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Kate was long gone, the phone was charging once again, and Nav had hours to herself before dinner. She lay in her rack, open book in front of her face, but saw none of the words.

Never, in her wildest dreams, had she expected ET would win the bet. It was well known throughout the ship that no-one should bet against Nav; she was ultra competitive and would only agree to a bet when she believed she could win. That he had cheated to win didn’t matter, he wouldn’t let her back out of it - she would have done the same if the situation were reversed.

When they had made the bet - flirting and joking on a morning of shore leave as they got ready to return to the ship - it had all sounded like fun. Tying up ET was a fantasy she’d had for a while, and the bet had seemed like the perfect time to tell him of the fantasy and get him to agree at the same time.

But then he’d sent the photo, so now she was the one to be restrained. And she didn’t like the idea.

****

The evolution was a long one, almost two weeks. Which was both good and bad. On the one hand, it delayed the inevitable paying out of the bet. However, it also meant she had a long time to think about what would happen.

It was no secret that she liked to be in control. Men couldn’t hurt her when she was in charge, and they definitely couldn’t break her heart. She had let ET in further than anyone, but he had already proved that, if left to his own devices, he would choose his friends over her. So it was reasonable that she wasn’t keen on letting him call the shots - but this feeling in her chest was more than just apprehension.

It was fear.

Not of him; she knew he would never hurt her. She trusted him with her life. Just not with her heart.

She hadn’t figured out what, exactly she was afraid of. And that, in itself, was more scary.

ET cornered her in the Officers mess on the way back to base. “Hey, why have you been avoiding me?”

“You’re not allowed in here,” she replied, trying to get past him.

He blocked her way, and raised an eyebrow when she stopped short of pushing past him. “Nikki, look at me.” When she continued to avoid his eyes, he placed a gentle finger on her chin and turned her face toward his. “What’s wrong?”

Hesitantly, she opened her mouth, but voices in the hall saved her from replying.

With a reassuring smile, he chuffed her on the chin. “Not here. Tonight, ok? Your place.”

Not waiting for an answer, he left the room. She moved to the doorway and watched him walk down the hall, wondering how he was able to read her so well.

Kate passed by, and smiled wryly when she saw who Nav was looking at. “Looking forward to shore leave, I take it?”

“You know it.” The words were automatic, as was the grin, but Nav could see that Kate heard the false note in her tone. Thankfully, she didn’t comment on it, merely threw Nav a questioning look.

Nav shook her head as she exited the room, heading to the galley to deposit her used plate and cutlery. This wasn’t something her friend could help with. Much as she hated to admit it, she needed to talk to ET.

****

He arrived only a few minutes after she did, having taken separate cabs from base. She let him in with a tense smile, still avoiding his touch.

Frowning, he grabbed her hand and led her to the lounge room. “Sit.” She sat. “I’m guessing this is about the bet, and the paying out of said bet?” A nod. He sat on the coffee table in front of her, taking both hands in his. “Nikki, if you didn’t want to do this, why did you suggest it?”

She tilted her head to the side and raised an eyebrow.

“Right, you expected to win. Of course you did, you always do.” A wry smile, his blue eyes twinkling. “Well, we never said the texts could only be words. You remember what happened the last time we weren’t specific.” He poked her knee playfully. “I was sore for a week.”

Clearing her dry throat, she spoke. “I’m not contesting the win.”

“You want something to drink?” He was on his feet before she nodded. “Water, or something stronger?”

“A beer might be a good idea.”

He placed the glass bottle by her hand, the backs of his fingers brushing the hairs on her arm, sending a shiver through her. She took a large gulp, barely tasting it, aware of his eyes on her.

“Nik, if you really don’t want to this, then we won’t,” he said, resuming his place in front of her - close enough for their knees to touch, but far enough away that she didn’t feel crowded. She lifted her gaze, meeting his, and saw nothing but acceptance in his eyes. She knew he was offering more than an out; he was promising not to hold a grudge or tease her about it. And yet, strangely, it only made her more determined to see this through.

“No, it’s my turn. You won this one, and…” A wry smile crossed her lips. “I already have what we need.”

“Of course you do.” He smiled and took a sip of his own beer. “Technically, I won the last bet, too.”

“You’d think I’d have learned by now that you’re a bloody cheat.”

He pouted, and she had to raise her beer back to her mouth lest she kiss it away. “I thought we agreed that I didn’t cheat, you just failed to be specific.”

She huffed softly, but couldn’t deny it, or the smile that crossed her face.

Taking it as an invitation, he swivelled off the coffee table to sit beside her and take her hand. “Trust me,” he said. “And I promise you won’t regret it.”

Staring into his eyes, she knew that he meant what he said, he really would do everything in his power to make this good for her. He was excellent in bed, how could he not be, with all the practise he’d had. But this was different.

He placed a hand on her cheek and slowly leaned forward, giving her plenty of time to stop him.

It was one of the sweetest kisses they had shared, and she felt another piece click into place. He was trying to earn her trust; and that, in itself, was more than any other man had ever attempted. In return, she could give him this. For one night, she could give him control.

When he broke the kiss, it was she who initiated the next one. And the one after that. Until they were necking on the couch like teenagers, hands roaming over clothes, beers forgotten.

Pulling back to breathe, she smiled down at him - at some point she had straddled him, taking control as usual. With a sheepish smile, she slid off his lap. “Sorry, habit.”

“Feeling more relaxed?” He asked, tapping his fingers lightly on her thigh.

She blinked with understanding. “Yes, much.”

“So do you want to show me what you bought?”

Standing, she held her hand out to him and tangled their fingers together when he grasped her hand. He allowed her to take the lead as they moved through the house; yet another indication of how he had thought this night through, and was willing to give her whatever she needed to feel comfortable.

The bag was in the bottom of her wardrobe behind her shoes, where she knew he’d never look. There were multiple options inside, but the one she chose for tonight was a red silk cord; soft but strong.

He ran the soft red cord through his fingers, well aware of the fact that she had bought it with him in mind. {A part of him almost wished he had lost the bet, because nothing was more powerfully alluring than Nikki in control. On the other hand, he was very much looking forward to this. He couldn’t fault her as a lover - even that last bet, where he’d learned not to cheat too blatantly, had given him a fair share of the pleasure. But she was always in control, always commanding, and for once he wanted to… well, to be the man. }

“Hey, you going to use that, or just fondle it?” Nav’s voice broke him out of his internal narrative, and he turned to find her in just her undies, smirking at him with a hand on her hip.

“Just thinking about what I’ll be able to do to you,” he murmured, moving forwards. To his relief, she didn’t flinch, just smiled a little uncertainly. He took her hands in his, gazing into her eyes, letting the cord brush against her skin. There was a slight widening of her eyes as she felt it, but the expression of trust remained. Gently, without looking down, he looped the cord around her wrist, until he was holding both ends in his fist. He tugged it forwards, pulling her hand to his waist.

When she was close enough, she kissed him, touching nothing but his lips. It was he who pulled their bodies flush together, wrapping one arm around her waist while the other kept hold of the cord. As her bare breasts touched the cool cotton of his shirt, her nipples hardened, and she automatically moved a little, enjoying the friction.

With her free hand, she began to undo the buttons of his shirt, but he caught her wrist.

“What are you doing? This is supposed to be about you, not me.”

Effortlessly twisting her wrist free, she finished unbuttoning the shirt and pushed it off his shoulders. “This is about me. I want something pretty to look at.” She tilted her head and ran a finger over his abs, smirking when they jumped under her touch.

He kissed her again, hard, sweeping his tongue into her mouth. She understood that this was him taking back control, so let herself be swept away with it.

It wasn’t until he took hold of her other wrist that she remembered what was happening. Breaking the kiss, he offered her a warm smile, then kissed the wrist he held.

Her movement wasn’t restricted until he brought her wrists together, looping the cord around both. There was a swooping sensation in her stomach and a sudden surge of heat lower down.

Holding the cord in one hand, he used the other to trace patterns over her back, hip, thigh. Slowly he steered her backwards, until the back of her knees hit the side of the bed, and with a gentle push caused her to fall onto her back, her arms held above her by the cord he still held. His grip was loose enough that a determined tug would free her easily, but she understood that this was about trust for him as well; he trusted that she wouldn’t free herself.

“I should probably finish getting undressed,” she said, raising her eyebrows.

“I’ll do that,” he said, crawling onto the bed beside her. “Just as soon as I know you’re not going anywhere.”

She felt her breath catch, not in fear, but with desire. With a slight kick, she moved up the bed to lay her head on a pillow, her wrists still captive to his passive control. She knew what would come next; hadn’t she fantasised about how she would do it to him? The simple metal of the bedhead was cold against her skin as he guided her hands into position. She tilted her head back, trying to watch what he was doing, suddenly aware that once he was done she wouldn’t be free until he chose to let her go. Then he sat back; he was no longer holding her, but she still couldn’t move. She tugged experimentally. A little give, probably enough that - if she really tried - she could get loose. But looking up at him, reading the raw desire in his deep blue eyes, she realised that that was the last thing she wanted to do right now.

“Comfortable?” he asked, and she nodded, though that wasn’t really the right word. The angle was as kind as it could be, but she knew her shoulders would remind her of this strain later. Having her arms up and back meant that each breath seemed to fill her ribcage, and she was aware of her rapid heartbeat.

He was giving his hands free reign, each touch against her bare skin like a soft electric shock. It wasn’t like he hadn’t touched her this way before, but being restrained added a whole extra level to the experience. Fingertips traced light circles around her nipples, causing her to squeeze her thighs together. She was surprised how wet she was already; he’d barely touched her.

She started to reach out, wanting to rip away his shorts and see if he was similarly affected, but was unable to do more than wiggle her shoulders. As if reading her mind, he shifted on the bed, drawing the shorts tight across his groin to reveal that yes, this was affecting him too.

His mouth replaced his fingers on her breast, biting gently then soothing with his tongue.

“More,” she gasped, eyes fluttering closed.

The warm, wet heat of his mouth left her breast, only to reappear on the other. He bit down, hard, causing her to inhale sharply and strain against her bonds. She wanted to direct him, hold his head to her chest, push him to where she really needed him. But she knew he would get there eventually; for once the pace would be at his choice.

He took his time exploring her body, as she rarely allowed him to do. His tongue traced her collarbone, then moved up to her neck, sucking roughly.

“Josh, don’t you dare!” The attempted command came out more like a cross between a sigh and a laugh, but he obeyed anyway, kissing her lips instead. He took advantage of her open mouth, his tongue sliding along her teeth before tangling with hers.

As they kissed, he slid his hand down her right side, his fingers catching the waistband of her underwear. She pulled her weight up, encouraging him. He broke the kiss and shook his head, stilling the movement of her hips with a palm.

“Patience,” he whispered into her ear, worrying the lobe with his teeth. Fingers trailed along her pelvis, until he found the sensitive spot just above her left hip bone, wresting a moan from her lips. “Close your eyes,” came the next command, with just the right combination of force and love that she obeyed.

His fingers left her skin and his weight left the bed, and she was just about to open her eyes to search for him when she felt a hand on her ankle. Eagerly, she spread her legs, more than ready for him to really touch her.

She heard him chuckle, and mumble something about “trying to be the boss”, but kept her eyes closed. Not being able to see what he would do next was more thrilling than she’d expected. Maybe another time they could use a blindfold.

Though not cold, the air was cool enough that her exposed skin was extra sensitive, and his every touch left her tingling. His hands were sliding down her legs, and then she felt the brush of his cheek against her thigh, followed almost immediately by the softest touch of his lips. Just when she thought he might give some attention to the most desperate part of her, he moved away, and she couldn’t help but open her eyes.

He was gazing at her, his expression almost drunk as he drank in the sight of her. “Do you have any idea,” he began; his voice cracked on the last word and he just stared at her, mouth hanging open. She wanted to reach out, pull him on top of her, force him to satisfy the burning desire he had ignited; but the cord didn’t respond to her tugging. She scowled, and he closed his mouth, a spark of amusement lighting his eyes.

“Get over here,” she demanded.

“Is that an order?” he mused, flopping onto his elbow beside her. He ran a finger delicately along her stomach, sliding it between her breasts, then tracing circles around her nipples. Helpless to hurry him along, she could only moan softly as her need went unmet.

“You can’t leave me like this,” she said, horrified to hear her voice coming out more as a plea than a demand.

“I’ll never leave you,” he murmured, rolling over to lie above her, bracing his elbows by her sides to keep his full weight from crushing her. This time as he kissed her, she could feel his swollen boxers pressed against her. Her left foot slid back up until her knee was higher than his back; with a swift motion, she wrapped her leg around him, pulling his hips against hers.

She sighed in relief. Finally, there was pressure where she needed it. Moving her hips back and forth, she tried to gain some friction, only for him to stop her with firm hands.

Without moving his body, he pressed soft, loving kisses over her face; lips, cheek, nose, forehead. “Talk to me,” he whispered against her lips. “Tell me what you want.”

“Josh, I swear, if you don’t touch me right no-oh.” Her command ended in a moan when he ground his hips into hers.

“I can’t do more until you let me go,” he pointed out, tugging on the leg wrapped around his waist.

With a warning glare, she released him, pressing her foot against his hip in an effort to push him down the bed.

He grabbed her foot, running a teasing finger up the sole and grinning when she shuddered. The touch that would normally have been ticklish turned arousing because of her heightened state.

Settling between her spread legs, he kissed his way up her thigh, before finally placing a kiss on the wet spot of her undies. He cupped her over the fabric, massaging gently as she squirmed against his palm.

“Take them off,” she gasped, surprised when he obeyed instantly. Her undies were dragged down her legs, slower than she would have liked, but she didn’t have the breath to complain - his mouth was on her, at last.

He went straight for her clit, knowing she had had enough foreplay. Lips encircled the hard nub, sucking hard the way he knew she liked and worrying it back and forth with his tongue.

Already, the coil inside her was winding tighter, and she was having trouble catching her breath. She longed to run her fingers through his blonde curls, the way she usually did when he was down there. In her current position, she couldn’t even see him without craning her neck - but then he scraped his teeth over her clit and her eyes flew shut as her head smacked back against the pillow.

Teeth, lips and tongue alternated, driving her higher and higher, until she was teetering on the edge. Her legs flexed automatically; she was so close.

And then he stopped.

Her eyes flew open, flashing angrily. “What the fuck did you stop for?”

His palms lay softly on her hips, exerting just enough pressure to stop her bucking, but not moving. “Trust me, Nikki, it’s better this way,” he said, moving up the bed to settle over her, his familiar weight a soothing blanket over her annoyance.

She could feel his heart thumping as fast as her own, his still-covered erection pressing against her thigh. When he kissed her, she tasted herself on his tongue. Attempting to wrap her arms around his neck, she suddenly felt the strain in her shoulders, and remembered the cord.

As she tugged against her restraints, he broke the kiss and smiled lovingly. Pecking her once more on the lips, he stilled her hands, then moved back down her body.

This time, he used his hands as well, two fingers curling inside her while his lips worked her clit. His other hand stroked the sensitive patch above her hip, causing her to moan and rock up into him. She stretched the cord tight, just enough to feel the burn against her wrists without pulling herself free. From the grin she could feel against her inner thigh, he heard the slight rattle of the headboard and understood what she was doing. She was surprised how enjoyable this was; with the limited vision and touch, her other senses were heightened. The sounds of his tongue lapping at her, their skin against the sheets, her own ragged breathing. The scent of her own shampoo, his cologne, the laundry detergent on the sheets. Her skin felt alive, everywhere he touched a fire burned; his shoulder against her knee, his hair on her thigh, his hand on her hip and especially his mouth on her.

Higher and higher he took her, keeping a steady rhythm until he saw her legs flex once more. Then he sucked, hard, on her clit and twisted his fingers inside her, sending her flying over the edge.

She cried out, something between a moan and a scream, not a word but a single note. He continued working her, not allowing the orgasm to end. Wave after wave crashed over her, and suddenly she was drowning. It was too much, but she had no breath to tell him to stop.

The next thing she knew, she was cradled in his arms, her body still boneless and limp. He was whispering in her ear, running strong hands up and down her arms.

Her eyes fluttered open to meet his, and he smiled gently. “Welcome back.”

She could find no words, so instead placed a hand on his cheek and kissed him, putting into it everything she couldn’t say. It was only when she wrapped the other arm around his neck that she realised she was free.