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In A Bind

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“I need a partner for this one,” Reese says to him, lounging in the passenger seat of Fusco’s car like he’s been invited.

“Well,” says Fusco, pleasantly surprised by the steady beat of his own heart, the flatness in his voice, “that’s what I’m here for.”

Fusco had this idea in his head at one point that now that Reese was his partner - his actual, sanctioned police partner - he wouldn’t feel the need to pop up around strange corners and scare the shit out of Fusco anymore. He could just say hi like a normal person.

Reese doesn’t say hi like a normal person, but he is a lot better about it than he used to be. He telegraphs his appearances with a cough, a squeak of shoes, a warm hand on the shoulder. Appearing out of nowhere becomes a perfunctory thing, like he’s doing it out of an obligation to stay sharp more than anything else.

Sometimes there’s something else to it, a nervousness, a guilt.

That’s how Reese is now, lounging in the passenger seat where he wasn’t a few seconds before, his eyes downcast and wavering.

“Not that kind of partner,” Reese says.

 


 

Reese stands too close for friendship, too carefully, calculatedly apart for a relationship, so Fusco reaches out and casually intertwines their fingers, creates a little visual shorthand. Reese’s reaction is surprisingly amateur hour: hand goes all stiff and nerveless in Fusco’s grip, breath stutters to a dead stop, and Fusco didn’t realize he’d been keeping tabs on Reese’s breathing, but the sudden absence is deafeningly loud. He can feel the pulse in Reese’s thumb make a rabbity leap.

After a few seconds, Reese relaxes, lets himself drift against Fusco’s side with an easy, intimate familiarity, shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, or as close as they can manage, given Reese’s height. Even now, he can feel Reese’s breath and heart rate smoothing out to a steady, rhythmic placidity. A casual observer might put the crack in their cover down to momentary nervousness, if they thought about it at all.

Fusco’s putting it down to a misguided attempt on Reese’s part to respect Fusco’s personal space. Not misguided - Fusco’s not going to stand here and complain that Reese waited until Fusco gave the OK before draping himself on him like some kind of lanky, lethal overcoat - but they passed that point a long time ago. Besides, the whole middle school dance squeamishness thing seems all wrong for their mission, and Fusco doesn’t know why they’re here - not exactly - but he knows it’s not smart to stick out from the crowd.

Fusco maintains clear, unexceptional eye contact with their target from the other end of a table covered in a red velvet cloth and laid out with an assortment of whips, paddles, straps, and other implements he’s not really sure about.

There’s something about the target - Edie Matthews, if you want to put a name to a face - that reminds him a little bit of a flamingo. It’s not because she’s tall or thin, because she’s about 5’3” and stocky, with a solidness that makes Fusco think she’s stronger than she looks. Her hair was probably a pretty wild shade of pink at one point, but it’s faded to a washed-out punch bowl color, ekeing into mousy, dirty blonde. It’s not because she’s snobbish, which he imagines flamingos might be, because she’s got a broad, friendly, freckly face and she laughs often. It’s a sort of uprightness of bearing, he guesses, a shortness and purposefulness of step. A ramrod-straight posture.

Reese says she has a day job as a programmer, and Finch is digging into that part of her life. Fusco’s trying not to be bitter about that - Finch is the man for that job, obviously - but that left him and Reese to investigate the other half of Edie Matthew’s life.

“So!” she continues, addressing the group with a perkiness that clashes with the paddle she’s holding in her hand. “This is your chance to see the dungeon in the light of day, during off-hours. Feel free to look around, explore, and ask as many questions as you want. This goes without saying, but please save play for club hours. We’ll do a group Q&A at 1:00, OK?”

A murmur of assent ripples through the group - about ten couples in total, all studiously avoiding eye contact with any of the other couples - and they disperse throughout what Edie calls the dungeon.

It’s just a basement, Fusco tells himself. A renovated basement, like a thousand bars and strip joints and sex shops before it. Nothing Fusco hasn’t seen before.

OK, so the human-sized birdcages scattered throughout the room are new.

“I guess I don’t get it.” They’re standing in front of one of the cages like it’s an exhibit at a museum, fingers still interlaced. “What do you even do in there?”

“You don’t have to get it, Lionel.” Reese stares straight through the bars, watching Edie as she chats animatedly to a couple who flagged her down to ask questions about what looks to Fusco like a medical table from a horror movie.

“I know. Just making conversation.” Fusco lets his head loll against Reese’s shoulder, carefully catalogues the way his muscles lock up for just a second. “Relax, Frankenstein. Aren’t we supposed to be a couple?”

Softly, he asks, “Does that bother you, Lionel?”

Fusco’s brow furrows. “No. It’s the job. Does it bother you ?”

“If it did,” Reese says, “I wouldn’t have asked for your help with this.” He falls silent then, as if that settles everything.

“So, what’s the problem?”

The dry click of Reese’s throat swallowing is the loudest sound. “They host classes here,” he says, very carefully. “Edie’s an instructor.”

A couple of things fall into place just then and suddenly this is about more than gawking at birdcages. “You want to get into her classes,” Fusco clarifies, “to keep an eye on her?”

Reese nods, thousand yard stare aimed across the room, as far from Fusco as possible. “If we’re going to fly under the radar, we might need to do more than hold hands.”

There’s blood rushing in his ears when he asks, “How much more?”

Reese blinks down at him, like he expected flat denial and an argument, not negotiation. Fusco expected that too. He feels like he has to shrug, like it’s not important. “Figured it wouldn’t be worth you asking me special if there wasn’t a chance we’d have to do more than exchange Valentines. There’s some things I’m prepared to do and some things I’m not prepared to do. Lay it out for me.”

“They can’t make you take your clothes off,” Reese says, right away. It’s meant to be reassuring, and Fusco guesses it kind of is. “Or have sex. I might have to tie you up or...or hurt you a little. During the classes. There might not always be time to talk it over first.”

Fusco raises his eyebrows. “ You might have to hurt me a little.”

Reese cocks his head to one side.

You might have to tie me up.”

Reese shrugs as if to say, “ Of course .”

Fusco wonders if he should make this his hill to die on, like Oh no, pal, if one of us is getting beaten up for sex, it better be you , but something about Reese’s face makes him stop. Something about how his cool, calm certainty is betrayed by a quavering hand hidden in his pocket, and suddenly the game isn’t as fun anymore. “Sounds like business as usual to me.” Fusco cracks his neck. “This’ll save somebody’s life?”

“Somebody’s,” Reese agrees. He always hedges around stuff like that and Fusco’s beginning to think Reese never knows who’s the one in trouble or who’s the one causing trouble. He just knows he has to keep an eye on somebody and makes the rest up as he goes along. Which makes it a little harder to be afraid of him.

Fusco exhales. “If this all ends up being about the programming stuff,” he says, “and not this , I’m gonna be pissed.”

The corner of Reese’s mouth twitches, which is as close as Reese comes to laughing, most days. He catches Edie’s eye, waves her over. Lets his other hand come to rest on Lionel’s lower back, quietly possessive.

They introduce themselves - John and Lionel, no last names, and no one will ask for them because that’s not how they do things in places like this - and Edie shakes their hands, smiles up at their faces, listens thoughtfully.

“We’re new to this kinda thing,” explains Fusco. His face is hot, but he figures it would be anyway.

“We saw that you host classes?” Reese prompts.

She nods enthusiastically. “Absolutely. What do you think you guys would be interested in?”

Reese smiles wolfishly. “What do you have?”

 


 

“You’ll be fine,” Reese whispers to him as he drapes the rope around Fusco’s neck.

Fusco, standing there in his undershirt (a newer one, thank fuck) and boxers (also clean, also thank fuck), does not feel fine. He feels like when Edie asked who in each pair would do the tying up, Reese’s hand shot towards the ceiling in a blur and he just stood there in shock because he’s the idiot who didn’t argue when Reese said he’d be the one doing the tying up, and now he’s in this terrible situation.

Edie had suggested that they could start their ropework session with a hug if they wanted to . Fusco opted out and Reese, not wanting to get punched in the kidneys, respected that. If you can call it respect.

“OK,” Edie says, oblivious to the power struggle going on in the back of the room, “you’re going to make sure the center of the rope is right at your partner’s neck and that the two ends are of equal length.”

Reese adjusts the rope a little and it slides, silky and synthetic, against the nape of Fusco’s neck. Fusco shivers.

“You’re now going to twist the rope three times. The twists should be along the sternum - on the chest here - and nowhere near your partner’s throat.”

Reese twists the rope with a kind of eerie efficiency that suggested the rope could be up against Fusco’s throat in a flash, before he could even call for help.

“Well,” Fusco hisses. “There she is. I’m sure there’s no other way we could’ve kept an eye on her.”

Reese’s lip twitches. He leans in - “Second thoughts, Lionel?” - and his voice is so soft Fusco almost can’t hear what he’s saying, has to piece it together from how Reese’s breath puffs warm against his ear.

“You’re way behind. I’m on eighth thoughts at this point .”

Reese shushes him, strokes his arm as if he’s soothing his nervous boyfriend and not trying to shut up his mouthy partner. He retwists the rope and Fusco realizes he’s probably not doing it on purpose, the scary, efficient way Reese uses the rope. That’s just now he is, how his hands are. Reese gives Fusco a final pat on the arm before sinking to his knees to pass the two ends of the rope between Fusco’s legs. And yeah, cover or no cover, Fusco tenses up. It’s easy to play it cool about this kind of thing when you’re planning it out and a whole other thing when rope and your partner’s rough, scarred knuckles are brushing against the inside of your thighs. Fusco takes a deep breath. They’re supposed to be a couple, he reminds himself. They’re supposed to like each other. This is supposed to be...what, reaffirming trust? Trying new things? Whatever makes you look for a place like this, when it’s all boiled down. It’s easy enough to fake, Fusco knows. Just pretend that you love him.

It takes less pretending than he’d like.

It’s a hell of a thing. Reese has been nothing but a pain in the ass since Fusco met him. At best , a pain in the ass. At worst, the living specter of death. Even now, Reese is a headache half the time, missing the other half.

Except for when he’s neither. Except for when Fusco tries to make him laugh and succeeds in getting a half-smile, a hairline crack in the veneer. Except for when he catches Reese looking at him wet-eyed, all proud. Except for when Reese saves him, over and over again. Except for when Reese brings him coffee in the mornings, unexpected because Fusco never asked.

It’s a lot of except.  

Reese brings the two ends of the rope over Fusco’s hips and through either side of the lowest twist and gradually, gently draws them tight. He feels the rope push up against the cleft of his ass, feels a diamond drawn in rope appear on his stomach, and for a second all he can hear is his heartbeat in his own ears.

“You guys are all doing great,” Edie says from the front of the room.

Reese stands up and gives Fusco this very careful up-and-down look, checking his work. His ears are touched with pink. “OK?” he asks, too soft again. “Not tight?”

Fusco swallows. “No. You’re good.”

Reese steps very close to him, puts his arms around Fusco to guide the ropes around his back and around to the front again, through the second loop with a kind of calm, quiet skill. Shoulda gone with the hug , Fusco thinks suddenly. If he’d gone with the hug, it would’ve broken that barrier right up front and he wouldn’t be thinking about how their chests are almost flush. He wonders if Reese is thinking that, but Reese has his eyes lowered, obscured by his eyelashes. And now Fusco’s mad that he noticed Reese has eyelashes .

Reese keeps on looping, weaving the harness around Fusco. It’s not the worst thing, probably. If he wanted to, for example, punch Reese in the jaw and make a break for it, he could do that. There’s no rope stopping him from doing that, nothing but trust and social graces. Those are maybe holding him faster than any rope could. The rope doesn’t even hold him all that tight, it’s just shaping him in some places, outlining him in others, snaking around his body.

The rope crosses his upper back, his chest, and Reese brings it back around under his arms and up through where it’s looped around the nape of Fusco’s neck and “...That’s the karada!” Edie says. “If we were stopping here, I’d tell you to wrap the loose ends of your rope around one of the loops across the back. It has the added bonus of creating some handles for you to use to pull your partner wherever you want them to be.”

Reese flicks the loose end of the rope dangerously because, of course, they are not stopping there.

“OK, tied-up people, how are we doing?”

“Good!” is the chorus and Reese gently nudges Fusco’s calf with his foot so he remembers to say “Good,” too, although he’s not sure he is good. He’s not bad . He’s fine. The rope doesn’t hurt or burn, it’s just a steady pressure, it’s just a thing that pulls and tugs when he shifts his weight, it’s just a thing that makes him want to stand up straight, shoulders back, chest out, it’s just a thing that plucks at his thin shirt, his thinner underwear. It’s just that Reese keeps looking at him funny, eyes dark.

“I’m gonna step out for a second,” she says, “and give you guys a moment to explore and enjoy the karada on its own. Figure out if you like it, if you want to incorporate it in your play at home. I’ll be right back.” She walks out, fumbling at the pocket of her long, shapeless black cardigan.

To their left, a guy pushes his tied-up girlfriend onto her knees real slow and on their left, a woman leans against her tied-up boyfriend purring, “Put your hands behind your back,” and Fusco’s wondering what the fuck exploring means as far as him and Reese go when Reese wheels him around, pulls him close, face to face.

“You should see yourself,” he purrs, voice all heady and thick.

“What?”

Reese seizes him by the harness and pulls him close, pushes his face up against Fusco’s throat all hungry. “She took her phone,” he whispers. “I need to clone it. Let me pull you over to the mirror next to the door.”

Oh. That makes more sense. Fusco nods, breathing hard. He doesn’t fight as Reese marches him backwards, moving so fast that eventually it’s easier to just let his heels drag on the floor, to be amazed at how the rope harness redistributes all his weight and makes him portable, a thing Reese can carry around like a bitchy handbag . Reese whirls him around, makes Fusco face his own reflection.

He’s amazed at how much he doesn’t want to see it. With him, shame’s an atmospheric thing. Like smog. Like acid rain. This should be nothing. But Fusco can’t bear to see himself like this, vulnerable, cracked open, tied up for Reese like a present. It’s not a level of being owned that he’s willing to admit to.

Reese purrs in his ear, “Look,” and he lifts his head slowly, painfully.

It’s not the worst thing he’s ever seen. It’s just himself, wrapped in rope, standing straighter and taller than he thought he would be, with Reese’s hand on his shoulder. Reese’s other hand is at his hip, fiddling with his phone.

If they’re looking at us, he thinks - and they’re not - they probably think Reese is touching himself. They probably think he’s so desperate, so fucking horned up to have me tied up for him in front of this mirror that he’s rubbing his cock up against my ass, desperate for friction and for touch.

They think Reese has shitty taste in guys.

His face is burning. His eyes flick, nervous, to the tiny window in the door of the classroom to watch Edie pace back and forth, the black and faded flamingo-pink blur. Except she’s not walking. She’s standing there, looking right at him, eyes puffy and red-rimmed. Immediately, she ducks away.

It gives his brain whiplash, almost. Fusco cranes his head back, whispers in Reese’s ear, “I think she’s crying.”

Reese spins him around, traps him between the cool glass of the mirror and Reese’s warm, hard body. “You’re sure?” he whispers, their faces millimeters apart.

“You think some poor janitor wants to clean my assprint off this mirror? And yes, I’m sure. She looked right at me.”

“You’re wearing boxers. It’s fine,” Reese says, pushing him harder against the mirror and leaning in so the tip of his nose grazes Fusco’s cheek. “Do you think she saw what I was doing?”

“Dunno,” he whispers. “She ducked away, but that could’ve been just because I saw her crying. Give her a couple more seconds before you chase her down.”

“A couple more seconds could mean everything if she’s making a break for it.”

“She’s not,” Fusco breathes. “She’s coming back.”

The classroom door creaks open and Edie strolls in, eyes still a little puffy and pink, but not so much that you’d say something. “How’s it going, everybody?”

“Good” is the chorus again, with the odd “Awesome” thrown in.

“Great! Ready to keep going?”

Everyone is ready to keep going.

Edie makes Reese and the rest of the people who aren’t tied up go get cushions from a closet for their partners to kneel on, and there’s something about Reese positioning the pillow on the floor in front of him and guiding him down onto it that isn’t the worst thing in the world.

What is maybe the worst thing in the world is the pressure on his busted-ass fat guy knees, even with the cushion. Fusco lets his eyes drift ceilingward, takes a deep breath. OK, he can handle this. He withstood torture.

At the front of the room, Edie uses a volunteer to demonstrate something called a frog tie, where you tie somebody’s thighs to their ankles so they’re just kneeling there, stuck, and you can do whatever you want to them. That’s the idea, anyway. In a sense, this is less scary than the harness. The harness was fraught and exciting and new in a way he can’t quite trust. This is just gonna suck.

Still. He’s a tough guy, and the first part is just standing still with his legs parted, shivering while Reese ties the loose ends of the rope in snug loops high up around his thighs. Fusco’s kinda hoping he can stick it out, that enough of it will be done standing up that a few minutes of kneeling won’t matter, but then Edie says “OK, kneel on your cushions,” and Fusco knows he’s about to spend fifteen minutes minimum stuck on his knees, aching and sweating.

Reese is half-sweet as he lowers Fusco back to the cushion again, on his knees in front of Fusco and staring at him with a weird kind of heat. He goes about following Edie’s instructions with a quiet kind of intensity, totally absorbed as he nudges Fusco’s legs into position and begins winding the ends of the rope around his ankles, weaving his legs into a permanent kneel.

“If the pressure is a little too much, you can lean forward on your hands,” Edie says, and Fusco practically falls, palms slapping against the floor. It’s a little better. Not so direct. Reese touches his back, a small acknowledgement.

In the absence of anything to do other than kneel and wait, he watches Reese. Reese has an ease with this sort of thing. Fusco guesses ever since they met, Reese never really had a problem taking hold of Fusco and dragging him wherever he wanted him, so this is just that in miniature, hyper-detailed. But there are these hints of shyness to it too, kinda like when Reese touches him in small ways, when Reese deliberately grazes their fingers together as he passes Fusco a file and then can’t quite bear to look at him afterwards, like he’s ashamed, like he stole something.

Reese pulls the rope slightly tighter and Fusco feels his own heels digging into the backs of his thighs, just under his ass. “Sit up,” Reese says in his ear.

Fusco obliges, suppresses a tiny groan. The ropes pull, dig in, tug at him. He feels posed like a pinup, on display.

Reese is touching his back. Trying to be comforting, Fusco thinks at first, but there’s something about the way his palms slide heavy and warm down the curve of his spine, the way his fingers trace the shapes drawn by ropes on Fusco’s body. His hand comes to a chaste, fraught stop on Fusco’s tailbone, directly above his ass. It rests, tense, for a few long seconds before being snatched away.

Reese moves around to face him, surveying his handiwork with quiet interest. “Everything feel OK?” Reese asks.

Fusco nods.

“Not too tight?” and Fusco’s about to nod to that too when Reese casually slips two fingers beneath the ropes on his thigh, testing. “You’re OK,” Reese says, soft and eerily assured. His fingers curl, snag very slightly on the bottom edge of Fusco’s boxers.

Edie’s still talking, giving more instructions or maybe advice about the kind of things you could do to somebody who’s tied up like this, somebody helpless, but all he can hear is his own breath, his own heartbeat, deafeningly loud. He’s sweating. Because he’s in a room filled with people and it’s warm. Because Reese is so close to him and it’s warm.

Because Reese is so close to him.

That’s when the cramp spikes, braiding his knee and his calf and the sole of his foot into a tangled knot of sharp pain. His shoulders drop, head knocks into Reese’s shoulder as he sinks towards the floor, as he puts every ounce of weight he can on his hands, as he tries, pathetically, to straighten his leg.

But Reese knows his way around a knot.

“Lionel,” Reese hisses in his ear, “what’s wrong?”

He groans, tries to kick his way out of the bind, but Reese puts his hands on him, holds him still.

“Lionel,” he says again, voice low and dark like a warning. His fingers curl against the nape of Fusco’s neck.

He tries to explain, just snarls, “Cramp,” through his teeth, but he guesses that’s enough because Reese grabs him by the ropes and casually flips him onto his back so Lionel’s lying there staring at the ceiling, breath knocked out of him, high on adrenaline, on relief.

“Which leg hurts?” Reese asks, softly.

“John?” says Edie from the front of the room, voice still bright, now lightly stained with fear. “Is that a knife?”

“What are you doing ?” Fusco doesn’t get a chance to say because Reese makes a few choice slices with a pocketknife and the ropes fall loose. Reese forces Fusco’s legs out straight and props them up on his shoulders, digs his fingers into Fusco’s too-tight hamstrings.

“Which leg hurts?” Reese asks again.

Fusco’s too busy squirming on the floor as Reese gives him the most painful leg massage of all time to respond or to pay too much attention to Edie as she bears down on them, purposeful, a little bit fearful.

“Why is there a knife in my classroom ?” she asks.

Because he’s a fucking idiot ,” Fusco grits between his teeth, hands pressing at his temples.

“I always have it,” Reese says, soft and chastened. He takes a break from clawing at the back of Fusco’s legs to pick the switchblade knife up off the floor, snap it closed, and tuck it back into his sock, where Fusco now knows Reese keeps a knife. “I didn’t think. I’m sorry. I can pay for the rope.”

“John…” Edie has the patient voice of a saint, the edge of someone with a finger that itches to dial 911. “The rope isn’t the point.”

“You’re right.” John matches her for gentleness. Fusco spent so much time being afraid of him he forgets that he can sound like that sometimes . “I know that must have...frightened people and I’m very sorry for that. I didn’t think about that; I just wanted Lionel to stop hurting.” Reese rests his hand on Lionel’s shin, steady and warm.

Her voice is firm enough to not be rocked by the quaver at its edges. “I don’t want to see it ever again.”

“You won’t,” Reese says. “I promise.”

Reese plays the role of the compassionate boyfriend for the rest of class, makes Fusco lie on his back, head pillowed on the cushion, while Reese rubs all the tension out of his legs. Now the situation is less urgent, Reese’s grip gets a little less vise-like and if you held a gun to his head, Fusco might admit that it actually feels pretty good.

If you held a gun to his head, Fusco would never admit that this is the most anybody’s touched him in a while.

Reese makes eyes at Edie like a shamed dog for about fifteen minutes before she takes a moment to crouch down by Fusco.

“Are you OK, Lionel? Sorry, I just realized I never asked.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he says, as nonchalant as he’s capable of being while horizontal. “It was a cramp. This one’s just overprotective.” He tries to pat the back of Reese’s hand in a tolerant, reassuring kind of way and is surprised when Reese takes his hand instead, gives it a little squeeze.

Her brow crinkles. “The frog tie is really hard on knees,” she says. “Can I show you a two-column weave instead? It’s really versatile. I can demo it on just your forearms.”

Reese looks to him for permission and Fusco’s inclination is to think it’s a little bit of show, a way to reassure this nice lady that everything that’s happening is above-board and nobody’s here just because they’re spying on her. He’d be inclined to think that, but there’s too much pleading in Reese’s look, too much eagerness.

Fusco sits cross-legged and holds very still as Edie makes a loop with one severed half of a rope and loops it around his wrist, makes another loop and winds it around his other wrist. From there it’s a braid traveling down the length of his forearms, secure, glistening. After a few more twists, she lets Reese take over. He sinks to his knees in front of Fusco, eyes aglow with a dark, eerie heat as he copies Edie’s movements with care.

“The cool thing about the two-column,” Edie enthuses as she adjusts Reese’s ropework, “is that you can pretty much use it to tie anything to anything. Arm to arm, arm to leg, leg to leg, arm or leg to bedpost. You get it.”

“I get it,” Fusco answers, numbly.

Reese ties the final knot, just above his elbows, and sits back on his heels, a portrait of satisfaction.

“I get it,” Fusco repeats, eyes on Reese.

 


 

“Your knees are OK?” Reese asks as they’re walking out, blinking in the glow of the afternoon sun.

Fusco winces. “Yeah. Just ache a little. I’ll be fine. What’s not fine is you whipping a knife out in front of her. What were you thinking? We coulda got kicked out.”

“We didn’t.” Reese bows his head, studies cracks in the sidewalk. “I wish you said something earlier. About your legs hurting.”

He shrugs. “It was for the cover.”

“You didn’t break cover. People get leg cramps.”

“Just figured the less attention we got, the better. I can take it.”

Reese grabs Fusco by the elbow. “This isn’t about what you can take.”

He says it a little too loudly, a little too tensely, and they’re just standing still, staring each other down on the sidewalk less than a block away from a BDSM club.

Reese gives his elbow a hard pinch, lets him go just as they reach the car.

And then Fusco drives them back to work.

And it’s almost a normal day after that, almost, except for the moment where Fusco’s at his desk, jacket draped over the back of his chair, sleeves rolled up, filling out all the paperwork Reese can’t be bothered to do and Reese is pacing nearby, furtively whispering into his phone, and Fusco thinks maybe he can move on with his life, maybe he can recover from this, when Reese pauses beside him.

His fingers graze Fusco’s forearm, trace sleepily over the grooves, the pinkish tire treads that rope pushed into Fusco’s skin.

“Mmhm,” Reese says, absently into the phone as he gets to work unrolling Fusco’s sleeves, covering up his work. “I’ll get right on that, Finch.”

 


 

Fusco doesn’t think about the fact that he’s stood up under torture all that often. It’s an ugly set of hours in his life, a blur of pain and grief. He doesn’t get much out of ruminating on that.

For the second time in one week, he thinks in a fat, loud, neon sign shriek, “I. Withstood. Torture.”

So he can withstand this.

Lying on his stomach across Reese’s lap, he doesn’t feel so sure. Edie is encouraging them to try to find a position that “works for them”, to get cushions from the closet if they need them. No need, Reese went and got one for him before they even got into position, pushed it under Fusco’s knees with a kind of emasculating deference. Now he’s rubbing tiny circles on the bare strip of skin between where the waistband of Fusco’s boxers sit and where his t-shirt is riding up.

“OK?” Reese asks.

Fusco digs his fingers hard into Reese’s thigh.

“I know it’s really tempting to dive right in,” Edie’s saying to them, “but please, please take it slow. Even though it’s just your hand. It might seem like overkill, but make sure you have a first aid kit nearby. Don’t do any of this if you’re on blood thinners, even Aspirin . Don’t strike anywhere near the spine and, while you’re still beginners, stick to areas of the body that are fatty or muscly or generally kinda soft, like the butt and thighs. It might feel really silly, but if you’re not confident in your aim, you can practice on a pillow. And goes without saying, but: pay attention to your partner. Listen. Communicate. Work together to have a good time. OK, let’s do some warm-ups.”

“Perfectly safe,” Fusco hisses.

Reese leans in, breathes against the back of his neck. “Are you on blood thinners?”

“I wish,” he snarls, and then he chokes on air because Edie is talking about how it’s important to warm up before impact play by rubbing and tickling the skin to increase adrenaline and blood flow and Reese is just...doing it. Reese has his hand on Fusco’s ass and is rubbing slow circles through his underwear, occasionally pausing to give him a firm squeeze.

“OK?” Reese asks again.

Fusco can’t really move or talk. Reese gently tickles at the backs of Fusco’s thighs with his fingernails.

“Are you?” Reese asks. And then, “We can say you took Aspirin today. If you can’t.”

Fusco thought about that for a second when Edie mentioned it. It’s an easy get-out-of-jail-free card. It’s believable. He doesn’t have to lay here and let Reese punish him like he’s a fucking kid, they can just sit it out or do some other thing, like when Fusco’s leg cramped up. He doesn’t have to do this.

Reese gives him a light swat on the ass and Fusco jumps. He goes back to rubbing gently at Fusco’s ass, other hand now rubbing a circle between his shoulder blades, trying to soothe him all over. “Lionel,” he whispers. “Do we need to stop?”

He’s been spanked before, for the record. Not like this, for sure, but when he was a kid...well, that’s what people did with kids back then. You talked smart, you broke rules, you got hit. If it was just on your ass, you were lucky.

This isn’t the worst thing he’s felt, not by a long shot. It’s not even as bad as the leg cramp at the last class. If they need to keep an eye on Edie, if they need to stay in class to do that, it’s not the worst thing Fusco’s ever put up with. It’s not even the worst thing Fusco’s put up with from Reese.

“Just play along,” Fusco mutters.

Reese pats his lower back in a friendly kind of way. “Tell me if you need a break,” he murmurs.

The next few slaps that land on Fusco’s ass are light, a tease almost. A brief, nipping sting followed by the gentle, roving pressure of Reese’s hands, textured and calloused up. This man shot you in the back five times , Fusco thinks to himself. This is nothing .

The slap that follows sings through the air, makes him yelp in surprise, makes his legs jerk. Another one, just as hard, and the sharp crack of impact doesn’t quite drown out Fusco growling, “Son of a bitch,” into the floor.

“Too hard?” Reese asks, innocently.

“You smug motherfucker, I…” The air gets knocked out of him by another slap and he twists, groaning. Reese calmly wrestles him back into place, gives him another sharp smack for good measure.

“Do you want me to keep going?” Reese purrs.

Fusco bows his head until his forehead touches the floor. “Fuck you.”

And that’s when Reese really starts to lay into him, a rain of hard, sharp smacks on the ass over and over and fast , faster than he expects every time and he’s writhing, he can feel his legs kicking against the floor, feel himself squirming around fruitlessly, pinned under Reese’s arm, hears himself swearing a blue streak for every blow landed.

And just as suddenly, it stops. He’s panting, head resting on his arms, trying to get himself together enough to call Reese nine new expletives he came up with just now while Reese traces lazy, gentle circles on his ass with his fingertips.

Fusco realizes in a halting, half-awake way that he’s hard as a rock against Reese’s thigh. He tries to jerk away, lift his hips, but Reese is leaning on him, using him like a lap desk as he listens to the rest of Edie’s lesson.

“...Take this opportunity to get a little play in outside of normal club hours. If you want, you can come up, pick out some beginner’s gear to try out and just mess around for like 30 minutes.”

Fusco feels like his throat is closing up. He can’t go up there and stand by Reese’s side and choose the thing that Reese hits him with, not with his dick still hard. He just can’t. So it’s almost a relief when Reese lets him up and whispers in his ear, “I’ll take care of it. Go find a quiet place and wait for me there.” Fusco walks off gratefully, as fast as he can, his ass stinging.

There are more quiet places in the dungeon than he thought. There’s a lot of visual noise, a lot of stripper poles and cages and mysterious apparatus, so it’s hard to see the dark corners, but if you look hard, you can usually see a flat, leather bench somewhere, tucked in a corner, half-private. Fusco hits the jackpot when he finds the private rooms, which are about as big as walk-in closets, equipped with low, leather-wrapped beds and little else. Fusco ducks into the first one he comes to and flops onto the bed with a whine.

His ass is killing him, his dick is still painfully, embarrassingly hard, and he’s so much in need of a break that he’ll even lay here, on this bed where strangers do who-the-fuck-knows-what.

Maybe Reese won’t find him, he thinks hopefully.

Fusco rolls onto his back in spite of the pain in his ass and blinks up at the pipes overhead, the straps and s-rings and d-rings and carabiners glittering in the low neon light. For suspension, he guesses. So you can tie people up and hang them from the ceiling and do...well, whatever. He wouldn’t have known that a couple days ago. He groans, presses the heels of his hands against his eyes, and breathes deep and slow while thinking about the paperwork he has to do and the dishes in the sink at home and anything boring until his erection flags and dissipates.

Maybe Reese didn’t notice, he thinks, still kinda hopeful.

It’s not fair. He never wanted this kind of thing before, never even liked the idea of it. He doesn’t really like this kind of thing now . Why’d he have to start liking it while undercover with Mr. Tall, Dark, and Douchebag?

It’s all his fault.

The door creaks open. Cue Mr. Tall, Dark, and Douchebag, whose fault this is, hands full of a loose collection of things that swing and glint and tangle in the dark. “How’s your ass?” he asks, casually.

Fusco sits up with a wince. “I’ll live.”

“I’m sorry about that,” he says, softly.

“I bet you are.” Fusco inclines his head at the whatever-it-is in John’s arms. “What’s all that?”

“Stuff I’m supposed to use on you,” Reese says, tossing it carelessly at the foot of the bed. “Want an update on the case?”

“Sure.” It’s baffling that Reese can be back to business seconds after spanking Fusco’s ass raw. “Lay it on me.”

Reese sits down beside him. “Finch says Edie’s job looks clean. She handles sensitive information on behalf of her company, but not that sensitive. The company she works for is clean too. It’s all boring and above-board.”

Fusco isn’t sure whether to be relieved that what he’s putting himself through now isn’t for nothing or angry that he can’t just wrap it up and go home and sprawl exhausted on his own bed instead of this weird sex bed. “...But?” he prompts.

“She has an ex-boyfriend.” Reese begins sorting through his equipment, disentangling it and laying it out on the bed. “They broke up a few months ago. It wasn’t mutual.”

“So, you’re looking at that guy?”

“Looking for him,” Reese corrects as he wrestles with the buckle on a soft cuff meant for a wrist or an ankle. “We can’t find him.”

“That’s not like you. Or not like Glasses, more like.”

Reese cracks a thin smile as he attaches two cuffs together. “When Edie kicked him out after the break-up, he had nowhere to go. Since then, he’s been in the wind. Couch-surfing with friends and family sometimes. Give me your hands?”

He says it so calmly, so casually, and Fusco’s been doing nothing but what Reese says for the past hour, sarcasm aside. There’s a spark, a nervous little thrill as he holds his hands out to Reese, who busily sets about buckling the soft padded cuffs around his wrists.

“Finch intercepted some texts and emails from Edie’s friends,” Reese continues, eyes on his work. “He’s been resurfacing every so often, stalking her. But nobody knows where he lives.”

Fusco thinks about Edie crying outside the classroom. “Yeah,” he says. “That might make me upset.”

Reese takes each of Fusco’s hands in his own and tries to pull them apart, but the cuffs hold firm. He nods in satisfaction. “Ankles?”

Fusco lifts his legs up onto the bed and Reese starts cuffing those too. “She’s moved since the break-up,” he says, “to get away from him. Security on her new apartment building is good; even I’ve been having trouble keeping an eye on her while she’s in there. The security on her electronics is tight too. Finch was impressed. If he comes after her, it’ll be while she’s away from home. Probably at her work or here. Nobody’s allowed in Edie’s building without a pass and security knows to keep an eye out for him, so Finch and Shaw are there to watch over her during the day. He’s not allowed in the club either, but…”

“I get it,” Fusco says. “I saw the club’s open for business tomorrow night.”

“And the night after,” Reese says, snapping the cuffs together all satisfied.

“So we’ll need to be there,” Fusco says, “in case this creep shows up.”

Reese nods.

Fusco is sitting half-undressed on a bed, bound hand and foot, next to a guy he once swore he would kill. His heart is pounding. He isn’t scared.

“Fine,” Fusco says. “If we need to be there, we’ll be there. We’ve come this far.”

“Do you want to keep going?” Reese asks.

Fusco shifts a little, trying to get comfortable. “What’d I just say?”

“Do you want,” Reese repeats, lifting up a shiny, orange ball gag by its black harness, “to keep going?”

His heart thuds.

“Edie asked what I was looking for,” he said. “I told her I thought you were swearing too much. She said to try this. Can you snap your fingers?”

Fusco sits very still, staring at him. He braces his thumb against the pad of his middle finger and neatly, easily snaps.

“Good,” Reese says. “Since you won’t be able to talk, you should do that instead of a safeword. If you want to stop or if your leg starts cramping up again or if you just have something you want to tell me.” He pauses. “Everything alright?”

Fusco’s just listening to the blood pounding in his ears, afraid to move because he’s pretty sure he’s shaking, just thinking, We’re alone, nobody can see us, we don’t have to play along.

This isn’t for the mission.

“If everything’s alright,” Reese says, “snap your fingers.”

Fusco’s fingers almost seem to snap on their own.

“OK,” Reese says. “Open your mouth. Don’t worry, it’s new.”

The ball gag has an acrid, plastic taste. Fusco thought it might be hard to breathe around, but it’s easier, smaller than expected.

“Can you talk at all?” Reese asks as he buckles the gag around Fusco's head.

“‘O fuk ufef.”

Reese takes Fusco's face in his hands, traces his cheeks, his lips stretched around the gag. “You’re a work in progress, Lionel. But you’ll get there.” Reese pats his own lap. “Come here.”

Fusco stays right where he is in his pose of forced primness, wrists and ankles together, scowling.

Reese’s eyes take on this mean little glint. “I can make you come here, if that’s what you need.”

I’m gonna have to fight him, Fusco thinks, but he stays right where he is, unmoving, fingers unsnapped.

Reese’s arm snaps out, grabs him by the nape of the neck, and drags him headlong, squirming across Reese’s lap. He’s pinned in seconds and Reese slaps him breathtakingly hard on the ass, follows it up with some rubbing and tickling as Fusco kicks uselessly with his bound feet.

“There we go,” Reese sighs, grabbing a handful of Fusco’s ass and squeezing. “Struggle as much as you need to. Can you snap your fingers for me once, just to show you can?”

Snap.

“Atta boy, Lionel.” He stops squeezing, begins tracing his fingers up and down the length of Lionel’s spine. “I have a couple of questions for you. You listening?”

Snap.

“Edie gave me a paddle to use on you. Are you OK trying that out?”

Snap.

“Thanks.” Reese plucks gently at the waistband of Fusco’s boxers. “These are getting in my way. Can I pull these down?”

Fusco feels the back of his neck start burning, his ears turn bright red. He closes his eyes tight.

Snap.

He can hear Reese’s breath catch. He feels the elastic tugged and lifted, feels his underwear yanked down around his thighs, feels the fabric rub against his erection where it’s pressed against Reese’s leg again, throbbing and unignorable.

“Oh,” Reese breathes. His fingertips gently brush against the skin of Fusco’s bare ass, traveling in little whorls and along the paths of pink handprints. “Wow, I really got you.”

“Hope you’re happy,” Fusco tries to say around the gag but it comes out like nothing, a series of muffled sounds.

The slaps on the ass that follow are the light, stinging kind, almost gentle, but against bare skin, they make Fusco twitch and cry out. And he is crying out. He can’t swear. He can’t close his mouth to groan against gritted teeth or tight-pressed lips. The sounds he makes have nowhere to go but out. Each slap forces an exhalation, a tiny yelp.

“OK,” Reese says, and before Fusco can ask what’s OK about any of this, there’s a brush of something smooth and cool and soft across his ass. Not slapping, just gliding calmly. “Get you all warmed up,” Reese murmurs, voice thick.

At first, it’s just tapping, just enough to bring blood to the surface of his skin and make him flushed and sensitive all over. It’s almost methodical, the way Reese taps every inch of exposed skin from the bottom of Fusco’s tailbone to the backs of his thighs. He tries wriggling a little and Reese only pins him by the nape of his neck, tender and confident. “Stay.”

And then Reese sets the paddle aside and picks up his phone.

“Are you shitting me?” Fusco tries to say. It doesn’t really come out, but Reese seems to get the gist.

“Shh,” he says, scratching a lazy, soothing track on the back of Fusco’s head with his free hand. “I just want to...there.”

He sets the phone down beside him so Fusco can see the screen. It’s the timer, counting down from ten minutes.

“Figure that’s enough,” Reese says. “Ten minutes. Leaves five afterwards where you can rest before we go back to class. Sound like a plan?”

Helplessly, silently, Fusco nods.

And just like that, Reese lays into him. The first blow knocks the air out of him and he never quite regains it. He's lying there, gasping, face buried in the bed when the next blow falls. It's a sharp, vicious slap and it rattles him, jolts him in Reese's grip. He tries to push himself up on his hands and knees, finds himself forced back down on his belly, slapped again for good measure. He fights bitterly, angrily, swearing against the gag, and twisting his wrists and ankles, trying to wriggle free, but Reese holds him with a calm, an inexorable ease, and Fusco realizes he’ll only get away if he asks, if he snaps his fingers.

The seconds drip by slow, like honey, and he seems to slide out of himself.

He’s aware of a few things, distantly, academically. He’s lifting up his hips, accepting, overeager, leaning into every strike. His painfully hard cock brushes against Reese’s thigh with each jolt his body makes, each shudder. He's so loud . Fusco almost doesn't recognize his own voice, distorted by the gag, ragged with pain and want. He wants Reese to stop up his ears too so he can't hear himself like this; he wants Reese to keep hitting him.

He hasn't felt cleanly, inescapably owned like this since he broke with HR. His fingers scramble for purchase against the leather, unsnapped. He slips into this space that’s outside of pain, outside of how desperate he is to be touched, outside of the seconds ticking by on the clock, someplace euphoric and bone white.

He comes back to himself to find that he's limp and pliable. Reese is stroking the nape of his neck.

“I have a few more minutes left,” Reese murmurs.

He knew that. The clock never stopped, he never stopped watching it, it just stopped mattering at some point. All he’s wondering is why Reese would stop before the time ran out.

Reese pats him on the ass, real gentle. “Do you mind...?”

Fusco rests his cheek on the bed, finds it’s wet with tears, that he’s been drooling around the gag. He feels drained, cleansed, like he could sleep for a thousand years. He nods. He’s not sure what he’s agreeing to, not exactly.

Reese lets his fingers glide over Fusco’s abused, oversensitive flesh, making soft sounds from time to time that could be a weird kind of sympathy or could be professional satisfaction. Fusco’s not quite sure. What he is sure about is the spot where Reese’s fingertips come to rest. Knows it because of the doctor’s appointments and the jokes and the way the scar tissue created a little dip in the flesh, twisting and puckering. His literal pain in the ass.

“Don’t take this the wrong way, Lionel,” Reese says as he traces the shape of the scar, “but this is your best feature.”

Fusco kicks out ineffectually, because it’s the only way he has to say, “I’m taking it the wrong way.”

“I have a lot of scars,” Reese says. “I’m not proud of most of them.”

That’s one thing they have in common. Fusco has taken his share of lumps - maybe more than his share - and a lot of the scars on his body come from shameful things or fearful things, but there’s something about the kind of scar you get jumping in front of a bullet that makes it feel like a badge of honor. If he didn’t have the gag in, Fusco might be in the sharing mood enough to tell Reese that he kept the bullet, that the doctor who dug that chunk of metal out of his ass cheek asked him off-hand if he wanted to keep it and he’d said, “Sure, why the hell not,” and he’s not sure what to do with it so he just kinda threw it in his bedside drawer and mostly he doesn’t think about it at all, but sometimes he’ll just open that drawer and watch the metal slug rattle around and yeah, he’ll feel proud of it.

But he does have the gag in, so.

Reese’s phone chimes. Time’s up. Reese stops right away, pulls Fusco’s underwear back up and unbuckles the gag.

“Do you want me to leave?” Reese asks as he undoes the cuffs from around Fusco’s wrists.

“No.” Fusco yawns, stretches his aching jaw. “You’re OK.”

 


 

Fusco goes back to work. Reese doesn’t. It’s like that, sometimes.

His instructions are to go back to work, carry on like nothing happened, and then meet Reese at the club later tonight. If Reese doesn’t show up, and Reese says this part like he might not show up, Fusco’s supposed to stick around anyway. Keep an eye on Edie.

It’s kind of a relief.

Fusco’s not really sure what he would have done if he’d had to go back with Reese, if he’d had to work across a desk from that man, pretend everything was normal. Pretend that a line Fusco didn’t even realize he’d been defending hadn’t been crossed, big time.

He can’t even sit down, for fuck’s sake.

So if Fusco has to hang out at the club alone for a while, get a club soda and a place to lean at the bar and tell anybody who tries to talk to him that he’s waiting for his partner, if he has to make sure that nice woman gets home safe tonight all on his own, well, that’s alright. That’s business as usual. He can handle that.

So he feels better than he thought he would, waiting on the sidewalk for the club to open up. Maybe a little underdressed. Some of these people are wearing full leather or full rubber or high-coverage coats with tellingly bare legs. He just swapped his suit out for jeans, t-shirt, leather jacket. Comfortably, anonymously basic. Comfortably, anonymously alone.

He checks his phone, checks the line, but there’s no sign of Reese or Edie. Edie’s probably in the club already. Fusco scoped it out earlier, spotted a few employee entrances and exits to worry about. He’s hoping security is OK. If they’re concerned with security here, they’ll have an eye on the entrances, they’ll be ready to send Edie’s dirtbag boyfriend on his way if he comes sniffing around. He’d like it if he could sip his drink and wait and have something like a night off for once.

The doors swing open, the line moves fast, and it’s IDs and membership chits out, it’s friendly eye contact with a bouncer who seems to know everybody ahead of him in line, and Fusco’s thinking this might turn out OK.

Some people hit the table of whips and paddles, some people hit the private rooms, most people hit each other, and Fusco hits the bar. He orders his club soda, posts up at one end of the bar, and starts scanning the room, for Edie, for the boyfriend. For Reese, although he’d rather not see him.

He’s about to get up and start making the rounds when Reese appears out of nowhere and yanks Fusco off his barstool, pushes him flat against the wall.

“Jesus Christ,” Fusco snaps, scowling up into Reese’s face. “Where the hell have you been?” And then, gentler, “Who gave you the shiner?”

The skin around Reese’s right eye is puffy and dark, hot under Fusco’s fingertips.

“Come on,” he says, softly, “who am I buying a beer?” He traces over the swollen skin under Reese’s eye, the sharp ridge of his cheekbone, and then Reese seizes his hand, wrenches it away.

“The boyfriend hired some people to corner Edie after work and hurt her. Not sure if the plan was to have them finish the job or if he was gonna swoop in and play hero. Either way, it’s taken care of.”

“Nice.” Fusco reclines against the wall, massaging the blood back into his fingers. “So, does that mean we’re done?”

Reese shakes his head. “I took care of the people he hired. We still can’t find him. Finch thinks he’s probably gonna come here. Have you seen Edie yet?”

He shakes his head. “I was about to go looking for her when you showed up.”

“Find her,” and suddenly the pressure of Reese is off him and he almost feels like he’s breathing fresh air. Fusco slips past Reese, on a mission.

It’s not good. It’s dark, it’s loud, it’s crowded. He’s hunting for a shock of pink hair, a high and perky voice, but Edie’s too short and the music pulses too hard for him to find either. But it’s OK. It’s fine. He just needs to be smart about it. Pick a corner, start from there, make quadrants and snake through, careful and orderly and checking twice and it’d be easier, it’d be fucking perfect if people couldn’t goddamn move around.

He’s seeing the same people over and over. He’s not seeing Edie.

Fusco’s phone starts to pulse in his pocket and he wrenches it out, hoping Reese found Edie and he can stand down.

It just says, “He’s here. Do you have her?”

Shit. He texts back, “No. Looking.” Fusco barrels his way toward the table of equipment, pastes a calm expression on his face, asks the guy with the facial piercings who’s renting out riding crops if Edie’s working tonight.

“Yeah,” says the guy.

“Do you know where she is?”

The guy fixes him with a stare and Fusco realizes that right now he’s the guy asking too many questions about a girl while she’s at work, he’s the creep, and he backs down.

“Ah, I’m sure you’re busy,” he says, stepping back from the table. “I’ll probably run into her. Thanks anyway!” and vanishes into the crowd.

It’s all shapes, all neons on skin, and he’s got this sickening pull in his stomach as he realizes how hopeless this is. It’s a small basement, yeah, a limited crowd, but it’s dark enough that a small person like Edie can vanish.

And if she has any clue what’s going on, she’s vanishing.

He darts past someone suspended artfully in the air, does a tight curve around a crowd clustered in an arc around an occupied sex swing, full-on shoulder-checks someone, and gets about halfway through his hastily-thrown apology before he realizes who it is.

“Edie, hey!” he says, brightening up. “Are you OK?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she says. “I didn’t know you were coming out tonight, Lionel! Is John with you?”

“Oh, he’s around.” His heart is still thudding, but cool and purposeful now. All he has to do is keep her talking. “We thought it was time to bite the bullet and show up during club hours, just to see what it’s like.”

“That’s great!” she says. There’s no way she knows what’s up, he thinks. Nobody could know what was happening and stay that perky. “I’m actually really surprised you’re here!”

“Really?”

“Yeah!” she says over a particularly loud burst of moaning from the sex swing. “Actually: can I talk to you for a second?”

Can she? “Sure, no problem!”

Wordlessly, she grabs him by the wrist and tows him toward one of the unoccupied private rooms. The silence once the door closes is shocking.

“Uuuuuuuuuugh.” Edie slumps on the bed, tugging at the front of her loose black dress. “It’s so loud and sweaty out there. I love volunteering here, but it can be a lot night after night, you know?”

“It is a lot,” Fusco admits. “Teach, did you...want to talk to me about something?”

Teach ,” she repeats, delighted. “Yeah, just for a second.” She pats the bed and he sits down beside her, uneasy. It’s not the one he and Reese were in earlier today. Somebody else is in there now, probably. “I wanted to, uh. Sorry if this is weird, but I wanted to ask if everything was OK with you and John.”

“...Me and John.”

“I don’t want to be in your business,” she says. “It’s just that I see a lot of couples come through here, and it’s not weird to see one partner be more into kink than the other. It’s pretty normal. But John just seems so intense and into what you two are doing together and sometimes you do too, but other times you seem really uncomfortable and kind of...I don’t know, maybe embarrassed or something?” She putters to a stop. “Sorry if this is off-base. It’s just that I don’t want anyone to be uncomfortable in my classes.”

“I...no. No, you’re not off-base. This has been kind of a weird week for me.”

She breathes this funny little sigh of relief. “Good weird or bad weird?” she asks.

“Couldn’t tell you.” Fusco sneaks a look at his watch, wonders how rude it would be to fire off a quick text to Reese mid-conversation. “I guess not bad.”

“Not bad isn’t good, though,” Edie points out. “What did you guys want when you joined the club and started taking classes?”

“I don’t...know.” A half-truth. “You’re gonna hate this, but we didn’t really talk about it.”

She winces. “Lionel, that’s a big decision to not talk about.”

“John’s not a big talker. And I’m not a straight-talker. Our whole...the entire time we’ve known each other, we’ve just been busting each other’s balls pretty much all the time. We don’t really talk about...serious shit.”

“Are you OK with that? John seems like he could be really tough to read.”

“To most people, I think he is.” Fusco leans in. “We knew each other pretty well before we started...doing this. I feel like I always kinda know what he’s thinking about or what he means.”

“Can I ask? Whose idea was it to start taking classes: his or yours?”

“His,” Fusco admits.

She nods thoughtfully. “And why do you think John wanted to come here?”

To save your life , Fusco can’t say. Then he thinks about Reese’s eyes, soft and dark as the rope wound around Fusco’s wrists, Reese’s questions over and over, begging for permission to tear into him, permission to stop. “I think he wanted to do this stuff to me,” Fusco says, slow and careful, “tie me up and stuff, but he wanted to make sure that I’d be OK with it and he could do it without hurting me. And he didn’t know how to ask me about that like a normal person, so he signed us up for a BDSM club instead.”

“Is that the kind of thing John usually does?”

“Uh huh,” Fusco says. “This is kinda tame, to be honest.”

“Do you feel like he trapped you into…?”

“I’m not trapped,” he says, firmly. “He gave me plenty of chances to say no or scale back what I was doing. The other piece of this, teach,” he says, as his phone vibrates in his pocket, as he just keeps talking, “the other piece is that some part of me is really uncomfortable with all this stuff, not because I don’t like it but because I do and I feel like I shouldn’t out of...pride, I guess. I feel like I should be too big a man to like this stuff the way I do. I know that’s not fair.”

Edie nods.

“I learned a lot from you this week, teach. And a lot about John. And about me. I’m glad I did this.”

“I’m glad you had a good time this week, Lionel,” she says. “But I think it sucks that John couldn’t talk to you about this.”

“Yeah, that’s...he’s better than he used to be, if you can believe that. I forget sometimes how weird he can seem if you don’t know him that well.” He pinches the leather of the bed between his fingers, nervously. “But I’m pretty weird too, because if he’d talked to me about this like a normal person, I never would’ve gone along with it. It’s something we gotta work on, I guess. Together.”

“I’m glad you recognize that,” she says. “So, tonight, are you planning to…?”

“Not here,” he says, shaking his head as he reaches nervously for his buzzing phone. “Not that we talked about it or anything, but John destroyed me during class and I’m not ready to go another round right now.”

“Totally fine. Just make sure you enforce that boundary with John.”

“Shouldn’t be hard,” Fusco says. “I think he’s got other stuff on his mind tonight.”

He looks down.

His latest text from Reese is just the word “knife”.

And that’s when the door bursts open.

He recognizes Edie’s boyfriend in the vague, academical sense you get from looking at somebody’s pictures on social media and trying to paste them onto a real, three-dimensional, murderously angry human holding a switchblade. Tough to see at first, but yeah, for sure the same guy.

Edie just has time to say, “Oh my God, Tom?” before some kind of primal, muscle-memory thing kicks in in Fusco’s brain and he just socks the guy in the throat. Oh My God Tom drops like a sack of shit.

“You OK?” Fusco asks Edie, not looking at her, eye on the perp.

“Uh huh,” she says. She doesn’t sound OK, exactly. “Was that a knife?”

“Yep,” Fusco says as he drops to his knees next to Oh My God Tom, plucking the knife out of his slack hand gingerly, gripping through the sleeve of his jacket so he doesn’t fuck up any fingerprints too bad. He pushes the knife toward Edie. “Don’t touch that, I just want it out of the way.”

She doesn’t say anything. Maybe she nods.

Reese appears in the door, panting and more bruised than before, or maybe it’s just better light. He frowns, pride bruised. “He slipped past me.”

“Well,” says Fusco, flipping Oh My God Tom over onto his stomach and wrenching his arm behind his back, “he didn’t slip past me.”

“Hey, guys?” Edie’s voice is very small, muffled by her hands over her mouth. “What the fuck ?”

“That’s a really good question, Edie.” Fusco fishes handcuffs out of his jacket pocket. “You wanna take this one, John?”

“You brought those?” Reese asks.

“It’s a BDSM club.”

Reese shrugs as if to say, “Fair,” and then turns back to Edie, who has herself pressed against the wall. “I’m sorry about all this,” he says, voice much softer, much warmer. The way it can be, sometimes. “We received an anonymous tip that your boyfriend had threatened you in the past. Earlier today, I arrested a group of people who he hired to attack you. We were in the neighborhood and figured...we can take care of that.”

“We’re cops,” Fusco interjects, racheting the cuffs around Oh My God Tom’s wrists. “You forgot to tell her we’re cops.”

“We are cops,” Reese tells her, in a tone of voice that suggests that even he doesn’t believe he’s a cop. Which he doesn’t, but fuck, he could at least pretend.

Edie sinks onto the bed, really slowly. “Oh my God.”

“You’re gonna want to come down to the precinct and give a statement,” Fusco says, as he drags Oh My God Tom to his feet, digging for a business card in his pocket. “I know you’re not gonna feel like doing that. But I just want you to know that whatever happens, we have enough to put him away for a long goddamn time. This guy’s not gonna bother you anymore.”

Edie nods. Her eyes are still real wide as he presses the crumpled card in her hand.

“I’m gonna have a uni come and pick you up at that coffee shop down the street. You know the one?” He waits for her to nod. “I’ll get you a ride home after too, if you want one. I know nobody in here wants cops trampling all over everything, so I’m gonna try to keep it discreet. Is, uh, anybody going to notice if we take him out of here in handcuffs?”

Edie pauses, really thinks that over. “No,” she says, a small smile forming on her pale mouth. “I guess not.”

 


 

As they’re walking out of the precinct at the end of the shift, Reese puts his hand on Fusco’s arm. “Let me drive,” Reese says.

Fusco doesn’t ask where.

Reese drives him to a neighborhood that feels too nice for what they’re about to do, pulls Fusco’s beater of a car over on a street lined with silent, judgemental windows. Reese puts it in park, puts the e-brake on, and they just kinda sit there, not talking at all, just listening to the shaky purr of the idling engine, the rattle of the air conditioner.

“OK?” Reese asks, finally.

Fusco just nods.

“It’s easier for me,” Reese says, running a finger through the thin coat of dust on the dashboard, “if you say it.”

It’s an asshole move, Fusco thinks, making him ask for it like this. But he guesses this is what Edie was talking about. Communication. Asking each other about stuff. Now’s probably the time to start, if they’re gonna start at all.

“Yeah.” He’s not expecting his voice to come out all croaky like that, all fearful. “Yeah, I’m OK with this.”

Only then does Reese shut off the ignition. He presses the car keys into Fusco’s hand as he climbs out the driver’s side. An easy exit, if he wants it.

Fusco gets out too, locks up while Reese keys his way in to a nice apartment building further up the block. He waits in the doorway, puppyish, for Fusco to follow him inside. In the elevator, Reese takes his hand.

“So, this is your place?” Fusco asks, fingers still interlaced with Reese’s as he takes his first steps into the apartment. He’s not sure what he was expecting, exactly. An opulent place, heavy with knickknacks and interior design by Finch. An empty warehouse, furnished with a cot, a set of freeweights, and 9,000 identical black suits. A cave somewhere, with just enough space to hang upside down like a bat.

The loft is airy, all aglow with sunrise, and Fusco realizes that if he’d bothered to imagine the place where Reese lives, he never would’ve factored in windows. Reese is too paranoid, too hyper-aware of every moving shadow. It doesn’t seem like he should be able to sleep in a place where you can look out the window and see what your neighbor is having for dinner.

Everything else about it makes a kind of sense. There’s something keen and minimal about the rugless hardwood floors, the shiny and neat kitchen fixtures, the low-slung black leather couch, the three empty white walls and the old-world brick accent. Yards away from the kitchen table with its spotless, empty surface and its two empty chairs, the bed. Fusco kinda gets stuck on that.

A glance at Reese shows he’s stuck too, gaze flicking from Fusco to the bed and back like he’s wrestling with some kind of politeness, like he thinks he should make him dinner first, like that’s a logical next step for them. Like the rules of dating and relationships and society still apply. Fusco unzips his jacket, takes it off, fixes Reese with a stare that he hopes says “Your move, asshole.”

Reese seems reassured, jerks his head toward the bed. Fusco takes the hint and walks on over, sits at the foot of the bed with a wince. He busies himself with untying his shoes, tries to ignore the trembling in his fingers. Reese is puttering around the place, he knows, looking for something or getting something ready and he tries not to think too hard about that. Just focus on those shoes.

When he dares to look up again, Reese is watching him, head cocked to one side like a curious dog. There’s a bottle of aloe vera in his hand. “Are you going to stop there?” he asks.

Fusco gives Reese a once-over - still suited up, still slightly rumpled, shoes still on - and asks “Are you?”

Reese nods. “For now.”

Fusco sighs, starts fiddling open the fly of his jeans. “Looks like I have to do everything myself around here,” he mutters. Reese just flashes him a thin smile, watches intently as Fusco lifts his hips and shucks off his jeans. As he’s kicking them off his ankles and onto the floor, Fusco realizes that he’s put himself in a bad situation because that leaves him with just the t-shirt he wore to the club tonight, just his underwear, and that’s too few things left to take off.

He’s about to stall, say something shitty, argue with Reese about whether he should be the first one taking his clothes off after the nightmare week he’s had when Reese is in front of him, yanking his shirt off over his head and dragging him in tight for a kiss.

For the first couple seconds, Fusco can’t even move. He feels caught, he feels trapped, he feels like he should be panicking about what his body’s going to look like next to whatever lean, hard-lined nightmare is under Reese’s suits, but he can’t because Reese is holding him too tight, because Reese making this funny little humming noise into the kiss and it sounds like satisfaction, because Reese is making him lie down now, covering Fusco’s body with his own.

Reese breaks the kiss but stays right there, forehead braced against Fusco’s, hands cradling his face. Their panting breaths curl and mingle, trapped in the tiny sliver of space between them. “Stay?” Reese asks.

Fusco nods, is rewarded with an eager kiss on the forehead.

“On your stomach,” Reese orders as he gets up, and Fusco obliges him there too, scoots further up on the bed and rolls on his belly with a grunt. He feels a little bit better about that, a little safer. He’s not quite so on display.

So he lies there on his belly, listening as Reese draws all the shades on the big, gorgeous wall of windows. “Privacy,” he says, softly, by way of explanation. And then, “Did you like the club, Lionel?”

There’s a long pause before Fusco realizes he’s expected to answer. “I don’t know if like is the word,” he says. “It was different from what I expected.”

Reese makes a small noise of assent as his weight sinks into the mattress somewhere by Fusco’s hip.

“Guess it opened some doors for me, in terms of possibilities.”

“Mhmm,” Reese says. There’s a noise then, a squelching sound like a viscous fluid being forced out of a bottle.

Fusco tries to relax over the soft, sticky sounds of Reese smearing whatever-that-is on his hands. “Guess I learned a lot,” he says, “but I wouldn’t want to go again tomorrow night, you know?”

Reese is quiet, and Fusco wonders if he’s offended him, like maybe Reese was planning to take him back tomorrow night and tie him up in some crazy origami position and suspend him from the ceiling for everyone to see and now that he knows Fusco’s not into it, he’s having second thoughts. Fusco thinks about accusing him of exactly that, but instead he yelps because Reese starts rubbing aloe vera on his ass with no warning and it’s so cold .

“You’re really red here,” Reese says, softly. “Did you know?”

He whines, sinks his fingers into the sheets. “I wonder whose fault that is?”

“Shh,” Reese says, close in his ear. “Edie said this would help.”

“When did you have time to ask that?”

“While you were waiting in the private room. I wanted to make sure I could take care of you, after.”

Quiet passes between them, just sighs and shifting on the bed.

“I don’t think I’d like people watching,” Reese says, thoughtfully.

“Uh huh?”

“The club was interesting, but I like…” He squeezes hard, makes Fusco wince. “...I like being alone with you. Like this.”

“No private rooms?”

He feels Reese’s hands go still on his ass, feels him tip forward and rest his head against Lionel’s back. There’s the tickle of his hair, the sharp of his cheekbone, the warm of his face.

“Will you be able to kneel?” Reese asks, very softly. Fusco can feel his voice buzzing against his spine. “On the bed, this time. Not on the floor.”

He hesitates. There’s still that thing sticking in his craw, whatever it was that made him kneel down and put up with it in class. He thinks about the knife, about how angry Reese was that Fusco didn’t say anything. “Rather not risk it,” he says, finally.

Reese thinks about it, nods slowly. “You can sit instead,” he says after a while, and Fusco doesn’t argue that point, so it’s permission granted. Reese unceremoniously rolls him over onto his back.

He’s still completely dressed, still wearing a jacket. Ridiculous. Fusco plucks at one of his lapels. “You gonna get comfortable?”

“I am comfortable. Sit up.”

Fusco pushes himself upright and out from under Reese, palms braced on the mattress, back braced on the headboard. “I’m gonna get aloe vera on your bed,” he says.

“That’s OK.” He picks up two pairs of handcuffs, nestled together on the sheets. “Give me your hands?”

Fusco sets his aloe vera-y ass on the bed and offers his wrists up. Reese ratchets a cuff from each pair around each wrists, loose cuffs dangling. “Is there, uh...a game plan, I guess?”

Reese blinks at him.

“For, uh, for right now. Is there a game plan?”

“Do you need there to be?”

“Dunno about need,” he says. “Might be nice if we could prove we can make one.”

Reese’s hands settle on his shoulder, on his cheek. “I don’t want to beat up on you too hard right now. ‘M tired, and I think you are too. That OK?”

Fusco nods, lets himself nuzzle against Reese’s palm.

“I can cuff you?” Reese asks.

He nods again.

“Fuck you?”

His breath catches, comes out with a shudder as he nods, nods, nods, eyes shut tight.

“OK.” Reese leans in, presses a kiss to his brow.

Reese makes short work of the cuffs, secures the loose ends to the bed posts so Fusco’s arms are outstretched, exposed, legs curled to his chest in a last stab at modesty.  

“Don’t be shy now,” Reese says, resting a hand on his knee, asking permission. Fusco takes a deep breath, lets Reese guide his legs apart. “‘S OK,” he murmurs, gliding his palms over the inside of Fusco’s thighs. “You’re gonna be fine.”

Reese’s slick fingers curl hesitantly around Fusco’s cock and Fusco grunts, jerks his hips up into Reese’s loose grip, only to have it withdrawn.

“You have kind of a hair trigger, huh, Lionel?”

He groans, tilts his head back against the headboard. “Fuck you.”

Reese’s hands wander lazily, over his legs, his hips, his stomach, his chest. “That’s OK. It’s been a long day. If we’d dealt with this when you wanted it dealt with,” he says, pinching Fusco’s nipples hard, making him whine, “we’d be on round three or four by now. Of course, if we’d dealt with this when I wanted it dealt with, we’d have woken up together. So I think I can stand to wait a little longer.”

He tucks his face against Fusco’s throat and Fusco braces himself to get bitten but instead Reese just nuzzles there, breathing slow and sleepy, lips tracing a ticklish path down his neck. His hands come to rest on Fusco’s hips, pulling him in close. Fusco obliges, inches closer, lets his legs wrap around Reese’s middle. He grips the headboard tight so he’s not just hanging from the cuffs.

“So,” he asks. “You gonna take your coat off?”

Reese snorts, blows hot air against Fusco’s throat.

“I’m serious,” he says. “Is this a thing, or isn’t it?”

“It’s a thing,” Reese murmurs against his skin. “I promise.”

“So, come on,” he says, shifting against Reese as best he can. “Get on my level.”

“If you’re sure,” Reese says very softly.

Reese undressing is an odd mix of fearful and over-eager, fingers trembling on buttons, clothes neatly folded. It makes Fusco think Reese would have been happier if he could’ve stayed fully dressed, shoes and everything, nothing mussed but an unzipped fly. That might have appealed to him too, in a desperate, frantic kind of way. In a way that appeals to his shameful, boot-licking, old way of doing things. But they’re not frantic, they have all morning. And Reese isn’t his boss anymore; not exactly. He still gives the orders and Fusco still carries them out but there’s an understanding there that Fusco’s owed a bit of deference, the courtesy of “please”, the artifice of partnership.

Which is what this is, he guesses.

Reese tugs his undershirt off over his head, revealing the hard lines of his body that Fusco knew were there, the small paunch at the bottom of his belly that Fusco didn’t know was there, the scars he always guessed were there but he still has the audacity to be surprised by.

In places, his skin is rippled, almost pockmarked, by the short, round holes left by bullets, the long fissures left by knives and who knows what else. He wants to touch there. He wants to touch everywhere.

He tenses. The chains rattle.

Reese slides his underwear off in a perfunctory way, showing a jagged white scar on his hip, his cock all hard. He can’t quite make eye contact with Fusco; instead focuses on putting the underwear on top of the pile.

“OK?” Fusco asks.

Reese nods.

“C’mere, then.”

A shy little smile passes over his face, like a flicker of sunlight appearing from between two clouds. Then he lunges.

Reese grabs him, holds him tight and eager, presses kisses to his face and his throat and his shoulders. His hands are never really still. They always need to be squeezing or petting or pinching and there’s a nervousness to it that makes him feel real warm about Reese. He almost wishes he wasn’t cuffed so he could touch Reese, squeeze his hands and mess with his hair and let him know things were going OK.

The other reason he wishes his hands were free is that Reese keeps poking at his sore spots, tickling scars, grabbing rough, needy handfuls of him and he’s harshly aware of how much he can’t hide from Reese right now, how much Reese knows about what he looks like and what he feels like. But he guesses that’s the point. And he guesses he’d be more worried if Reese wasn’t all flushed like this, if he wasn’t still hard against Fusco, if he wasn’t whispering “Please?” so plaintively that Fusco just says, “OK,” even though he’s not totally sure what he just said OK to.

Figures it out pretty quickly when Reese pushes a slicked-up finger into his ass, makes him wince and whine, once and in a short, soft burst. Mostly just ‘cause he feels like he has to. It’s not like it hurts. It’s not like there’s an audience, either. It’s just that he puts up a lot of walls when it comes to Reese and this is one of them, a little noise to point out that Reese has pushed past a boundary.

Reese curls his finger and the noise Fusco makes is less performative. Reese, radiating smugness, makes him lift his hips and starts working a second finger into him.

He’s content to do that for a while, make Fusco twitch and shudder just with his fingers, sit back on his heels and let him squirm helplessly. Fusco digs his heels into the bed, wonders if Reese means to keep him like this, finger-fuck him and let his cock quiver, untouched. He wonders if he could come just from that, if Reese could do that for him.

“I’m tempted,” Reese murmurs, fingers sinking into Fusco’s hip where he’s grabbing him, holding him tight. “I like the idea. I just think it’d take too long.” His hips are nuzzled right up against him, suggestive, needy.

“So what’re you waiting for?”

Reese smears more lube on his fingertips, pushes a third finger into Fusco, just to show he can. “Have you done this before, Lionel?” he asks as it slides in without resistance.

Fusco sighs, shifts his hips, tries to relax around the curve of Reese’s fingers. “That depends,” he grits.

Reese’s brow furrows. “On what?”

“Which answer does it for you?”

Reese blinks down at him, a flush creeping into his ears. “‘S a good question,” he says, deep under his breath.

Fusco gives him a nudge with one thigh. “Quit stalling.”

“Do you need…” Reese starts to ask, sliding his fingers out of him, eyes flicking to the bedside table.

“Not unless you need,” Fusco says. “Come on, before I lose my nerve.”

Reese pushes into him slow and it’d be easy to mistake him for smug, for only satisfied, if it wasn’t for the tiny quiver in his thighs, in the muscles of his stomach, in his hands where he’s pulling Fusco closer, crushingly close. He moves like he wants to get this right.

As far as Fusco’s concerned, he’s getting it right. He exhales, wraps his legs tighter around Reese’s middle, hears the headboard creak in his grip. “OK,” he hears himself whisper as he stretches around Reese, as Reese sinks deep into him. “OK. OK. OK.”

Reese pushes their foreheads together until they’re both panting, gasping, face to face. “You want me to go easy on you?” Reese asks.

He actually laughs, this too-high, too-obviously-nervous sound that bubbles out of him, makes him tighten up and quiver in unexpected ways. “Fuck off,” he whispers.

Reese takes that like permission granted and starts to move and the thing with Reese is nothing’s ever easy and nothing’s ever expected and he’ll never let up on Fusco, not ever, and that’s what this is like. Fucking into Fusco as deep and as hard as he can, biting on his shoulders and his neck and his chest and scratching and rubbing and pulling and he’s lying there, doing his best to hold still and accept it, when Reese purrs in his ear, “You can struggle if you want.”

That’s a fucking lightswitch moment. It’s almost scary what that does to him, how much it changes everything, how fast he leans into it, legs thrashing, hips twitching. He tugs at the cuffs, hears the chains clink and the metal crack against the wood, feels the cuff dig a rut in his wrist. Reese scrambles to keep hold of him, seizes Fusco by the ankle when he aims a kick at Reese’s chest and uses that as leverage to push him back down, open up his resisting hips.

Reese shushes him, soothes at him, whispers, “I’ve got you, I’ve got you,” as he folds Fusco’s left leg flat against his chest, pins his right leg out, fucks him deep against the headboard. “‘M gonna keep you safe,” he whispers, broken up in the curve of Fusco’s neck.

His thrusts slow down, deepen, and Fusco’s struggling becomes a little more like writhing. He can feel his cock twitch and pulse, trapped against the heat of Reese’s belly. Reese grabs a handful of his ass - the handful with the scar in it - and tilts Fusco’s hips up and open, welcoming. He opens his mouth meaning to say something that’ll tease him to speed up again, that Reese can’t keep up, but all that comes out is this voiceless, fluttery gasp.

Reese growls against his throat, pushes into him so smooth and so slow. He slides his hand between their bodies, curls his fist tight around Fusco’s cock, makes Fusco gasp and dig his heels into Reese’s back. “I’ve got you,” he’s still whispering as he strokes Fusco, so soft and so fast and so broken up it’s barely words anymore, “I’ve got you, I’ve got you, I’ve got you.”

He pulls out, pushes in again, and something about the speed, something about the way his hips jerk at a crucial point make Fusco cry out and clutch at him, hips pulsing raggedly through the last of it. Reese follows him closely, just a few shallow thrusts through the last of it, the twitching, too-raw stage, and Reese comes with a sigh that feels like relief. He slumps on Fusco, holding him upright against the headboard, holding him.

After a while, Fusco clears his throat, rattles the cuffs a little, and Reese remembers to let him go. He sits there sheepishly while Fusco rubs his raw wrists, stretches out his sore arms.

“I feel like I shoulda stretched before I did that,” Fusco remarks as his back cracks.

“I’ll keep that in mind for next time.” There’s a confident curve to Reese’s mouth, but a pleading light in his eye. Next time . “Everything alright?”

“Yeah.” Fusco settles under the covers that Reese pulled aside for him, permits himself to inch a little closer to Reese. “What about your face?” When he reaches for Reese’s swollen cheek, Reese only flinches momentarily before nuzzling into Fusco’s palm.

“It’s fine,” he murmurs, eyes closed, lashes dark, and then, “I forgot.”

“Me too, kinda.” Fusco lets his hand slide from Reese’s face to his neck to his chest. His fingertips find texture from a thick white scar that crosses his collarbone, the divot a bullet left on his chest. Fusco pushes on him gently until Reese rolls flat on his back. Fusco pulls back the duvet and climbs on top of Reese, straddling him. He lets his palms glide lazily over the scars on Reese’s chest and stomach, the fuzz of his chest hair.

“What about this?” Reese grabs his ass with both hands, gives Fusco a gentle squeeze. “This OK?”

“That’ll get worse before it gets better,” Fusco predicts grimly, tracing the long, slim, puckering scar that streaks crookedly along Reese’s ribs. “But yeah, I’m OK. I’m outta commission for now, but I’m OK.”

“Me too,” Reese admits. “Will you stay?”

“Yeah,” he says as he slides off Reese and draws the duvet up again, rests his head on one of Reese’s too-firm pillows, “if you want me to.”

“Do you want to?”

“Yeah,” Fusco says softly, “yeah, that too.”

Reese’s arm slides around his middle under the covers and he draws Fusco real close.

They lie like that a while before Fusco murmurs, “Next time, huh?”

“If you want,” Reese says.

“I want to know what you got planned.”

Reese hesitates for a few seconds. “Tie you up again?” he suggest, reluctantly.

“Sure.”

More confident this time: “Paddle you again?”

“I’m up for that.”

“Some stuff I want to try building myself.”

A sudden jolt of arousal, tinged with fear. “ Jesus .”

“Wanted to gag you again,” Reese purrs against his ear, “just a little. ‘M glad I didn’t. I liked hearing you talk.”

“Thanks,” he says, although he’s not sure that’s quite right.

“And some stretching before,” Reese says, finally. “Since you asked.”

“Thanks, pal.”

Reese burrows against him, pushes his nose into Fusco’s hair. “When?” he asks.

“Dunno. However long it takes you to build that stuff, I guess.”

“I don’t need to build anything,” Reese says, with a kind of laid-back, sleepy confidence. “I’ll just tie you to the bed or the couch.”

Fusco’s cock gives a half-awake jerk. “Then whenever we’re both free, I guess.”

Reese sighs, deep, satisfied.

They’re quiet for a few long minutes before Fusco asks, “You want me to make you breakfast?”

Reese groans softly, half-asleep. “Now?”

“No, not now. Later. When we wake up again.”

“Yeah,” Reese says, throat a little ragged. He tightens his arm around Fusco. “I’d like that.”