away the hotel-provided dishes in their rooms after drinking out of them, but he’d guess the answer would be along the lines of not too many.

James hadn’t exactly blushed. Had said, intriguingly, “Well, I might as well make life a bit easier for someone, right?” and then wandered back out to the sitting room, hand absentmindedly trailing along the gold-trimmed bar, the heavy table with its barley-twist legs. Sitting down, he’d petted the comfortably-upholstered arm of his chair. Making friends with the world, Michael’d thought, amused.

He shifts his weight. Wonders whether James is waiting for him to speak up. Might be in character.

James starts, “Listen, I—” Stops.

“It’s all confidential,” Michael says, in case that’s what’s lying under the nervousness. “No matter what we decide, if I stay or if I leave, no one will know.”

“You’ll know.” James catches one vivid lip between teeth, worries at it. “You and Ian. I’m not—it’s been a long time, all right? I don’t know if this can happen.”

“You want it to,” Michael says. Possibly too intimate, that, or maybe just intimate enough, from the way James breathes in at the words, the comprehension.

James does want it. James wants it very badly. Michael can tell. It’s his job—his secondary job, really, but the one in question at the moment—to tell.

He makes decent money as a physiotherapist, does a lot of work with injured stuntmen, film crews, extras. He’s good at it, and he loves the profession, he truly does, the way that people come to him broken and in pain but depart feeling healed, on the way to recovery; the way that he can push those people to achieve more than they’d believed themselves capable of; the way that he’s been able to give some of those stuntmen back their lives and careers.

He also loves his secondary job. The one in question.

Michael Fassbender, Dominant for hire. Professional, discreet, and very, very good.

He has a reputation, not out in the open but where it matters, in the scene. People come to him. He can afford to be selective. And many of the skills transfer rather well between his lives. Awareness of clients’ bodies. Pressure points, metaphorical and not. Care. Patience. Knot-tying. Stretching limits.

Sir Ian had actually met him through the physiotherapy side first. Had, several weeks later, turned up at his door without an appointment and declared, rather accusingly, “Dear boy, you didn’t tell me that was you everyone recommends!” Michael’d said “What?” and then his brain had caught up and he’d yanked Ian inside and then wondered how many ways he could suffer for manhandling a knight of the realm.

Ian hadn’t wanted his services in that regard, but had evidently been hearing about his reputation for some time. Had mostly been miffed that there was information he’d not known. They’re friends, these days, which is how, more or less, Michael’s made it here.

“You know that I do.” James glances away. He’s kicked off his shoes, and his sock-clad toes’re unfairly adorable. The incongruity’s disconcerting. James McAvoy, everyone’s favorite cuddly wee Scotsman, effortlessly good in romantic comedies or tragic period costume drama or flippant black-comedy awards-bait, with slightly too-long jeans and rumpled hair, and he’s asking Michael to put him on his knees and use him and spank him and fuck him and make him beg.

Or not asking. Hesitating. Michael’s seen hesitation before, though, with clients who can’t get past the enormity of what they’ve asked him to do. This is in part that, but there’s more.

“It’s been over a year.” James sounds tired. Highland tartan wearing thin. Rain and wind and the elements battering the wool. “And I’ve been on stage every night for three months, until last week, and I can’t sleep, and I need—I just need to be fucked, right? To feel—to let it out. You can do that, right?”

“I can do that. If that’s all you need.”

Ian had met him for lunch, the week before. Had said, grinning too widely, “I’ve got a present for you,” and then, back in Michael’s sunlit white-painted flat above the clinic, “here.” Had tossed a photo at him. James Andrew McAvoy. World-famous actor, gorgeous, Scottish, kind to obnoxious journalists and actively involved in at least two charities, and the man of Michael’s idle morning daydreams.

Those sorts of daydreams. And before-bed dreams. And in-the-shower dreams.

He tries not to be an obnoxious or creepy sort of fan, he honestly conscientiously does. He’s seen all of James’s films, and had even been in the audience for the Scottish Play during the final show, left breathless and astounded by the ferocity, the commitment, the capacity for emotion. He’s done some YouTube watching, and lurked a bit around the part of the internet that posts lovely James-related photos, but that’s all, really. It’s a fantasy, a ridiculous crush, and he knows it is; it’s not as if the most famous movie star in the entire fucking world will ever trip over him in the street or get caught in the rain and have to borrow his umbrella or stand beside him on a crowded train.

Michael may’ve watched Notting Hill a few too many times. But he knows it’s not real. These things don’t happen. Not beyond a cinema screen.

Except for when they do happen. Because he’s here now. Looking at James.

Back then, he’d glared—Ian knew all of his embarrassing fanboy secrets, and had teased him mercilessly ever since the discovery—and grumbled, “Not hilarious.”

“Not meant to be. We’re doing that tights and spandex film this summer, you know, superheroes and all, and we had a table read—and I adore James, he’s such a genuinely lovely person, so nice to be working with him again—he asked me after, quietly, whether I knew anyone who could…assist with a problem he’s been having.”

“Oh,” Michael’d said, still having trouble processing. James McAvoy. James McAvoy. Needing his help. The thought didn’t even make sense. Unreal. “Okay. Um. What sort of problem—I mean, I know he’s just got done with Macbeth, and I’d heard it was pretty physical, sort of, so is it more preventative, like getting him back into healthy condition, or do I need to focus on an actual injury, like—”

“Not that sort of problem,” Ian had said, and Michael’d very nearly fallen out of his chair in shock. “I told him about you—told him you came highly recommended—and showed him a picture, and he said he’d like to meet you. Next weekend, if you’re free?”

“Holy fuck,” Michael’d said, from behind his hands. “James fucking McAvoy. You’re serious? This isn’t some sort of, y’know, terrible practical joke for which I will subsequently murder you in very hot blood?”

“Not at all. And, by the way, he employs fuck as an adjective even more than you do. The two of you should get on quite well.”

“I hate you.”

“You love me. I’ve given you the man of your dreams.”

“Go the fuck away,” Michael’d said, “I need to panic,” and as Ian got up, laughing, had flailed, “wait, yes, I mean tell him yes, next weekend, I’m free, completely, whenever he wants—”

“So adorable.” Ian had patted him on the shoulder. “I’ll tell him.”

Michael, alone in his flat, had shut the door, leaned against it, and very slowly slid down to sit on the floor. James McAvoy. Needing to be—to be—taken care of—by him. Michael Fassbender, professional Dominant. He’d sat there just breathing for a while.

The shell-shock had mostly gone away in the days before the actual assignation. It’d come back in full force the second he’d stood in the hotel corridor and knocked, clutching his familiar well-packed bag in one hand and ordering his heart not to leap out of his chest.

When the door had opened, instantly recognizable blue eyes had found his, on the other side.

The hotel’s an old one, Georgian and lavish and proud. It sits in a quiet unfussy location off Russell Square and radiates innocuous historic respectability. The rooms, at least the lobby and this one he’s been directed to, are lavish as well, unobtrusively updated splendor personified in elegant furniture, heavy and sturdy and dark, lit by equally splendid lighting in high sconces, illuminating neutral yet stylish wallpaper striped in shades of golden caramel. Michael might be able to afford a stay here if he didn’t want to eat dinner for three weeks. James had picked the place. Had paid for the weekend. In advance.

And Michael wants to do this. Wants to do this for James, with James; to do it right. Not merely because he’s got professional pride—he’s seen what he can bring out in people, he’s had clients who didn’t know how intensely they could feel, how deep they could go within themselves, until he’d led them there—and not just because this is a celebrity client, James McAvoy, darling of stage and screen and able to alter Michael’s reputation and annual income with a word.

He wants to do this right because this is James McAvoy, though not for that celebrity reason. Because he’s admired and daydreamed and wanted for himself, as well.

He’s imagined what they could be for each other, what a person of James’s enormous capability on stage and visible, genuine passion could bring into his private world. He thinks—he’s idly always thought, and it might of course be only the wishful sort of thinking but he’s got a lot of experience and knows the signs, the body language, the way James stands and angles himself and turns toward the people he’s with—that James might take on the role that’s the complement to his, might yield and submit and give himself fully and freely, sublime. He’s wondered in the past whether James knows that about himself, or whether it’d be a surprise; if James would come to him experienced in reaching those magnificent heights, or if James would be wonderfully innocent, sweet and unpracticed and needing to be guided through his own body’s trembling responses.

Michael would love to be able to see that, to experience it. To be the one who can give James, who's unpartnered and always a bit solitary, perfectly willing to laugh with interviewers and chat about characters but very rarely offering glimpses of anything personal at all, what he might need. Might want. Might love, beyond the artifacts and the bedroom bruises. They might share a table and drink all the varieties of flavorful coffee seen in most candid shots, might discuss books they’ve read, might argue and laugh and look at one another as if they’re the only two people in the room.

But those are dreams, and this is real, with James tied up in knots right now, and not the enjoyable kind; he’s looking at Michael with those gorgeous eyes darkened and his face taut—maybe about to say, “No, this was a mistake and I’m sorry to have wasted your time.”

But it’s not a mistake. It’s not.

So before James can say it is, Michael straightens his shoulders and stiffens his spine, subtly cocks his head a bit to one side. He leans forward to plant his feet wide and firm on the carpeted floor. He half-lids his eyes, and allows his lips to part over the white brigade of teeth that he’s been told are nearly the most effective weapon in his arsenal. “Mr. McAvoy.” He smiles with the low dark silk of it, rough-edged and curling into the antique shadows of the room. “Shall I show you what I can do?” He shakes out his sleeves—a sharp snap of leather over long, elegantly-boned wrists—watches sea-blue eyes latch onto the movement as if hypnotized, pomegranate lips parting soundlessly.

Michael will be walking a fine line, here. James doesn’t know him, and clearly isn’t used to trusting anyone, from the two rules so definitively laid down when they’d first discussed the contract, to his current posture, so authoritative that anyone not used to catching the tiny tells—the shift of a foot, the flex of fingers when certain words hit the air—might think James was the Dominant, and Michael his chosen canvas for the evening.

Michael knows better. He’s used to reading those tells.

But it is a fine line, nonetheless. James hasn’t done this for a long time—for over a year, as just admitted. James needs this very desperately, needs the intensity, needs everything Michael can give, it’s there in the tightness of his shoulders, the tension in his spine even when he tries to seem relaxed. But James isn’t a regular client, and might not be ready for everything Michael has to offer—even if he thinks he is.

James probably also won’t take kindly to any proffered reassurance. Nothing that’d imply pity or gentleness. Maybe later. Not now.

Nor will James likely appreciate any attempt to make him smile by jumping up and down and shrieking, “You’re James fucking McAvoy!” as loudly as the inner fanboy part of Michael has been wanting to do ever since the hotel room door opened and James invited him inside.

He needs James to trust him. More: he wants James to trust him. And he’s shocked by the strength of his own desire.

James continues to watch his hands and arms as if hypnotized. Michael carries on adjusting one sleeve, casually, as if those eyes haven’t gone from summer-sky sunshine to simmering twilight, following his movements.

He murmurs, low-voiced, “I think perhaps we should try something simple, to start? To see whether we…suit each other…before you decide whether it’s yes or no?” and is gratified when James has to swallow before agreeing.

“I’ve heard your rules,” he says. He has. “You’ve heard mine.” Safety, consensuality, consciousness: he won’t do anything a client doesn’t want, and he won’t do anything unless he’s convinced the client is rational enough to comprehend the scene. Respect for safewords, on both sides. James had nodded, at that.

He pushes to his feet, prowls across the room to the chair where James sits poised as if ready to spring for escape at a moment’s notice. “Stand up.”

Eyes locked on his, James slowly obeys. Once he’s standing, Michael delights again in how neatly he might fit within tight-wrapping arms, how his lips might nuzzle comfortably against Michael’s throat. A small crease forms between expressive eyebrows, but James stands firm, looking up at him from a few inches away.

Michael wants to stroke the fine skin of lushly freckled cheeks, feel the moisture of beautifully-shaped lips on the tips of his fingers—and can easily imagine them enveloping quite another tip—but he refrains. Go slow, stay in control, become the master of the room without losing mastery of himself. “I’m going to sit in this very comfortable-looking chair that you’ve warmed so nicely for me. You’ll go read the contract—it’s right in the top of my bag in the kitchenette, can’t miss it. It’s the same one you saw over email; nothing’s different except your two additional hard limits, as we discussed. If you agree to this arrangement, bring it here to me and we’ll sign and date it. If you don’t...”

Michael lifts his chin, shrugs one shoulder, watching James watch him; then carefully but firmly grasps James’s shoulders and moves him to one side, steadies him and squeezes the firm muscles beneath the fabric, once, before releasing him and dropping into the truthfully very comfortable and body-warm chair. He sprawls his legs wide; one knee nearly touches James’s where he stands stock-still, staring with widened eyes, breathing a little faster.

“I’ll be glad of a cup of tea, either way.” Michael lets his smile slide across his lips, less warm than at their first meeting at the door, letting a little of the ice he can muster show through. “James,” he goes on, hardening his voice into an order. “Fetch me a cup of tea. Then you’ll kneel between my feet while I drink it.”

There’re other words he could say; he could remind James that ultimately this is James’s choice, that despite the dynamic the power to step back always lies in those freckled hands. But James knows that. And the mention of the contract would’ve been a reminder as well: James can sign it, or not, and that’s up to him.

If he does, though…

Michael very much hopes he does.

Enormous eyes gaze down at him, and James’s lips part, wordless and breathless. That’s an expression Michael’s seen before, though James wears it better than anyone else ever has or will again. It’s the look of someone who wants very badly to follow that order, someone also very used to independence, control, responsibility. Those two points make their arguments behind blue eyes, and Michael waits. He’s fairly certain of the outcome. He’s been watching James watch his hands.

James sighs, and a bit of that tension ebbs. Decision made. Accepted, at least in theory. Michael smiles more widely.

James takes a step toward the kitchen. Then says, “Would you like me to bring it to you on my knees, too, or are we saving that for later on?” and of course it’s sarcasm, defensive walls rising in the Scottish hills, but he's obeying even as he tosses the defiance out.

Michael refuses to be provoked. Only answers, lazily. “Perhaps.” And this earns a lovely flush of pink, heat washing through all the gilded-nutmeg freckles: James facing the possibility that those words might come to pass, and that he might want them to.

James comes back with one cup of tea—interesting; none for himself—and the contract in his other hand, not signed yet but he’s also holding a pen. He starts to kneel; Michael, testing, says, “Sugar,” and James breathes in, caught mid-motion, and that’s another quick blush blooming under pale skin: humiliation and desire.

Michael would under most circumstances be perfectly happy with sugarless tea. That’s not the point.

James returns from the kitchenette with three differently colored packets. Drops to his knees, flawless and elegant—and, oh, he does practice yoga, Michael’s read that somewhere, one of those celebrity gossip sites, not that he was actually looking but the article was there and opens up all sorts of intriguing possibilities—and says, “Wasn’t sure which you wanted.” A hint of defiance remains, but it’s battling with the yearning, down in the depthless blue, and losing.

“Thoughtful of you,” he says, deceptively mild, “good, I like that,” and picks one without really looking at it, and hears the soft gasp when his fingers brush that palm, when the praise registers. He pauses. Sets the tea aside. Brings his hand back and takes away the other two sugar packets—James hasn’t moved a muscle—and closes his fingers, one by one, around the fine bones of James’s wrist.

James’s inhale is very loud, in the sudden silence.

“You’ve not signed it yet.”

“…what?”

“The contract.” A nod to where it’s lying next to knees on the floor. “Are you planning to? Or are you not convinced that we’ll suit each other, James?”

“I’m convinced,” James whispers. Barely audible.

“Louder.”

James looks at their hands. At Michael’s grip on his wrist. At long fingers keeping him in place, promising bruises, though not yet. “I’ll sign it.”

“You’ll sign it here,” Michael murmurs, “kneeling at my feet,” and James breathes in, shivers, and nods. Michael lets him go long enough to pick up the pen.

They’ve discussed hard limits and safewords—the standard red, yellow, green; Michael prefers simple and James hadn’t argued for any alternative—and time frame. They’ve got the whole weekend, here in this very discreet and diplomatic hotel, and now that they’ve agreed to move forward, it’s just a matter of fine-tuning the details. James, on his knees, runs his lower lip through his teeth, back and forth, not quite nibbling. “No blood,” had been his first stipulation, reiterated after they shook hands and took their seats, civilized men discussing a forthcoming transaction. His second forbade permanent visible marks, which makes sense given his profession; that one isn’t a service Michael generally offers in any case unless by specific in-writing request, and he’d been glad James hadn’t asked. For now, though, both their phones are set to silent, left in the efficiently designed kitchenette along with Michael’s bag of tricks; and each of their safety contacts have been notified and check-in times agreed upon.

Michael watches James’s face over the rim of the teacup, both because he needs to be able to judge how to read his expressions, to determine when it’s safe to proceed and when to stop, if James isn’t able to make that decision—and because he can barely bring himself to stop looking, though a little voice inside his head screeches that he has to stop, unless he wants to come off as one of James’s less-restrained fans rather than the professional he is. Still, James’s face warrants a second glance, and a third and a fourth; it’s mobile and expressive, thoughtful now, pen twiddling between blunt fingers as blue eyes flick back and forth over the contract. Not the perfection of a typical leading man, but alive with thought and intelligence, tempered with kindness; and Michael focuses on his tea, takes a sip to distract himself. It’s a good blend, not out of the ordinary, but he’s forgotten, after all, to put in a sweetener. He doesn’t need it, but that’s not the point: he asked for one. Made James bring it to him.

James looks up at his indrawn breath, brows drawing together briefly as he notes Michael’s mild chagrin before Michael can smooth it to impassivity; James’s lips quirk into a half-smile before he blanks his own expression. The pen falls still, James scrawled in interrupted blue ink. He drops his eyes, head lowering—and it feels to Michael like the subtlest disappointment, a pulling back as if Michael has failed him, presented a facade less than impervious, against which James can throw himself without fear of falling through the cracks.

Michael reaches out, puts a hand in James’s hair and makes him look up. Says sternly, “Don’t hide from me.” It’s an order, full stop: the mere idea of disobedience unimaginable. James raises his head and glares—while faint pinkness washes across his cheeks again. His breath hitches when Michael holds him in place, fingers tight in the thick hair, dark and wavy and so very soft.

Losing momentum now wouldn’t be a disaster, but Michael pushes forward, unwilling to accept a setback. He pulls James’s head back a bit, the slim throat revealed above the sharp lines of his shirt collar. Then presses the rim of the teacup gently to James’s mouth; he watches the plush red indent beneath the sturdy white china.

He tilts the cup little by little. James’s eyes hold Michael’s, stubborn, wordlessly resisting. Testing.

Michael tilts the cup again, until it will spill if James doesn’t open his mouth…and James’s eyes go dark as milky, warm liquid laps against tightly seamed lips. He lets his mouth soften at last, opens himself to allow the tea to flow. Desire surges through Michael at the swallow and bob of that prominent Adam’s apple; he can practically smell it in the air as James’s body floods with need, hungering for command as a man thirsts for water. When Michael lifts the cup away, he finishes the tea, turning the cup in his hand so his own lips touch where James’s drank. James’s slow flush deepens.

But what James says is, “I like mine with more sugar, next time,” and Michael has to smile, because all that determined intransigence will be fun.

He sets the tea down next to the abandoned sweeteners, thinking. Of course James likes too much sugar in his tea. It’s like those elaborately-flavored coffees in so many photographs: James needs more intensity, more sensation, more.

Michael can do that. He’s good at that. He wants—irrationally, passionately, deeply—to be the one who can do that for James.

And there will be a next time. At least, he hopes James’s words are indicative, even if subconsciously so for now, of a matching hope that there will be.

Still smiling, Michael lifts his eyebrows and places the tip of his shoe on the contract. “Going to finish this, or was that our farewell cuppa?” And lets James tug at the pinned sheets for just a moment too long, enough to see the shoulders between his knees stiffen again, before moving his foot aside.

James glances up at him, assessing. A moment later, shining eyes drift downward to Michael’s crotch, where the very beginnings of meaningful stirring are only just visible—Michael is experienced, he can keep it in his trousers for as long as needed for any assignation. Then the tip of a pink tongue licks briefly, pointedly, around the inner surface of rounded lips, moisture gleaming in its wake. Michael’s cock twitches of its own volition and starts to press upward; his eyebrows shoot up and he has to concentrate suddenly on his downstairs neighbor’s appalling taste in country-punk-rap to suppress his reaction.

James grins, and signs his last name with a swoop and a flourish; inclining his head genteelly, he presents pen and paper to Michael. Michael eyes him grimly, then beckons him forward. The grin fades into watchfulness and hope edged with trepidation and rising eagerness; so that when Michael presses James down until his chin digs into the cushion of the chair, inches from Michael’s groin; when he leans over to use James’s strong upper back for a writing surface; when the pen digs into the paper and presses into fabric and flesh: Michael feels the tension in James’s back, feels a tremor ripple through skin and bone.

He lays the contract next to the teacup on the side table. Spreads his legs a little wider, pulls James’s head a little closer, until he can feel warm breaths high on his thighs. Testing in turn, Michael slides his arse forward until his cloth-covered cock presses against James’s mouth, and at that, James balks again. Michael shoots both hands forward and grabs James’s face. He bears down hard, stares with eyes cold as diamond. “Too late to back out,” he purrs, putting every ounce of lust and intent into the low rasp of his voice. “You signed, you’re mine.”

And he does what he’s wanted to do since first seeing James at the hotel door, gorgeous and suddenly, absolutely available. He recalls a film James did some years past, about a rising author kidnapped by an insane fan and subjected to graphically intense abuse. Michael smiles his widest smile—the one that seems highly motivating to clients. He whispers: “I’m your number one fan.”

James recoils; Michael leans down while forcefully pulling James up; and plunders him with kisses all the way to the floor.

They wind up in a heap on the carpet, Michael’s thighs bracketing James’s while he lets his weight rest heavily on the smaller frame. He pulls James’s head back in a hard tilt, arching his throat and spine; he kisses as if he’s delving for dwarvish gold. After a moment, James’s genuine resistance—broad hands shoving at Michael’s chest, body twisting to throw him off in a move that would have worked had Michael not flopped down belly-first on James’s torso, knocking him breathless—tapers off when Michael only continues kissing him, tongue invading, penetrating that tea-flavored mouth. Long fingers stroke through apple-scented hair—why apples, a tiny corner of his brain wonders, that’s never been in any of the interviews or behind-the-scenes tidbits. When a little of the tension seeps away, Michael pulls back, allows James to rest his head on the floor, blinking up at him with hazy eyes sharpening quickly.

“What the fuck was that for?” Outraged, but he lies perfectly still beneath Michael, body thrumming with energy.

Michael doesn’t answer immediately; he kicks James’s legs further apart instead, switching quickly from one knee to the other to keep his balance, and drapes himself even more heavily so that their groins rub together. James is already hardening. His hands flatten on Michael’s chest, fingers twitching into the fabric of his shirt.

James stares at him. “I asked—”

Michael swoops in and silences him with a harder kiss, punishing, forcing James’s jaws wide and thrusting against his wriggling tongue. He doesn’t withdraw until he feels James’s chest heaving for breath.

It takes a longer moment for James to recover this time, sucking in air and blinking rapidly, eyes fully dilated. Michael rises to his knees, shifts to straddle James’s groin; James’s hands fall limply to his sides. “…what?”

“I thought you read the contract. You don’t get to ask questions,” Michael reminds him, and smirks at the immediate pursing of swollen lips, bright eyes narrowing with irritation. He reaches down without warning to clutch James’s half-hard erection where it tents his trousers obscenely, groping until his balls are in hand, too—the entire package rather more generous—how lovely!—than seemed apparent in most photos Michael has seen. “Or is it that you want to be punished? Shall I bind this all away for the next two days, leave you wanting while I use your mouth, your hands, your arse, however I please?”

James’s mouth falls open, eyes widening, and he bucks up so fast and hard that Michael nearly—nearly—loses position. The fabric beneath his fingers dampens. Color stains James’s face, red as roses and so hot that Michael fancies he can feel it on his own cheeks, even with the several inches between their faces. “So,” he continues, eyebrows rising, “you like to suffer while you serve.” He thrusts his own hips against those trapped beneath, grins at the faint whimper that has James turning his face to one side, eyes closing, before he defiantly turns back to glare at Michael. “And I suppose you expect to be rewarded for good service, for self-denial—like the pure and devoted altar boy you look like right now, who’d never dream that serving on your knees meant sucking cock until you choke.”

The damp spot spreads, and the flush now extends down the entirety of James’s throat, disappearing beneath his shirt collar. Michael leans down, slow as a hypnotizing cobra, and closes his mouth over James’s. He delicately licks the ridges of teeth, and withdraws until their lips only brush together with their breathing, open-mouthed and mutual. “I’m going to make you choke,” Michael promises, and savors the way James’s eyes close and his body writhes, hips straining upward. “I’m going to fuck you until you scream.”

Then he rips open James’s shirt, every button flying free, and bats away James’s reaching hands, his cloudy-eyed protest.

James is flexible and strong and not easily subdued without a fight; James is also beautifully aroused and fighting that too—and losing. Michael can see it in his huge dark eyes, in the way his arms tense and quiver and finally give in when Michael captures them and pins them one-handed to the floor. In the way James unconsciously lifts his hips—surrender winning out for just an instant—before he recalls that he really shouldn’t be letting Michael strip him so ruthlessly, so efficiently, jeans down around his ankles, last scrap of fabric following that, so he’s naked everywhere for Michael’s leisurely perusal.

Michael definitely wants to peruse.

He lets his gaze linger, without speaking. Acres of pinwheeling freckles, joyous star-maps over Scottish-fair skin. Ginger and gold; autumn-leaf and rust. Toned muscles, not a bodybuilder’s, but decidedly present; James isn’t soft, though he does have splendid curves, that high waist and those hips and those long, well-muscled legs. An old scar laces one knee, healed but ugly; Michael frowns inwardly, taking note. That’d been something bad; and James hadn’t told him there were any limits, hadn’t noted tertiary physical restrictions in conversation or in contract. Still. They might need to have a conversation about acceptable risk to past injuries; they might not, he might be overreacting, but he needs to know—on at least two levels—that he can trust James to speak up regarding any pain.

That can be set aside, for now. He can chastise James for it shortly, in many inventive ways—denial, bondage, and physical control evidently provocative ones—and he will. But not yet. This is about establishing dominance. Groundwork. Here, on the floor.

Michael’s eyes follow that trail of dark hair, right there, leading to a nest of curls surrounding the delectably formed cock, risen stiff and eager between spread thighs.

Inside he admires, appreciates, adores, but he schools his expression to be the impenetrable stone James needs from him. And he simply looks, carefully neutral. No approval—or the reverse—in evidence.

James lies quietly at first, perhaps not minding the attention, maybe even enjoying it, with his wrists still pinned to plush hotel carpet. After a minute, though, his face flushes—a flush that extends, Michael’s amused to note, nearly everywhere—and a minute after that he starts to squirm, assurance cracking under the ceaseless gaze, arousal warring with humiliation and the knowledge that his arousal, if anything, has begun to grow, with himself on display before such coolly evaluative eyes.

Excellent, Michael thinks, and opens his mouth; before he can get a word out, James glares through his mortification—his cock jumping, smearing wetness over that lightly muscled stomach as it rises and falls with his heavy, fast breaths—and says, “You were goin’ to show me what you can do. So, you plannin’ to get on with things, or’s looking the extent?”

Michael almost—almost—laughs. James is so bloody perfect. Gorgeous, desperate to be fucked, utterly unafraid, even with the richness of that accent giving away the depth of his need. An equal, he thinks; and then, astonished but not opposed, thinks it again.

James might be his equal. Here in the scene, the person who can take everything Michael demands of him and beg for more; also, though, the person who can match him strength for strength in other ways, teasing, laughing, coffee and crosswords puzzles and solutions in the mornings, loyalty and commitment that’d never be broken, not ever…

James McAvoy. Amazing. Michael has to mentally shake his head. Back in the scene. Be professional. Time for that later, for tentative questions about dinner and coffee-and-bookshop dates and hesitant first kisses, if James might even ever consider the possibility of a later; no reason to think the attraction’s two-sided, after all.

No reason except the coruscating glimmer of recognition, the brilliant sparkle in blue eyes when James looks up at him, the look that hopes: you might be my answer, too.

First things first. He sits back, releasing pinned arms; notes with satisfaction the tiny sound of disappointment.

“Up.” He rolls off of James, letting the contrast between their bodies sink in—himself still clothed, James naked and vulnerable. “Get my bag from the kitchen. Bring it to the bedroom.”

As James moves to get to his feet, with graceful fluid motion, Michael knocks one leg out from under him—not the scarred one, but the one supporting him—and James nearly falls. He catches himself easily, whips around, and glares. “What—”

Michael raises eyebrows. “You did suggest it, earlier. On your knees, when you bring me things.”

James may be standing while Michael lounges at ease on the floor; but Michael doesn’t need to stand to be in control. Leisurely, he slips the end of his belt loose from its buckle, then glances up in evident surprise to see James still there. He lifts an eyebrow, and watches that Adam’s apple rise and fall. James signed the contract. He wants this. But it’s not Michael’s hands on him that will make him obey.

The belt-leather whispers, sliding against fabric, and James wipes his palms against the sides of his thighs. He’s hard, he’s breathing rapidly, and his eyes flicker from Michael’s hands to Michael’s belt and back again. He lowers himself to one knee, to both, skin flaming red from head to toe.

He looks good, very good, kneeling and flushed and staring into Michael’s eyes. “It’s your time,” Michael says, affecting boredom. “But don’t waste mine.” He turns away, rises to his feet and tosses the belt onto the chair. Behind him, he hears shuffling, soft mumbling that cuts off, and turns his head to watch James knee-walk into the other room. Faster than expected, and a bit clumsy, but not pained. The injured knee doesn’t receive any less weight than the other. Michael notes it, along with the way James swings his arms a little more aggressively, compensating for the unusual mode of locomotion.

Michael strips off his shoes and socks, curls his toes in the carpet and settles himself on the bed. He calls out when he hears a chair scrape over the tile in the kitchenette— “No hands!”

Silence falls in the other room, followed by an explosive huff of breath. Half a minute passes; Michael’s watch clicks with the turn of the hour. Outside the wide windows—nearly wall-to-wall in the south corner suite, ensuring both eastern and western vistas—the shining rim of the sun slips behind tall buildings, stealing the ephemeral heat of London’s day as it goes. Shadows rise in its wake, and the florid radiance of the city below begins to glimmer. Michael reaches over to snap on a lamp affixed to the bedside table; warm amber spills across the bed, pools on the floor.

James enters on his knees, more slowly than he left. Dimming brightness from the other room glows palely on his skin, clings until he passes the threshold, where the golden lamplight limns him in topaz and shadow. He breathes in and out steadily, chin lifted with his arms folded behind him; his shoulders move widely, balancing his weight, and the tendons of his neck arch as he grips the bag handle between his teeth, white enamel clenching hard into the leather. Good God, Michael thinks, and refuses to adjust himself, rampant at the sight; James’s cock straining against his belly, balls half-drawn up below and starting to swell.

His eyes burn into Michael’s where they find him, dry-mouthed and hard and waiting for him on the bed.

Michael crooks a finger, sees those capable shoulders straighten. James makes his way across the room, trying to maintain a semblance of grace, lifting each knee in turn, but more often shuffling. When he reaches the bed, he drops the bag on the foot of it without waiting for instruction: his mouth’s reddened and his lips puffy. Discomfort and indecision wrestle for control of his features. He takes a breath, another, catches his lower lip between his teeth. Blue eyes flicker up the long length of Michael’s legs and torso stretching along the dark covers, settle on his face.

James sighs, and rubs a hand across his eyes, shoulders slumping. “Look, mate,” he says. “It’s not that I don’t want what you obviously can offer, but this isn’t—”

“You didn’t tell me about your knee.” Michael doesn’t move, but speaks steadily, disapproval edging his words. “I had to see if it would be a problem. We’re not here to hurt you... not by accident, anyway.” He sits up, leans forward and grabs the bag to drop it next to him. “If you want to stop, you have your safeword, but if not, I’m going to assume you’re being difficult for the sake of being difficult, and you’ll be punished accordingly.”

Michael reaches into his bag and pulls out a length of scarlet silk. Methodically, he lays out a line of tools across the foot of the bed where James kneels, watching: rubber-coated wooden paddle, leather flogger, pale length of cane; he drops a blindfold on the bed and chunky leather cuffs, a pair of clover clamps and a ring-gag. He picks the cane up and snaps it across his own palm. Blinks at the sting, the white line filling in red. “Do you need to use your safeword, James?” His gaze locked on James, Michael brings out a handful of cock-and-ball-cages, metal and plastic and leather tangling together. “Or are you ready to trust yourself to my hands?”

The expression on that face is absolutely enchanting: astonishment, embarrassment, white-hot pure need. James can’t seem to look away from the implements laid out so tidily, from the line across Michael’s palm; but something else shimmers in those eyes as well.

“My—” James stops. Answers the question that’s been asked of him, first. “Yes. I mean...” He swings his gaze to Michael’s face. “Yes, sir? Although I’d rather use your name. Michael.”

Yes, he would, too, rather. His name, in that spiced-whiskey voice… “Yes.”

“May I ask a question?”

“For now, yes.” He’s already coiled halfway down the bed, and leans closer and puts a hand on James’s cheek; he slides his fingertips down beneath that stubborn chin and lifts James’s face. Not gently, but not roughly either, only assertion. “If you feel unsure—if you have reason to; don’t do so lightly—speak up.”

“Then…it’s not exactly a question, or I suppose it is…but…you noticed. My knee.” A swallow, blue eyes fixed on his, breath swift but even. “I honestly didn’t think about it. It’s years old. And no one else ever…”

“No one else ever asked?” He keeps the flare of anger out of his voice, with some effort. Who had James been going to for this, who’d not been professional enough—who’d not cared enough—to ask? Had they all assumed that James would list the injury as a limitation if it were one, and left it at that?

He can’t assume that. Not here, not with James.

And a tiny voice in the back of his head snickers: you’re calling him James. Not ‘the client.’ James.

“No,” James answers. Michael slides his fingertips lower on James’s face, enough to feel the motion when he swallows. “I mean, no, they never asked. Michael. But I am all right. I’d tell you if not. Not here to get hurt—” A pause, almost a grin, “—by accident.”

“Hmm.” Michael’s still got the cane in his other hand. He spins it, experimentally. James gasps out loud.

“You know you should have told me, though. If there’s even a chance.”

“There’s n—”

“Is there?”

“…half a percent?” The blue gaze sticks to the cane like glue.

“Ah.” That may or may not change the scene; he’s always been good at improvisation, though, suiting a client’s needs. “Since you’ve admitted you should’ve told me, though…and you didn’t…I know you didn’t intend to keep secrets, James. But you did. And there’ll be consequences. So I’m asking you again. Do you trust me? Will you put yourself—all of you—in my hands?”

And James whispers, kneeling before him, word brushing the edge of his hand like a symphony, like yielding, like a promise, “Yes.”

Michael strokes the skin of James’s jaw, faintly stubbled, pinprickling awareness under sensitive fingers. He smiles down at him, lets warmth glimmer in his eyes—a hint only, enough for James to see—before Michael shutters himself away and straightens. He hooks a thumb toward the center of the bed and snaps: “Face down, legs spread, hands clasped behind your back.”

James blinks, shakes his head minutely, then scrambles into position, a rush of compact, strong limbs jostling the bed, pale skin splaying out like a canvas for Michael to work his art. He smiles where James can’t see him.

“Wider,” he urges, when James parts his legs only enough to reveal a shadow between; “wider,” when the lithe body squirms and the thighs creep outward. The cleft of James’s arse, the wiry hairs, the firm muscle smoothed under gloriously unmarred skin, the crease between buttocks and thighs—Michael sets a hand down and squeezes firmly, repeatedly, clenches long fingers over and over the curves and valleys while James gasps and jerks beneath him.

When all that bare flesh has gone red and white with pressure marks, with the indentations of Michael’s nails here and there, he slaps the closest buttock hard enough to leave a pink handprint; slides his fingers down the inward curve—avoiding the tight pucker—and traces a firm line along the seam of the perineum. James’s testicles have drawn up tight, rounded and hard where they meet the base of his cock. He’s breathing fast, his ribs expanding and contracting; the curve of his ear and the visible portion of his face are damp.

Michael moves to kneel between James’s legs. He grasps muscular thighs and pushes them beneath James, forces the lovely round arse—apple-red and split open—high into the air until James’s spine bends in a glorious length of indented muscle and bone; his fingers knot together, white-knuckled. Michael can see the back of James’s cock, bouncing with excitement when long fingers wrap around it. He tightens his grip, maintains his own steady breathing even when James whimpers and pumps his hips, trying for friction, motion.

“No secrets,” Michael reiterates, and feels James go still beneath him. “This is for not telling me about your knee.” Still holding tight to James’s cock, stroking the length with a hard thumb, Michael reaches not for the cane—James had wanted it, and so its use would reward instead of punish—but for the paddle. It’s more of a glorified table tennis paddle than anything else; its blows fall lightly, meant to sting rather than bruise. Their position isn’t apt for stern force, either, and Michael’s hold on James’s cock restricts his range of motion. The cane and its attendant bruises will come later; but for now, Michael intends only to enhance verbal and mental dominance with physical; mild chastisement should help James settle down nicely.

Laying the flat of the paddle on the upper swell of James’s arse, Michael taps lightly, once, to establish his range; James quivers. “Count,” Michael orders, and strikes.

“One!” James yelps, startled; a light pink splotch joins the fading marks of Michael’s fingers. He swings again, feels the jerk of James’s cock in his hand, the spurt of liquid against his thumb when James calls out the number, and decides a cock cage will be the next toy; he’s not sure how long James will last on his own, after a year without imposed discipline.

The light, rhythmic smacks of paddle on flesh please the ear and the eye. Sturdy thighs at first squeeze around Michael’s hand; gradually, James begins to relax into the blows. His fingers loosen their tight grips on one another, and a sheen of moisture rises on the skin of his back. When Michael pauses to lay his palm across the punished flesh, it’s warm and silky smooth, and James’s hole clenches, ignored and wanting.

“Eight,” James gasps, and that lovely cock jumps and leaks in the loosened circle of Michael’s fingers, though he doesn’t allow enough pressure for it to gain any friction. Aside from his cock and clasped fingers and thighs tensed to keep his arse raised, James has gone limp head to toe. Michael can see only part of his face: curving lips, moistly parted and not-quite smiling; long, dark lashes resting lightly on a pink cheek.

Michael paddles steadily, his trousers tight and growing tighter; he’s usually better at separating his own reactions to his scenes, but working with James is different. It’s chemistry, pheromones, he doesn’t know what, but Michael wants to put his hands on James for more than the submission he can draw from him as a client. He wants those blue eyes, vivid and aware and beautiful, to see someone who’s more than a hired whip. Michael has had James the client at his feet; for the first time since he’d discovered this talent of his and utilized it, he wants more. He wants James at his feet, yes; not as a client, though. Because James wants to be there, kneeling for Michael and no one else. Ever.

A groan nearly escapes Michael’s throat, but he swallows it down, feels the strain of it in the hinge of his jaw. Unattended, his cock swells against the crotch of his trousers, seeking its own friction. It’s all Michael can do to keep a steady rhythm, to be the professional James hired, that James needs. He’s never allowed his own interest to interfere with his performance; but then, he’s never had James McAvoy in his hands, intelligent and gorgeous and in dire need of release. Release that Michael can give him. He swallows again, forces remote disinterest into his forebrain, takes a mental step back.

James’s voice is dreamy, soft but not slurring as he calls out, “Thirteen.” The pink splotches have merged and spread a little, although Michael's confined his strokes to the less sensitive skin; he has plans for the lusher curves of James’s arse. One more strike, and “Fourteen!” This time James thrusts his buttocks out to receive the next blow. His cock drips copiously, warm and sticky and stiff, sliding through Michael’s curled fingers.

With smooth precision, Michael exchanges paddle for cane; he slashes it down hard. At the same instant he brutally squeezes James’s shaft. A distinctly pained yell follows, all the more satisfying when James stays where he’s been placed.

Michael lets go, and James spurts come all over his hand and the bedcovers; James’s hands slip free from their clasp and fall abandoned at his sides. His legs slide down, girders collapsing in slow motion, and he mumbles indecipherably into the bedding. Michael allows him a few minutes to rest; admires his naked form while he takes off his own clothes. His cock appreciates the release, slapping against his belly while his balls draw up beneath, aching and full.

Fishing in the bag, Michael bypasses the pocket containing a variety of condoms; they’ve already discussed that issue via email, and exchanged copies of their most recent test results in the kitchenette before adjourning to the sitting area. Anticipation tingles through him, curling his lips and toes; condoms are baneful necessities at times, but not now. And the thought of burying himself in James McAvoy’s tempting mouth, his tight and muscular arse, quickens Michael’s breath. Shaking his head, he considers the contents of his bag, and chooses the most stringent chastity device he brought; not the leather and metal he typically prefers, but something a bit more extreme. He smiles down at it, imagines both the expression on James’s face when he sees it—when he feels it, and the absolute pleasure it will be to watch him struggle to master himself once it’s locked in place.

James’s murmurs dwindle; his breathing evens out, though how he can breathe with his face buried in the bedding, Michael doesn’t know. James isn’t a small man, though he’s smaller than Michael; and his limbs are powerful-looking, his shoulders wide. Michael thinks about lying down and wrapping himself around James, tugging him into an embrace until he wakes in Michael’s arms; but no. They have a contract, and Michael will ensure that James receives exactly what he needs.

Relief, for one thing: he’d said so earlier. Three months of stage performances, physically and mentally brutal—that’s one of the reasons why he’s chosen this, chosen Michael—to help him find release, to let go of accumulated pressure, tension, strain. And here he lies, rumpled dark hair and gradually drying skin, unmoving as if he were Sleeping Beauty, to be awakened by a kiss.

Michael drinks the sight in for a moment—skin glowing under the lamplight, while the eastern-rising quarter moon sheds its own delicate illumination, a drift of silver across the floor, along the walls. Michael licks his lips. Later, he’ll turn off the lamp, and let the moonlight paint James with its cold brilliance, an image to remember…to treasure.

Now, though. Michael shakes his head to clear away the fog, to sort himself out. He has a set of routines he can tailor to each client; he’s only begun with James, initial ideas unfolding into plans of action the more he learns how James reacts, what piques his interest, what arouses him—and what he needs.

Gently, Michael palms the plush cheeks of James’s arse, thumbs at the tight hole, rubs unscented oil everywhere. Crinkled hairs bend under his fingertips; furled muscles resist. James murmurs, shifts, spreads his legs in invitation; and Michael grins and leans down and sets his teeth ever so lightly to the outermost curve of flesh where buttock meets limb, where the crease fades into a firm thigh. Not enough to wake James, but the salty-sweet scent of his sweat, his skin is stronger here; and he tastes exquisite under Michael’s probing tongue.

More oil, more rubbing, and gradually James’s body begins to accept Michael’s intrusion; muscles relax enough for a slick fingertip to enter. It doesn’t take long for James’s hole to loosen after that, one finger becoming two, becoming three; Michael’s cock, unboastingly, can claim a substantially larger girth; but he’s confident that James can take him without further stretching. He wants the fit to be tight, this first time, wants to ensure the maximum of sensation and fullness, a hard fuck, indelicate and indelible.

Infinitely carefully, Michael rolls James onto his side to expose the front of his body, keeps an eye on the slack face, sprawled limbs for signs of waking. Though James has only just come, Michael doesn’t know his refractory period, so he’s quick, cradles the softening, wet shaft, the delicate testicles in gentle hands, coats every inch of skin and the wiry-soft curls with oil, enjoying the heft and color, the shape of James here, masculine and perfect.

Michael works the tender flesh with meticulous care into the larger end of the lubricated cage, deftly avoids pinching or even rubbing too hard at fragile tissue, sensitive skin. It’s a small device, and while James’s balls hang unconfined below, they’re separated, spilling to either side of a bar beneath the main housing: a transparent plastic tube, ventilated and painfully short. James’s cock—generous even in its lax state—compresses and compresses like a coiled spring, foreskin pushed back at last with the decreasing size of the tube, the pinkly tender head exposed and shining with oil, pressing into the slotted end.

Michael bends down and works the tip of his tongue through the slot; this is his first taste of James here, and the drying come clinging to the glans is surprisingly less bitter than most.

Once he snaps the lock shut, Michael takes a deep breath. He can smell James’s come and his own arousal, sniffs again and enjoys the way his groin tightens, the heated rush of anticipation through his veins, tingling up through his belly. He flexes his shoulders, rolls his neck from side to side, goes over his game plan, which, roughly, is this: fuck James through the bed until he screams.

After all, it’s what Michael promised at the beginning.

He springs into motion, seizes James roughly, flips him hard and fast onto his back. Dazed eyes blink and stare; hands rise in instinctive protest; James gasps, expression sharpening when Michael grabs long legs, hoists them up and over his shoulders. Michael holds… holds… until he sees comprehension in those wild eyes—James flails and shouts—not using a safeword—and then plunges the entire length of his rigid, eager cock into the hole he’s so carefully prepped.

Michael gasps with sensation: he drives his hips in and out, jackhammers James’s clinging entrance and tight channel as hard and fast as he can—his cock feels as if it’s reaching for nirvana as he shoves in, drags out, shoves in again. It’s nothing so easy as thrusting; James clamps down hard, as if he wants to meld their two bodies into one, wants to keep Michael in him, forever.

Sweat streaks down Michael’s spine, and he stares into James’s eyes, wide and white-rimmed and dark with want; James’s hands curl, claw at Michael’s biceps, his shoulders. “Hands down,” Michael orders, breathing hard. “Cross your ankles, hold tight.”

He releases James’s legs once they clasp behind his neck, squeezing his ears and tightening, tightening, heels dragging him closer while James sucks in breath after breath, mouth open and wet and red; Michael fucks in and out relentlessly. He’s not looking for James’s prostate, not yet. This isn’t about getting James off, but about using him. Making him service Michael; making him hurt just the way he wants to while he does.

And fucking James…

It’s better than… It’s better than Michael’s first all-out, balls-to-the-wall desert motorcross; more spine-tingling than his passenger turn round the Indianapolis 500 speedway, exceeding two hundred miles per hour, face rippling with it, every muscle tuned for instant action, every moment one that could spin him into a wall or flip him across the track like a broken toy. Fucking James isn’t anything like those adrenaline-driven rushes; it’s better.

Michael wants to fuck James until they’re both exhausted, wants to ruin him for anyone else, wants simultaneously to kiss him stupid, and to fuck his mouth until James comes choking on Michael’s cock, his own untouched. Michael wants to suck him dry and eat him out, to leave him a filthy mess on white sheets and sink himself onto the cock that’s right now so painfully confined; there is nothing, Michael thinks, that he doesn’t want from James, now, tonight, tomorrow—and his mouth falls open on his own groan when he realizes that tomorrow is only the first of all the tomorrows that he wants—that all of James’s tomorrows should—God help him!—belong to Michael.

Beneath him, James’s cries rise like frantic bird calls, Scottish lilt suddenly harsh with pain. Michael continues pounding into him; it looks like—oh, James has discovered that his own arousal has been locked away. His head dips, staring between their bodies as much as he can. He’s reaching down to touch even while he’s being jounced and driven up the bed. The grip of his legs loosens and he gapes wet-eyed at Michael, the muscles around Michael’s cock slackening; but Michael will have none of that. Not from this man; not now. Not ever.

“Fuck me—” he grunts, punching out his words with each hard crash of their hips, “—as if—you mean it,” and planting one hand on the bed by James’s shoulder, he slaps his other palm flat across James’s chest, catching a nipple. Drags clawed fingers down the arch of sternum and rib—controlled even in this, not breaking the sweat-damp skin—and watches the parallel lines blanch and then redden. It’s beautiful. James chokes out a plea while his hips undulate erratically, and he swings his legs back up with a groan.

Michael glances down—the cock cage must be agony for James. His bound cock swells helplessly into tight confinement, fragile skin rubbing against hard plastic, pressing hot and taut through the ventilating perforations. Michael reaches down to jiggle and tap the cage, forcing a shriek of pain and James’s stunned, wide-eyed jolt; his whole body shakes with it. That pink tongue swipes wet lips, and he bucks up hard, grinds the cage against Michael’s hand, until Michael has to shove him down, hold him in place while James’s yearning, mindless moans taper off into a frustrated whine.

It’s hard to focus, but Michael sucks in a breath; reminds himself of why he’s here. James can’t seem to stop himself reacting, reaching for Michael instead of waiting for permission, not staying where Michael has put him; and if it weren’t for the cage, he’d have already come.

Michael’s orgasm builds and builds, coiling in his gut, tightening his groin even further; he slows his thrusts but increases the force of them, and watches with glittering eyes as James’s head falls back, bouncing on the mattress as Michael knocks him breathless with every hard slam. His hands have fallen to his sides again, where his fingers dig into the bedcovers, twisting the fabric; and his hips twist into Michael’s, grinding the cock cage against himself. He moans, high and almost wailing, face gone blood-red, freckles nearly lost in the dusky color. James’s whole body radiates heat, flushed heavily from head to as far down as Michael can see, and his eyes…

“Open,” Michael grits out. When he gets no response, he reaches down and slaps James’s cheek. Tear-blurred lashes sweep up, revealing only the slimmest sliver of blue rimming deepest black. James blinks and blinks again, tongue flicking at his lips, throat working, tendons corded and sharp under the dull-wet sheen of sweating skin. What looks back at Michael isn’t a consciousness; and triumph roils in his brain: this is sensate obliteration.

“James,” he says, seeing if he can get through; he’s close to coming, but won’t, not until James is there with him, fully aware of being denied—while Michael uses him to quench his own desire.

“James!” It’s a growl this time, and he puts his hand in James’s hair, jerks sharply.

A faint line forms on James’s forehead. His eyebrows very slightly draw together. He licks his lips again, and looks groggy, before his eyes roll back. He moans long and low when Michael pumps in again, holding in place this time, rocking his groin against the cage. James’s eyes gain a shade of clarity. “Mic—”

“So you’re still with me,” Michael says pleasantly, slow and steady and controlled. He grins down, white-toothed, and has the pleasure of seeing James shudder, briefly. “Good to know I’m not boring you.”

He pulls out, almost to the hilt, while James sucks air through his teeth, face pinching at the sensation. “N-no,” he stutters, and he looks at Michael, sees him, certainly feels him. His legs, crossed at the ankle behind Michael’s neck, quiver; a tremor ripples through his torso. “I’m, I’m here, si—” He stops himself. His eyes when they meet Michael’s have regained that world-beloved spark, temporarily drowned by pleasure and pain.

“Michael,” James pants, “Michael…” His eyes gleam, crinkling a tiny bit at the corners—then he thrusts his pelvis up, impales himself on Michael’s cock and fucks upward until their hips meet, crushing his confined cock between them while Michael stares down, shocked and delighted and barely, barely restraining his own moan at the delicious and defiant squeeze of that muscular and magnificent arse. “Is that all you’ve got?”

It is not; and Michael reins in his expression, his pleasure at James being James. That smart mouth normally wouldn’t be tolerated in a scene, as wonderful as it feels to hear it now; but James seems to turn things upside down with just a quirk of his lip, an arch of his irrepressible eyebrow, a wrinkle of his double-star freckled nose. And Michael lov—likes it very much. He’s had cheeky clients before; he’s had devilishly cute men and women at his disposal, begging for his touch; he’s had defiant boys and bad girls and sweet giving souls who fall quickly and easily; but none of them were, or could ever be, James. He’s lively, quick, knows what he wants, wants to be cooperative—but he fights it, fights himself even as he’s trying to be good; and has, Michael suspects, forgotten what it really means to have someone take care of him, rather than settling for a quick fuck and temporary release.

No wonder he’s weary; no wonder he reaches out instead of waiting for what he can’t trust will be offered; no wonder he was hesitant to make this arrangement. No one has properly taken James out of himself, it may be, even before his year of self-imposed abstinence from scening. No one has taken him in hand, taken away his responsibilities, his worries; but Michael will. Michael is. James signed himself over, gave himself into Michael’s keeping; he wants to trust Michael with his body, and more importantly, his mind, his intimate desires.

Michael intends to honor that trust. He intends to drive James to distraction; wear him out, give him a focus for his enormous energy and capacity to give. To let him exist for another’s desire, to be the center of attention, paradoxically, by giving his all to another. To Michael.

But he evidently hasn’t yet earned James’s trust; and it may be that James doesn’t feel the same triggering sense of connection; but Michael desperately hopes that he does.

He stares down into blue eyes darkened with arousal and pain; they stare back, yearning and wary at once. James’s pink tongue swipes over bitten lips. He knows very well he’s breaking the rules; and so. Michael thins his lips. He—painfully, achingly—pulls free of James’s clutching arse; tightly grips his own erection until he can reach into his bag to draw out a thick leather cock ring. He buckles it around himself, wincing.

James looks as if his world is ending. “Michael?”

“Was there a part of the contract I missed?” Michael grits out through clenched jaws, shuffling backward, forcing his spine straight. He shoves James’s legs away until there’s no contact between their bodies. “Or is it that you’ve forgotten how to obey?”

It’s not much easier now, but he gets up from the bed, draws himself to his full height and looms over James, sprawled and caged and bewildered—and looking down now, fidgeting and flushing anew. Michael pushes a little more. “Or am I not worth your full attention?”

“No!” James exclaims, horrified; then waves his hands, “No, I mean—yes—” His eyes widen and he shakes his head, “I’m sorry, that came out wrong, you are—completely—” Lips press together, tongue wetting them, brow furrowing as James leans up on his elbows, gets to his knees—

“Don’t move another muscle!”

James freezes in place. He looks down at himself, then up at Michael. He falls silent.

“I haven’t given you many orders,” Michael says. “I’ve been playing this by ear, seeing what you need, how I can give it to you. But if you can’t even stay where I put you, James, can’t keep still, can’t take only what I choose to give instead of taking what you want—then clearly you don’t want this as much as you thought you did.”

Michael allows heat and displeasure to bleed into his voice, while he keeps his face stiff and closed, only narrowing his eyes. He doesn’t look at James’s body, holds that dismayed and shamed gaze for a long, long moment.

“Well,” he barks out, and stifles the sharp pleasure at seeing James jump. “What’s it to be? Do you want to dispense with my services, or do you want to admit that you don’t really trust me to see to you, to give you what you need, without you having to cheat?”

That stings; he sees it in the flash of James’s eyes, the way his chin lifts, his shoulders unconsciously drawing back with affront; and then those shoulders slump and James drops his eyes. Quietly, he lies back down and lets his hands drop to his sides; he splays his knees and exposes himself; his palms lie open and still. Michael’s throat works at the display of pliancy, vulnerability.

Lifting his head, James meets Michael’s eyes. “I didn’t trust you,” he admits. “Not really.” He sighs. “It’s been too long, and I don’t… I don’t know how to let go.” Eyes that were so bright, and so driven, and so glowingly perfect, shine only dully now, lamplit and wet. “I’m sorry, Michael. I really wanted to try. But I understand.” He swallows, drops his head back. “I’ll understand if you don’t want to waste any more of your time.”

Perfectly posed, now that he’s given up; and something hurts in Michael’s chest at the sight. But. It was hard, but James needs to feel the consequences of misbehaving; so that when Michael relents and gives him a second chance, James will try that much harder, will obey that much more readily. And if Michael’s own eyes have gone a little hot, it’s only because hurting James like this shouldn’t have been necessary; James shouldn’t ever have been made to feel he couldn’t trust his partner, his Dominant; and Michael wants to reach back through time and shake to pieces those men or women who failed him so.

Michael’s cock throbs when he steps forward, when he sits on the bed at James’s side and leans down; when he presses his lips to closed eyes and takes James’s gasp into his own lungs. “Trust me.” He clasps both of James’s wrists tightly, strokes his thumbs over the soft inner skin until he finds the heavy pulse, presses down until the beats double with his own. “Trust me.”

And this time, when James looks into his eyes and nods, Michael feels some barrier give way; a subtle wave of softening throughout James’s body. James presses his temple into the hollow of Michael’s cheek, and he curls his thumbs round Michael’s where they’ve moved to caress James’s open palms. “I will,” James whispers. His eyes are dark; his brow untroubled. “I do. Now.”

“All right?” Michael asks after a moment. James nods. “Then we’ll continue. But I’m going to punish you for cheating.” He smiles a little. “You’ll like it, I promise.”

James nods again, but doesn’t move; his eyes brighten, though a certain somnolence seems to have come across him. His legs flex slowly, the cage shifting with the motion. James bites his lip. “Yes, Michael. I’m sorry.”

Michael pats his shoulder and stands. He lets his grin grow fierce and watches James squirm. Time for one of his favorites. Moving around the bed toward his bag, he orders James to stand. “When I sit down, come lie across my lap. I want your legs spread, and I want your hands behind your head. If you let go, or if you close your legs, you won’t have supper, and you’ll sleep on the floor. Understand?”

“Yes, Michael,” James says, close at hand, staring into Michael’s bag curiously. Michael quirks an eyebrow, and James steps back a pace, lowering his eyes. Dark lashes rest on cheeks where the flush has begun to subside, James’s natural freckle-rich fairness returning, although the crests of his cheekbones remain a bit pink; and he’s still breathing a little fast. He keeps brushing his thighs together, making the cock cage shift in place. Michael doesn’t tell him to stop; if he can manage to come through that restrictive plastic, James’ll deserve a damned medal. But if he does—

“I may let you come on occasion this weekend,” Michael says casually. “If I think you’ve earned it.” He chucks James under the chin, meets hot eyes. “But if you come without permission, you’ll be chastised—thoroughly.” He grins widely, wickedly, and enjoys James’s hasty nod and full-body shiver—the way his thighs close and his hips buck, standing in place, lips parting on a swift inhalation.

Michael settles on the foot of the bed and plants his feet shoulder-width apart on the floor for stability. “Over my knee,” he commands, and waits for James to approach, to kneel on the bed beside him, to lower himself across Michael’s lap, shifting forward until Michael’s long thighs support his hips and belly. It takes a minute of squiggling for them to both to get comfortable; Michael lays his palm across the fading marks on James’s upward-canted arse; although he prefers the intimacy of skin-to-skin contact, his hands tingling with each impact, Michael also enjoys the tangible results of a thorough session with the cane.

And the cane will be intense, on already paddled skin. The way James needs it to be.

The cock cage nudges at his thigh—it’s going to jolt with every strike. Constant tremors race through James’s frame; the skin of his hip rubs Michael’s stomach as if made to fit there. Michael’s own cock twitches and jerks with frustration, trapped between them, and perhaps it’s a good thing he got the cock ring for himself, after all.

He reaches for the cane; slim and clean and carefully checked for splintering, it’s a good piece of equipment, with a fine wooden grip. Michael swishes it through the air, and James quivers under his hand. Michael runs his fingers along pinkened skin; slips them into the crevice split open by James’s parted thighs; spreads a bit of the oil that remains up and down James’s cleft and his perineum, where he presses his thumb lightly, repetitively, to hear James groan. He fingers James’s balls, the dark hairs there silkier than elsewhere; and as he fondles the taut, tender organs within, he brings the cane down in a whistling strike across the outer part of James’s bottom.

James shouts; his whole body draws tight; but he doesn’t move. “Count,” Michael orders. James nods, and says, controlled and clear, “One.”

That control will have to go. Michael strokes the bright stripe; splays his other hand across James’s lower back, additional support there, a reassuring weight. He strikes again. His cock jumps as his arousal spikes: the red lines moving inward, James’s voice going in and out, the hiss and sigh and sharp thwack of the cane in air and on swelling flesh. He swings and James cries out; he puts his weight into it, and James moans.

The marks increase, march across the right side of James’s arse. They’re not the beautiful horizontal pattern that Michael’d try for, standing; the lines burning into James’s skin stretch diagonal and vertical for the most part; but Michael takes special care to torment the most sensitive areas, the curve where James sits, and the thin skin where buttock meets leg; lighter strokes there, but more. He wants James to feel this, wants it to stay with him; wants him to feel Michael’s touch long after they’ve parted.

Michael can’t take his eyes off of James’s glorious backside; the contrast between freshly caned and recently spanked skin makes his mouth run dry. He’s lost count and he actually doesn’t know if James has, either, because he’s forgotten to listen for accuracy instead of lovely wounded-velvet whimpers; but half of James’s arse glows red with a lattice of bright and paling lines, while the other half’s deep pink, gradually beginning to fade. Michael brings the cane down once more on the crease between buttock and thigh, where the skin has darkened, beginning to bruise, and then he stops. Places his fingers on beaten, tender flesh, feels tremors coursing through James’s body as he cries—not quiet sniffling, but open-mouthed sobs. James bucks in his lap, thrusting helplessly against his thigh.

“Please,” he cries, rough-throated; and his hands dig ferociously into his own scalp at the back of his head. “Please, Michael, oh, can I come—”

Michael grins savagely and rakes his hand up James’s spine, digging deep; drops the cane and grabs him by the shoulder and bends him backward, leaning down himself until their faces nearly touch. He can see James’s closed eyes, his knit brow, his throat taut and shining-wet and his mouth a babbling, red-bitten invitation—can feel frantic breaths warming the space between them. Michael wants to devour James’s lips, close his teeth around the jutting Adam’s apple, leave a ring of toothprints on a sweat-dripping collarbone.

But he restrains himself. “James,” he says, and kisses him; drops the cane and with that hand, drags hard fingers from the crease of James’s left buttock up and over to meet the matching lines down his spine; he swallows James’s loud moan while crystalline blue-rimmed eyes squint at him, wet and dilated and nearly gone—God, James goes down well, when he can be gotten there, and Michael feels so many things—lust and affection and pride, that he can do this for James, that James is really, this time, trusting Michael with his desire for pain as well as pleasure.

Michael kisses him again. James’s mouth slackens, letting him do whatever he wants. What Michael wants is to wrangle James onto the bed, splay him on his belly and push his legs far apart and kneel between, greedily scrutinizing James’s burning arse, his dark pink little hole clenching while restrained genitals rub into the bedding where James can’t seem to stop rolling his hips, gentle undulations driving his groin into the mattress.

Michael scratches his nails gently but firmly across rough and swollen skin. Heat rises from James’s arse; his whole body gleams with sweat, near-radiant under the combined light of lamp and streaming moon. Michael’s cock gives notice: arse or bust. He squeezes James’s hips, listens with glee and rising happiness to James’s groan—pain edged with arousal. Michael unbuckles his own cock ring. He’s worked damned hard tonight; and so has James; they’ve come a very long way together.

Tomorrow, they’ll go further.

But tonight, he’s going to come, at last, in James’s hot and eager hole. He thumbs James’s cheeks apart; a bit of oil lingers, but not much; and Michael doesn’t want to injure James; just fuck him into oblivion. So a little more oil, for James and Michael both. Michael lodges the shining, wet tip of his cock into James’s tight entrance; he takes himself in hand and slides, gently this time, into James; and it’s even hotter than before, as if the heat from the caning has penetrated deep.

Michael breathes in; he breathes out and pushes in; bottoms out in James’s lush body and thanks God that Ian told James about him. He’ll have to offer sufficient proof of undying gratitude later somehow; but right now, he uses all the energy left in his muscles to fuck James as hard as he can, slamming his hips and groin into bruised flesh, feeling the heat on his skin with every impact. James cries out, and he still has his hands clutched at the back of his head; Michael’s heart swells and he presses his weight down onto James’s shoulders, curls his fingers around and bears down, leans in and bites the crest of a shoulder blade; savors James’s moan, his thrusting back, the roll of his spine and the gasped “Yes, there, please, Michael, Michael, fuck, Michael—”

And this time Michael searches for and finds that softer swell; that small area that will—

James keens like a banshee. His body stiffens; his arse squeezes so tight Michael momentarily fears he’ll be trapped forever. Smugness overtakes trepidation, though, and he begins sliding against that spot over and over. James writhes, and he begs: “Michael, please let me come!”

That’s not going to happen.

Michael finds himself hard-pressed not to come immediately: his cock so stiff inside James, so ready; but he coils every muscle in his groin as tight as he can, and begins settling James down. Sweeps hands up to shoulders rigid with tension; rubs and squeezes, laying a kiss here, nuzzling his nose there; he moves the massage slowly, slowly across the smooth layered muscles of James’s back, finds pressure points and digs his thumbs in, feels the minute relaxation in James’s body; and he whispers, “So good for me, James. That was wonderful. You did so well.”

He keeps up a steady stream of praise, soothing and warm, draws his words around James like a net. The heat rising from James’s body slowly dissipates, the heaving of his ribs to diminish. James’s begging subsides to a low whimper; and even that becomes intermittent. Michael continues to work him down, strokes along biceps and forearms and gently presses kisses onto shoulders, spine, the backs of still-clasped hands.

Gradually, James’s breathing begins to even out. Michael rubs his nose through boisterous hair, transformed by sweat and pillows into a fantastical tangle of dark curls; he traces his fingers behind James’s ears, along the freckle-speckled ivory column of his neck. Sadly, James does not appear to be ticklish. “I’m so proud of you,” Michael murmurs; James is crying still, but it’s gone quiet, and the tension in him fades by degrees to limp pliancy under Michael’s touch.

Michael is so pleased; and he’s so proud; and he wants to hug James tight as much as he wants to fuck him. With James quiescent again beneath him, Michael slowly starts pulling out; James sighs, but makes no protest, doesn’t attempt to clench around Michael or draw him back inside. Michael stops when just the head of his cock remains engulfed in James’s heat. He wraps a hand around his shaft and starts stroking, begins loosening his tight hold of internal muscles. Until his breathing deepens; until he’s shuddering on the edge again, and then he grips James’s waist firmly. He plants the heels of his hands on the sweet dip above James’s beautiful arse; he plunges in, eyes closing with pure sensation. He manages four full-bodied thrusts before spilling with a yell and a white-hot orgasm flooding his nerves; awash in pleasure, he nearly collapses onto James, waits through the juddering of his hips while his cock empties itself. James moans, throaty and almost a whine.

Come beads up and trickles whitely down when Michael reluctantly pulls free. He takes a moment to look at James’s well-used and swollen hole, skin puffy and red and dripping with oil and warm, pungent come. His. He did this, filled James up with himself, incontrovertible ownership.

Michael’s spent cock manages a further twitch or two at the sheer possessiveness twisting through him. He gently prods a finger into the loose entrance, careful of tender flesh, but still earns a shudder and whimper. No blood though, nothing torn despite his earlier roughness. He nods, satisfied.

He lets himself drop at last, drapes himself over James and feels the pleased wriggle in reply; James turns his head enough to expose a tired smile. Michael drags an arm up, slips clean fingers down to James’s mouth; kisses James’s ear when James suckles at his fingertips. He’ll let James rest, will rest himself, just for a minute or two before he cleans them both up. It’ll soon be time for their check-ins, and he wants to make sure they both go to bed on full stomachs; it’s been a long night.

James murmurs something indecipherable about phones and food; Michael smiles at the congruence of their thoughts, and kisses his ear again. James sighs, mouths at his fingers where they’re brushing weary lips.

He does, Michael thinks again, go down so well, when he can; this isn’t as deep as he suspects James can descend, with that vast multifaceted well of generosity and powerful sweetness, but it’s further than he guesses James has been in quite a long time, and he feels good about that. He’s been able to do this, to be what James needs.

What James needs is complicated: pleasure and pain and denial and also, importantly, care: care with him, for him, about him. Michael kisses the back of his neck, lightly; James makes a small sound, not a word, contented and peaceful beneath his weight. James can’t get there, Michael suspects, if he doesn’t feel that his Dominant’s truly his equal—that’s in part why all the beautiful defiance—but James also needs to be certain that if and when the surrender happens it’ll be accepted with love, and—

Love, he’s just thought. Well. Fuck.

He has to laugh then, though not aloud because he’s still soothing James, hands and caresses and solid body weight bringing him back down from the high of near-orgasm and the exquisite torment of denial. Fuck, yes. Very much so. That’s rather the point.

And if he is in love, or starting to suspect he is, he can control that too: as a professional, he genuinely feels concern when he looks at James, a luscious and willing and intricately lovely submissive who’s apparently never been properly taken care of, ever, and yet who needs the care more than most others Michael’s seen. James gives so much of himself on stage and screen, pours himself into characters and supports charity causes and always finds time to smile and hug his fans; that’s hard work, physical and emotional, and it takes a heavy toll. He’d seen the exhaustion in those shoulders, when James had opened the door to let him in.

The professional concern’s real. He can’t let James leave without some relief from the heaviness, this time.

The personal concern’s real, too. But no one else has to know that one.

He runs a hand over James’s hip, tracing drowsy dandelion-wisp freckles. Along his side, feeling the motion of ribs as James breathes, steady and soft but not asleep. Gentle petting, long continuous caresses; James sighs and offers another indistinct happy mumble.

“You were very good,” Michael tells him, words forming anchors along with the touch, repetition and reassertion, “you were excellent, James, you did everything I asked, I’m pleased with you,” and James’s lips flicker into that smile again: resurfacing, then, a fraction.

“I’m going to let you get up.” Michael traces the smile with fingertips. “When you feel ready, just tell me, and I’ll walk you to the shower—”

James whispers something that sounds a lot like the beginning of a protest, but when Michael pauses he shakes his head. Michael shakes his head, too, and stops exploring the line of happy lips and presses fingers over James’s mouth, forceful enough to smother his breathing; reminds darkly, as James goes rigid beneath him, “No hiding,” before he lets go.

After a second James relaxes, though not completely, that ragged-tartan voice catching on the next inhale. Michael recognizes the emotion even as it startles him. On reflection, it really shouldn’t. James evidently likes that, too. Again: more.

“I’m not hiding. I just thought better of saying it…was that…for you…it was good, right?” And the question inside the question replaces the pronoun: not was it good, but was I good, for you?

“Yes,” Michael says again, and kisses his shoulder. “Yes, you were, James. Tell me what you meant to say.”

“I was going to say I can walk to the shower and you don’t have to come, but then I thought I shouldn’t argue. And anyway I want you to. Um. Terrible pun. You did sort of…already come.”

Michael blinks, stares at James, laughs helplessly. James starts laughing too, body full of weary merriment under his. “Sorry!”

“No,” Michael gets out through the sudden laughter, and rolls them swiftly to their sides, his arms around all the freckles and that burning arse pressed snugly against his cock, which decides consequently that it’s not that tired and stirs with interest. He doesn’t mind James feeling that, so pulls him closer. “No, you’re fantastic, make all the terrible puns—and don’t argue—”

“About the puns? Is that an order?”

“Fucking yes.” Michael kisses him again, lips branding a new stain of pink over the line of his tempting throat. James melts into the embrace, quieting at the scrape of teeth, the rasp of stubble, the mingling of sting and sweetness.

And Michael’s heart’s laughing too, deep inside: the kind of elation that’s bone-deep and shocking and unspeakably profound.

He murmurs into the mark he’s just left, breathing over sensitive skin, “No one’s ever made me laugh while doing this, James,” and James, being unequivocally perfect, wriggles that cane-and-paddle-scalded backside against him, nonverbal teasing that makes Michael want to kiss him and spank him again, possibly at the same time.

When he pushes back, a nudge of his cock and hips in return, James winces. Michael raises an eyebrow. “Sore, are you?”

“Yes, sir. Michael—! Sorry, I didn’t—my last two, the last times I tried—they both wanted—I’m trying, I swear, Michael.”

“It’s all right.” He does sit up, though, mostly so that he can find an angle to look James in the eye; but he knows James will flinch, taking the distance as a rebuke. That’s fine, too; James needs the reminder. “I won’t punish you for an honest mistake, especially not if it’s something you’ve been asked for in the past. I will punish you if you do it on purpose. We’ve agreed that you’ll use my name. Clear?”

“Yes,” James says, eyes enormous and a little unhappy. “Yes, Michael.”

“Really all right. Come here.” He tugs James across his lap, face-down; inspects his handiwork. James twists around to look up at him, in an impressive display of flexibility; smiles, clear and quick, at whatever he’s found in Michael’s expression, and settles back down.

Michael runs a hand over the lines, slightly faded now but still hot and glowing against the rest of that Highland-linen skin. “After you shower, we’ll put cooling cream on these. It’ll help. I want you to feel it, not be out of commission for the rest of the weekend.”

“Yes, Michael.”

“And you’ll need to call your check-in contact. Make it quick, because I want to know you’ve done it, and I also want to shower.”

“Yes, Michael.”

“You were very well-behaved, earlier, so you’ve earned food, and you’ll sleep in bed. With me.” Not that he’d’ve seriously made James sleep on the floor or go without food—he’s not that interested in complete subservience, and James will need the energy—but he would have permitted both with a far different tone.

“Yes, Michael.”

“Are you deliberately being submissive to annoy me?”

“…yes, Michael.” James grins. Audible, in the folds and billows of Scottish vowels and consonants. Saying his name. “But I do mean it. I mean…I want to.”

“Hmm. All right, then.” He slides to his feet, grasps James’s wrists, hauls him upright. James gasps, stumbles, looks surprised at his own shakiness. Michael catches him; raises an eyebrow.

“Yes,” James grumbles, “you don’t need to say it, you’re right, I need you,” and Michael grins back, and does spank him, one swift smack without warning. James’s knees buckle.

Michael leans down, supporting shocked quivering freckles in one arm. Murmurs, with the darkest intent he can summon into his voice, “Yes, you do,” and watches those eyes turn into enormous midnight oceans of need.

The lamplight, caught in long eyelashes, dances with glee.

He walks James into the bathroom, once he’s satisfied that James can stand. Orders him to wait before turning on the water, and pushes him down to sit on the closed toilet, legs spread. James doesn’t protest, only gazes curious-eyed while Michael kneels before him.

“For now.” Michael unlocks the confining plastic carefully, and then gingerly eases it away, freeing James’s trapped cock at last.

It hurts, that rush of painful release; he tries to be gentle, but tears well up in blue eyes, and a whimper escapes when sore flesh meets night air and the cautious cup of Michael’s palm. He cradles James in his hand, strokes softly, makes James sob again.

“Mine,” he says, looking up; James nods in acquiescence. And that aching length stirs and fills under Michael’s touch, which makes James whimper, stimulation too much to bear.

Michael bends his head. Draws skin back, even as James shivers with arousal that’s already doing so for him. Licks, the merest brush of tongue, over the tip. Tastes the sweetness of need, of James, clinging remnants of all those near-explosions.

James cries out and tries to curl inward even as his cock jumps, and Michael kisses him there too, lips pressing over the wet slit, sucking just a bit, knowing how searingly intense it’ll feel.

Blue eyes flutter closed; James pants heavily, breathing uneven, shredded. Michael stops. “Does it hurt? Tell me.”

“Yes,” James whispers. “But I—it feels—I want it, Michael. Please.”

“You have been good,” Michael agrees, and rubs his thumb deliberately across the swollen head. James lets out an agonized moan. He’s mostly hard, now, in Michael’s grip; the pain of it interferes with much more, but liquid’s already gathering at the tip, beading up faster as James’s cock fills out, dark with blood and striped with red where the folds of skin have been compressed so tightly for so long. Michael fingers a few of the marks, listens to the hitch of James’s breathing. This is a test as much as a reward: can James come, like this, from the intermingling of hurt and bliss?

“I want you to come,” Michael tells him, “when I say you can,” and pulls him to his feet, one hand grasping his wrists and pinning them behind his back. The other strokes his cock relentlessly, making the tears fall.

“Watch,” Michael says, and James does, gazes down at Michael’s large hand working his flushed erection, long fingers moving roughly over that throbbing, dripping length. “I want you to watch, when I make you come.”

James gasps, trembles, jerks in his grip; a bead of fluid spills out slowly from the slit, glistening under the bathroom lights. Michael will have to work fast, or James may come on his own, and that failure could set them back awfully, if James feels he can’t live up to what he thinks a good submissive – what he should be able to do. If he thinks he can’t live up to Michael’s expectations, after so long out of the scene. Even if he’s never properly done a scene with anyone competent in his past. While Michael would understand, under the circumstances, and not condemn—that external understanding’s different from internal emotional comprehension, and James isn’t thinking, only feeling, right now.

Shifting his hand—the one around captive wrists—Michael digs fingers into the welts he can feel on James’s backside, watches James’s mouth flutter. James’s gaze flickers from Michael’s stern expression to between his own legs, eyes narrowing with determination. His tongue flicks out, a breathless sweep across parted lips when Michael strokes his wet cock harder, faster. James shivers, caught between competing needs: arousal and obedience, twin cravings.

Michael stabs his thumb against the back of the head and demands: “Now!”

James screams as he comes, eyes falling shut, body tensing everywhere; spurts of white splash into Michael’s hand, hot and dripping. James sobs, and there are more splashes, pent-up need spilling out at last.

“Shh,” Michael lifts his hand from James’s cock, presses sticky-coated fingers to those parted lips. James doesn’t open his eyes, but licks at the mess of himself, motions distant, dreaming, far away.

“Good,” Michael tells him, and James opens his eyes, looking dazed. Tries to speak; stops, with Michael’s fingers over his mouth, and shuts his eyes, swaying on his feet.

“No. Look at me.”

Open eyes; a smile reflected in them, pure and true.

“Good,” Michael repeats. “Can you stand?”

A nod; James licks his index finger again, cleaning, tasting, swallowing. Michael moves the hand.

“Can you shower on your own? If I leave?”

Another, rather more coherent nod. “Yes. You need to make your check-in, for the night…you said…I’m all right. Thank you, Michael.”

“You earned it.” Michael pushes away his own relief, edges his voice with steel, reassertion. “Enjoy it. You may not get another one. I plan to put that back on as soon as you’re done here. You come when I permit it, James. Only when I permit it.”

James smiles, slow and private and glowing as a bonfire. “Yes, Michael.”

Michael leaves him in the shower, and washes up—after standing in the separate sink-alcove smiling like a lunatic for two full minutes: he’s just made James fucking McAvoy scream with pleasure and come into his hand in a hotel bathroom—and forces down his own treacherously irrepressible desire and makes his phone call with an unaccountably hoarse voice.

Steve snorts at him, rolls eyes—Michael can hear the gesture, even over the phone—and says, “I’m thrilled you’re happy and he’s not a lunatic, yes I know he’s James fucking McAvoy, if you say that one more time I’m not sending any of my actors or crew to you for therapy during this next film even if they fracture multiple legs, seriously, just ask the man out to dinner after you’re done, you’ve already fucked him and it’s been good so that’s that out of the way, and he seems perfectly nice in interviews, not that I’ve met him in person.” Michael asks plaintively, “So you think he’d want to have dinner with me if I, y’know, asked?” and Steve says, “Oh for fuck’s sake,” and hangs up on him.

Not a yes, but also not a no. He chooses to think that’s promising.

He contemplates options for the night, for the weekend, distracting himself from those possibly-promising ideas while stripping off the soiled bedcover. It’s a good hotel; there’re more blankets and sheets on the closet’s overhead rack. Well stocked. All needs provided for.

A thought—and not a new one—occurs. He strolls over to the dining area table. It’s the antique-style piece he’d seen James stroke earlier on his furniture-friendly trip from kitchen to sitting area, and it stands very solidly on the carpeted area just before the dividing bar and the tiled area. Michael eyes it, the shining, dark wood, the smooth, waxed surface. It looks sturdy enough. Listening to the twinkle and splash of the shower in the background, he raps his knuckles on the top. Nods with satisfaction at the solid thunk produced. He leans his weight against the side, pushes, and then pushes a little harder when the legs, heavy and straight and decorated with a thick coil halfway up, don’t budge. The joints don’t creak under the pressure. Michael peruses the table, well-versed in assessing sturdiness in furniture, in measuring human bodies to a variety of surfaces; and he smiles now, imagining James trussed up and displayed like a delectable buffet.

Which reminds him that they both need food. Time to continue providing for needs, then. He’s here to care for James, after all. There’s more than one way of doing so.

Keeping an ear attuned to shower-sounds, he steps into the kitchen. He could call room service, but James had made tea earlier, and he’s fairly sure that James, having planned to stay the whole weekend even if Michael’d left, would’ve thought to bring supplies.

A quick check confirms this: nothing fancy, but most of the basics, and some surprises. Eggs, bacon, beans, bread, cheese, milk; assorted vegetables, including some rather lovely portobello mushrooms and juicy red tomatoes; baking supplies, including lemon zest and something he decides after a minute is some sort of candied citrus—well, James does bake, he recalls that from one or more of those engaging interviews; perhaps James was hoping to channel desires that way, if Michael hadn’t worked out, and his heart beats faster for a second at the thought that it might not have worked out. Good scotch and equally good beer, of which he approves; cognac, which is a bit curious, but perhaps James needs it for a recipe, or simply enjoys it; not as much meat as one might expect, but James may be on a diet, not that James needs to be on a diet, because James is utterly beautiful and if anything too thin, all muscle and sparkling eyes but no body fat at all, worn to the essentials from the months of total commitment to the Scottish Play.

He studies the options. Stretches his arms; flexes fingers. He has some ideas. He’s not a chef’s son for nothing. And he’s positive that it’s been a very long time since anyone’s cooked for James, along with the other methods of caring for his needs.

The scotch and lemon zest and tomatoes grin back at him conspiratorially. They want to care for James as well.

The shower water flips off. Michael hastily stops communing with the portobellos to return to the bedroom. He's there when James emerges, towel wrapped around his waist, hair drying into improbable loops and whirls, stray water droplets glinting from his eyelashes, his shoulders, his stomach.

He’s splendid. Michael forgets words.

James blushes, suddenly shy; not defiant or resistant, but open and vulnerable and hesitant. “I didn’t know if you wanted—you said we should put something on—”

“I did, yes.” He comes over to James in two long-legged steps, bare feet soundless on the plush carpet. The night’s watchful and protective around them. “Knees. Naked.”

James drops the towel. Drops to his knees. Smiles: anticipation without demand, simple eagerness for the next command, buoyed by the night’s triumphs, the connection forged.

Michael puts out a hand, catches his chin, lifts it. Smiles back.

“Up.” He guides James onto the bed, on his stomach, limbs splayed out comfortably. Finds the softest cooling cream from his bag; dabs it gently over pink lines and welts, skin shower-warm and healing but—he frowns—not as much as he’d like. He runs fingers over the darkest marks. “James?”

“Mmm…”

“Does this still hurt? Right here?”

“It’s not supposed to?”

“Only enough for you to feel it. That wasn’t an answer.”

“Oh. Ah…not too much. A bit, my lower back, but it’s been a while, you know… I think I’m all right.” James sounds sleepy, under Michael’s ministrations. The golden lampglow and onyx shadows play at being artists across the pale expanse of his back: a streak of light there, a hollow of shade along his spine, a chiaroscuro of gilded treasure. “I bruise easily, if that’s what you’re worried about. Always have. This feels good, what you’re doing…”

The creamy green uncomplicated scents of aloe and arnica float through the air. James doesn’t flinch when Michael’s fingers probe at the second-darkest line. That’s good. That means, among other things, that James isn’t lying to him.

He doesn’t like the bruises rising so dark and so early, but they’re meant to happen during a scene, after all. He cups his hand, slick with lotion, over the curve of that arse; James practically purrs, going limp and boneless and pleased with the touch.

“Very well. You’ll tell me if I hurt you.”

“Of course, I will…” More unfocused now; the desired response, but too soon, and Michael mentally swears at himself for forgetting. “James. Phone call. You need to check in.”

“Hmm…”

He pushes long legs further apart. Finds the softer skin inside a thigh. Pinches. Hard.

James yelps. “Sir—Michael—did I—”

“You’re not paying attention. I told you you’d make your check-in call after your shower. If you can’t, if you’re not capable of that, I’ll have to call him—was it Ben, that you wrote down?—and tell him to come get you.”

James turns to look at him, shocked, betrayed, lips parted on an indrawn breath.

“I want you.” Michael rubs the spot he’s just abused, easing the hurt. “I want you here. But I need to know you’re choosing to be here, James.”

“Oh.” That little head-tilt would be adorable, except that it means James is obviously confused by his Dominant’s insistence on continuous conscious consent. “But—I did—we did—we signed the contract for the whole weekend.” At which Michael feels his jaw clench, so tightly he’s astonished James can’t hear his teeth grind. What the fuck has James experienced, with those people who weren’t him?

“All right,” James goes on, now looking a bit worried that Michael’s not responding, “but I did tell him not to worry if I didn’t—he won’t really worry until tomorrow—”

“Quiet.” All he can manage without wanting to break something. If he were a less scrupulous person, if he were out to truly injure James, that would give him the entire night to—to—

Control. He has it. He does. “You said,” he says as evenly as he can manage, “that you’d arranged to check in every day. Call him. Now.”

James takes in his expression. “Yes, Michael.”

“Don’t get up. I’ll bring you your mobile. Are you cold?” Some submissives—actually, quite a few—experience drops in body temperature, coming out of a scene; James isn’t entirely back to himself, still obedient and pliable, but present enough to process what’s just happened and decide not to argue.

“A bit.” James sounds surprised, as if he’s just noticed. “I thought it was just getting out of the shower, but—yes?”

“Don’t move.” On the way back from the kitchenette, he collects more blankets, carries an armful of fluffy, thick fabric over and folds them around all the freckles, the shining skin. Watches his own hands, because that’s easier than watching James, at the moment. Hands over the slim expensive mobile phone; sits down on the edge of the bed, beside the blanket-fort, and waits.

James swallows, nods as if Michael’s spoken, and dials. His voice burrs soft and warm and honest when he says he’s all right, when he says he’ll be staying the whole weekend, when he promises to check in the following evening. He glances up at Michael, saying that; Michael offers him a smile in return, and James blushes as if that’s the highest of praise.

The person on the other end must’ve said something exasperated and fond; James retorts, “Yes, I know, I’m sorry, Benedict, and if it helps he told me it was stupid, too, yes, of course you’d worry, I didn’t mean to—no, all right, you’re both fuckin’ right, okay, you what? That is the most terrifying fucking thing you’ve ever said, and I’m hanging up now. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, good night,” and ends the call.

Michael lifts eyebrows at him. James sighs, drops his face into the pillows, and admits, “Benedict says he, and I quote, approves of my choice in kinky sex partners. Because you told me I’m an idiot about checking in. And he said of course he was worried, he was sitting by the phone.” Michael doesn’t say the told-you-so because James already knows, only takes the mobile out of his hand and turns it off and sets it aside. He rubs his thumb across the freckled hand in his grip, both of them tangible and real.

James is a bit too coherent, he concludes. Necessary, both the phone call and the subsequent realization; but they’ve very nearly reset to equilibrium, and that’s not what James needs. Not what this weekend’s for. And he has permission to make all that coherence implode; his body tingles with the renewed comprehension that he can use James however he wants, for said weekend. Because James wants to be used.

He tightens the grip. James breathes in, sharply. Gazes at him. “Michael…”

“I promised you something else, as I recall.” He pushes James to his side, dislodging some, but not all, of the clinging blankets; James needs to stay warm. “Something for this.” He closes a heavy hand around James’s bare cock; it's not hard enough to hurt, but enough to register, and James shivers all over, eyes huge.

“Stay here,” Michael orders, and gets up to search through his bag.

He picks a simpler device this time, easier if not precisely comfortable, supple butter-soft leather and a touch of metal. It needs to be somewhat easier; James will have to sleep in it.

James gazes at him, when he returns. A hint of curiosity lurks, but the question remains unspoken.

“You’re wearing this all night,” Michael explains. “At least.” And he catches the sparkle of excitement in the ocean waves.

He’s careful, keeps James on his side even though that’s a bit trickier, eases the curved weight of that impressive endowment into confinement again, compressing and fitting the length into leather straps. He pauses to admire, after: James does look marvelous this way, bound and on display and malleable in his hands. The dark leather makes pale skin and red lines gloriously decadent, some exotic prize for a Roman gladiator, perhaps, who’d fought well in the arena.

James lies still, one hand tucked under his cheek; his eyes’re a bit damp, but he’s not really crying. A prize, indeed.

Michael taps fingers over a strap. “Comfortable enough?”

“Yes,” James says. Drifting, tangled in new sensation, but not falling under just yet; it won’t be that simple.

James isn’t simple. Michael lov—likes that. Likes the fact that James has entrusted him with that secret: James McAvoy, cinema darling, isn’t the kind-hearted cuddly Scottish-plush adorableness everyone thinks he is; or, rather, he is all that, but he’s this too, the person who needs the freedom of being commanded and the release of pain and the knowledge that he belongs to someone, every piece of him, body and heart and soul given over to his Dominant’s will.

And James has shown that to him. Of all the people in all the world, James has wanted him. It’s like a miracle, right here in their antique hotel room with the striped wallpaper and luxurious carpet and rumpled sheets. A private little sort of miracle, made for two.

“On your stomach,” he orders. “Legs apart,” and James moves with liquid grace, flowing into the position, but slowly, like the lassitude’s spreading through his body. This position presses his bound cock into the mattress; it’ll be uncomfortable, though not truly painful.

“Hands.” James locks them together behind his neck, waiting. “Very nice,” Michael approves, letting that tinted glass and sin back into his voice, and trails a fingertip down that freshly cleaned back, watching James shiver, the single touch almost too much and not enough. “You’ll stay here while I shower. You’ll stay here until I’m ready for you. Understand?”

“Yes,” James breathes, word half-muffled by the sheets but distinguishable. “Yes, Michael.”

“Good,” Michael tells him, and gets up, and getting up’s one of the hardest acts he’s ever had to undertake. In both senses of the word.

He takes the fastest shower he ever has in his life—attempts, futilely, not to think about James naked and well-used and flushed with post-orgasmic euphoria in the same shower a few minutes ago—and scrubs his hair dry and throws on jeans and a t-shirt—decent ones, though, casual but underscoring the point: he doesn’t need leather and a whip to be a good Dom.

A glance at James, following orders and magnificently motionless on the bed; perfect, and he walks into the suite’s little kitchen and starts pulling out ingredients, smiling to himself, suddenly happy everywhere, all over, head to feet. The tile’s cool and welcoming under his bare toes. And he catches himself humming, under his breath.

The happiness isn’t inexplicable. It’s easily explained. It has everything to do with that glance at James. And when he opens the refrigerator, it hums happily too.

It doesn’t take long to whip up a light supper, something filling and tasty that won’t weigh them down. The tomatoes smell wonderful, sliced and seasoned and grilling in the toaster oven with cheddar cheese melting on top; the scent of the portobellos rises up as they sauté in a bit of butter and spices; and the bacon sizzles in a small pan on the tiny stove’s second eye. Fresh, good food, simply prepared; and when the tomatoes are ready, bread slices wait to take their place. Michael’s less concerned about a mess than preparing the meal quickly and well, but he’ll do a quick clean-up and rinse. James can wash dishes in the morning after breakfast; Michael plans for them to prepare that meal together, a different kind of domesticity.

He wonders again about the bacon. It’s kind of an anomaly amid all the vegetables and eggs and baking supplies. Excellent quality, though, like everything else. If James is cheating on some sort of diet, he’s doing it without sparing any expense; but, then, the whole weekend’s about James giving himself, for a few short days, a release.

He’s curious, and he shouldn’t be. Personal. Not his job.

But James is too thin, too tired. The thought that James might feel, even when his theatre run’s so recently concluded, as if he needs to diet or restrict those indulgences…the idea that James might feel not good enough…

That hurts. Like wire poking into his chest, sharp and metallic and physically cruel.

James might tell him, if he does ask. Not now. Now James needs to eat—they both need to eat, to recover energy—and Michael can feed him. And will. He’s got plans.

“James,” he calls through the suite, and smiles at the eventual drowsy reply: “Yes, Michael?”

“Fluff the pillows on the bed, set it up for me to sit in the center, against the headboard. Then kneel on one side.”

“Um, yes, Michael.” Through the silent stretch between them, Michael hears the faint rustling of fabric, and turns back to plating up the food. He’s made sandwiches, and two of them he’s cut into bite-size chunks, held together by melted cheese; and the bread isn’t so crisp from toasting as to break into crumbs at the slightest pressure. Michael carries the ivory-toned platter into the bedroom, where James has obeyed him, has cleared a space and knelt down beside it, his hands resting on his thighs even as his head droops a little, his shoulders not quite straight; he startles when the bed dips under Michael’s knee.

“Oh,” he says, blinking, and peers at Michael with sleepy eyes, and blinks again until the haziness dissipates. “Oh, that smells divine!” His lips curve up as his gaze travels from the plate to Michael himself, eyebrows lifting briefly at the casual clothes. Then he straightens himself up properly, chin raised and shoulders straight, hands open and relaxed.

“I hope you’ll like the taste, as well,” Michael says. “Hold the plate for me.” He waits until James takes it, then settles into position, back against the headboard, legs stretched out before him.

“Er, why have you cut some of them into pieces?”

“You’re hungry, aren’t you?”

“Oh!” James’s surprise melts into trembling lust: “Oh, you’re going to—” He shivers minutely; and Michael grabs the plate back.

“Across my thighs,” Michael says, firm and low. “I want you on your hands and knees, and I’m going to put the plate on your back. So if you want to eat your food and not wear it—”

“Won’t I be wearing it, though, if it’s on my back?” James smirks at Michael, cheeky and smiling even as he moves into position, settling his hands and knees carefully—with the smallest clink of the cock cage’s lock drawing notice to the erection beginning to appear. Michael holds the plate in one hand and smacks James’s arse with the other.

James tries to stifle a laugh and fails; but when Michael lays his hand on the pink-tinged flesh, he manages it, dropping his head and going still. His erection swells a bit more.

Michael sets the plate down on the long plane of James’s back; it’s warm from the sandwiches but not uncomfortably so. “Quiet,” he orders, stroking his forefinger gently across the spanked curve. “You’ve done well for me today, James. It’s been a pleasure having you under my hands.”

Color flushes across James’s shoulders, his back. Michael takes a bite of his sandwich; it turned out well, and he’s glad to be able to show off a bit, this talent as well as the other. And when he takes a small piece of the cut sandwiches and presses it to James’s lip, the sensations of those soft pads against his forefinger and thumb—the tiny flick of tongue—make warmth rise in his chest.

Falling in love wasn’t what he’d expected. If he’d had any expectations at all, beyond sheer amazement at the situation, of course. But love seems to’ve happened. He only can’t believe it because he wants so badly for it to be true.

James holds position, but gradually turns his head toward Michael; eyes almost closed, lipping at his fingers with slow languor; mesmerized by the steady repetition of eating what’s given to him, tasting the salt of Michael’s fingers along with the flavors of the food. When it’s all gone, Michael simply rests the tip of his forefinger against the plush curve of James’s lower lip. James sighs and licks and then closes his lips around it, sucks gently, slowly. His head begins to droop, the weight of it growing as Michael curls his palm under the elegant curve of James’s jawline.

“All right?” he whispers. Distantly, as if rising up from the depths of dreaming, James nods against Michael’s hand, presses half a kiss on the finger as it withdraws. Michael sets the emptied plate on the bedside table. “Good,” he says, with a touch more volume, until a closed eyelid slits open only enough to reveal a brimming circle of black encircled by the thinnest rime of blue gemstone. “You’re been so good,” Michael says. The words he wants to say—I think I love you, you, you—catch in his throat before they can betray him. “Let’s get some sleep,” he says instead. “There’s so much I want to do with you.”

James lets Michael roll him onto his belly, where his half-hard cock in its confinement rubs into the bedding; he lies there, not quite gone, a sliver of awareness enlivening his drowsy gaze; the tiniest smile quirks his mouth when Michael links his hands behind his back with padded leather-and-metal cuffs to match the cage. James is beautiful. That’s a statement like gravity, like starshine, like the truth of the earth spinning under them, such a given that it goes unspoken as bedrock.

Michael can’t quite let go yet; he wraps long fingers around the padded restraints; he feels the warmth of James’s body beneath him; he savors the pliancy, hard-won and hard-given; he wants to lean down and press his lips over and over to the sweet arch of James’s temples, the crest of his cheeks, the two freckles that accent his nose and make it striking. Michael looks at James, and his imagination runs wild: James is a rebel prince captured and brought to his captor’s bed; a selkie, trapped and bound to Michael’s will; a work of art brought to life by the moonlight spilling through the wide windows, his breathing, warm flesh a gift or reward or compensation for some trial Michael had won through; James himself is the trial, and James the prize to be won; and Michael wants nothing more at this moment—for the foreseeable future—than for James to fall in love with Michael, too.

To stay, without having to give up his skin; to breathe in and out with Michael, their arms enfolding one another; to share the radiance of his self with Michael’s yearning soul.

James murmurs, eyes closed and body limp in the clutches of sleep, and if it sounds like, “love,” it’s only a moonlit dream, a reflection of Michael’s sun-bright, burning heart. No one falls in love at first sight, after all. Not even James, who’s surely fit to bring that myth alive. Not even Michael, who’s admired James from afar for so long. It’s chemistry, pheromones, and wishful thinking.

He can hope for it to be real; but, oh, how it will hurt when the fantasy dissolves, when they part company outside of these sheltering walls.

Michael coils himself around James, curling up into a big spoon to James’s perfectly-sized teaspoon, easing a leg over James’s and wrapping an arm around him, and finally resting his own head in the crook of James’s neck. Reaching down, he finds James still a bit hard; and he smiles. For the next two days, at least, this man with all of his hurts and hopes and trust and bright-eyed smiles, belongs not to the world, but to Michael; and Michael will wring every last bit of pleasure from them both.

He curves his palm across the sweet warmth of James’s naked belly, tips a thumb across a soft nipple and flicks it to hardness; James moans a little. Michael draws the sheets and blankets up over them and closes his eyes, eager to see if dreams will live up to reality.