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Pretty Tied Up

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“Gavin, you can’t keep doing this.”

This is not new information. Tina says the same thing every time Gavin’s exploits go south, and with good reason – he often ends up badly hurt. This time there’s bruising around his neck and several whip cuts across his back. Considering how he’d parted with the man who inflicted these bruises, he’s surprised he doesn’t have a black eye to match.

A hiss escapes him as Tina touches his back, hand covered in a cold and soothing ointment to numb the pain and encourage healing. It’s not her first time caring for his wounds, but she clearly intends for it to be the last time from the words that follow.

“You should know better. The guys you bring home are rarely qualified to give you what you’re looking for, and none of them gives a shit about your needs. You’re making enough money, why don’t you go to a professional?”

“What the fuck? Why would I do that?”

“God, you’re a dumbass. For starters, a professional would consider your safety and consent. They’re the guys who look for actual kink instead of just a hole to stick their dicks in, right? That’s what you need.”

“Oh, come on.” He grunts as her hand runs over a particularly tender spot, but doesn’t flinch away. “How good can they possibly be? It’s just kinky shit, there isn’t much to it.”

“You of all people know there are safe and unsafe ways to strike someone. I don’t know for sure but I imagine people who run a business based on that would want to prevent lawsuits, so they’d take a class at least.”

“I guess,” he’s forced to concede. She has excellent points, but it’s still something strange to look into. He never considered his sexual interests things to be carried out in a professional environment.

“I’ll help you with it. We can look people up once I’m done here.”

It doesn’t take long for Tina to finish applying the ointment. Gavin knows that dressing before it dries will only create a sticky situation, so he remains shirtless and avoids the back of the couch as he sits facing forward, reaching for his laptop.

“What do I even type?”

“I don’t know. Try professional dom Detroit or something.”

That’s exactly what Gavin looks for. The first result is a Dan Savage article, followed by a link to a list of kink professionals, the twitter page for a dominatrix, and a Wikipedia article on Dominic Raiola.

The name Niles Weston comes up next. Gavin clicks on the link, expecting to be disappointed by a low-budget website with shitty graphics, but is pleasantly surprised when greeted with a tasteful black theme. The man’s name is at the top of the screen in elegant white font. Under it, the title: professional male dom, kink specialist and sex educator.

Right below that, a horizontal menu presents the following pages: welcome, gallery, services, taboo, appointments, travel and events, and more. Beneath the menu was the picture of a strong jawline and chest, showing pale skin with a few freckles and moles. To the right of the picture was a description.

I am Niles Weston, a Detroit-based professional male dom providing services as the Dominant party for BDSM lifestyle activities to people of all genders. Scenes with me range from domestic guidance to physical and emotional sadism, and my versatile nature allows me to adapt to the needs of my submissive.

I guarantee careful risk management and professional expertise in all my scenes. In return, I demand politeness and respect. Your submission will be appreciated and rewarded.

“That seems promising,” comments Tina, who is leaning over Gavin’s shoulder to read alongside him. “He certainly sounds like he knows what he’s doing.”

Gavin only hums in acknowledgement, intrigued by the page but not convinced by such a brief summary. He clicks through to the taboo page.

I do not engage in:

Sex or illegal activity of any kind.

Intimate body worship.

Play involving bodily fluids.

Medical kink involving needles.

Fire play.

Race play.

Age play and diaper dominance.

Sessions with nonconsenting individuals or minors.

Sessions with inebriated or otherwise impaired individuals.

Any disregard for my limits or inappropriate contact with my body will result in immediate dismissal from my studio.

While Gavin had never been exposed to sexless BDSM environments, he is also well aware that none of his previous partners performed safely or followed proper etiquette for their scenes. The idea of emotional release without the pressure to perform sexually intrigues him.

The next page he visits is services, which features a description followed by a detailed list of kinks covered by the Dominant in question.

I provide bondage, discipline/correction, dominance, sadism, a master for slaves, and roleplay scenarios. My practice is safe, sane and consensual. Sessions may range from one to twenty-four hours and focus on a single kink or several in succession. I prioritize communication and professionalism with all of my clients. There will always be a safeword or hand gesture in place to tell me when your limit has been reached.

In addition to the following list, I provide sex and kink education: seminars and workshops to help beginners and experts improve their BDSM lifestyle through simple and advanced knowledge of bondage techniques, equipment, and safety precautions. I also offer training for handlers and their pets, aspiring dominants, and service submissives.

  • Domestic scenarios
  • Impact play
  • Breath play
  • Bondage and captivity
  • Electrical play
  • Sissy and slut training
  • Torture and catharsis
  • Worship and fetish indulgence
  • Creative roleplay, psychodrama and predicaments
  • Humiliation and degradation
  • Depilation
  • Orgasm control
  • Knife and blood play
  • Pet play
  • Tickle torture
  • CBT
  • CBB
  • Wax play
  • Human furniture
  • Sensory depravation
  • Food play
  • Boot worship

Some of the things listed are definitely far outside of Gavin’s comfort zone, but he reminds himself he doesn’t have to do anything he doesn’t want. There are definitely a few items that catch his eye, so he moves on and accesses the gallery page.

The first picture is a handsome, dark-haired man sitting on a black throne in front of a red backdrop. His posture is imposing, back straight and legs spread, wearing an expression that conveys almost no emotion – only a hint of disdain. He is dressed in a form-fitting black suit and shirt, heavy combat boots on his feet, which are planted firmly on the floor. His piercing gray eyes seem to stare into Gavin’s soul.

“Damn, he’s hot.” Gavin can’t help himself, the man is clearly his type. He is far more attractive than the partners he usually settled for, which is an added bonus to his claimed experience and professional ethics.

“He really is, look at those eyes,” Tina agrees, chin now fully resting on Gavin’s right shoulder. She shifts closer, resting a hand on his left shoulder to hold herself steady.

The second picture is the same man holding a riding crop, standing in front of a black, padded St. Andrew’s cross. It is followed by faceless pictures of submissives performing different acts of deference, but none of the images portray explicit nudity without censorship. It’s very tasteful for what it is.

“What do you think, Gav?”

“I could try it out. I mean, he seems pretty damn confident and his shit seems expensive, so that must count for something.”

Gavin is nervous. He’s starting to understand that in this situation he will have to be clear about what he wants, what he’s comfortable with, and what his limits are. Those are all things he quite frankly sucks at communicating.

“I think this will be good for you. If you don’t like it, you can always walk out and not go back, but I think this guy is way better than the trash you drag in on your own.”

“I guess,” Gavin mutters, knowing Tina is most likely right. Trying this out won’t hurt more than his personal exploits. With that in mind, he clicks on appointments. The page is exceedingly detailed, with several questions and checkboxes waiting to be filled in and checked.

Completing this page is the best way to initiate conversation with me about a session. The information gathered here will serve to focus our planning around our areas of greatest mutual interest and compatibility.

 With a small groan of protest at the work he needs to put in just to be considered for a scene, Gavin begins to fill in the blank spaces.

Name

  • Gavin Reed

E-mail Address

Where do you live?

  • Detroit, Michigan.

Availability

I play on weekdays and do not accept same-day appointments unless we are acquainted already.

  • Every weekday after 4pm.

Session length?

Gavin stops to think on this one. He wants to push himself, try to impress the dom on their first session, but his logical mind knows that would be incredibly stupid. The whole point of this application is no longer making stupid decisions.

  • One hour.

Interests

“Shit,” he complains, closing his eyes. He’s never actually expressed his interests out loud or in writing outside of answering questions during sex. “Tina, help.”

“I can’t fill this in for you, Gavin, I don’t know the details of your fucked-up sex life. All I do is patch you up,” she reminds him, rubbing his shoulder encouragingly. “You don’t have to tell him everything, just what you want the first time.”

“Doesn’t that break some stupid rule about communication?”

“Omission of a kink you have isn’t the same as omitting a limit or trigger, it shouldn’t be a problem if you want to bring it up in future sessions.”

“Fuck.”

  • Impact play, bondage, sensory deprivation.

Gavin can’t bring himself to disclose more than that. He figures it’s a good start – his main thing is definitely impact play, so at least he has that base covered.

BDSM History

How did you become interested in kink and BDSM? What is your experience level? How frequently do you session?

  • I discovered early on that I enjoyed pain and submission. I’ve engaged in several kink and BDSM relationships over the last decade, but none involved a professional dom. Because of this, my scenes are inconsistently spaced apart.

Limits

  • I don’t enjoy verbal humiliation or name-calling. I dislike being feminized. Not into genital torture, chain floggers or wax. I don’t do feet or sounding.

Medical Concerns

I fantasize about and would like to try the following activities:

Here, there were several boxes for Gavin to check. He finds most of the items uncomfortable to even read, but obediently checks the ones that appeal to him.

  • Bondage: light
  • Bondage: heavy
  • Bondage: restrictive
  • Bondage: predicament
  • Breath play
  • Collar and leash
  • Flogging
  • Gags
  • Nipple stimulation
  • Rope bondage
  • Sensation play
  • Sex toy worship
  • Whipping

How do you feel about marks?

  • Marks may last a week or more.

Are you a masochist?

  • Yes, I can take moderate to intense pain.

Are you a fetishist?

  • I enjoy gloves, leather, gags and CMNM.

“What’s that last thing?”

“Uh, when your dom has all his clothes on but you’re naked,” Gavin explains in a rushed voice, cheeks heating up at the admission.

“Oh. Cool.”

Are there any specific clothes, shoes or implements you want to have in scene?

Psyche

How would you like to feel during a session?

Yet another question followed by numerous little boxes. His emotional needs were the hardest to confess, but only Tina and his potential dom would see this, so he powered through the embarrassment of coming clean.

  • Adored
  • Cared for
  • Helpless
  • Overwhelmed
  • Teased
  • Tenderness

Setting

This has two options, and Gavin chooses the first.

  • Modern dungeon

Questions?

Understanding

I have read and understand the limits on the taboo page. I further understand that Mr. Weston does not engage in nudity, penetrative or oral sex of any kind while in session. I recognize these are Mr. Weston’s personal limits and not only a legal disclaimer. If I am not sure whether something is a limit, I will ask Mr. Weston before taking any action or risk being asked to leave the studio.

  • I understand and agree.

May I e-mail you for further details and planning for a session?

  • Yes, please.

[Submit]

“Holy shit,” Gavin exclaims and immediately exits the page. “I can’t believe I just did that.”

“You have to keep me updated if he accepts.” Tina is pulling away from him, stretching out her back with her hands above her head before leaning against the couch cushions.

“I will. Shit. This must be expensive as hell.”

“Don’t be stingy, Gavin, you have the cash. You certainly make more than me.”

“I know, but it’s… an added cost, you know. I’ve been getting this shit for free for years, it feels weird to pay.”

“You’ve been getting beaten up by amateurs for years, which is really rich coming from a combat veteran.” Tina is harsh but correct, as usual, and Gavin covers his face in his hands.

“Screw you, Chen,” he comments from his hunched position, voice lacking any venom. “If this goes south it was your idea.”

“It’ll be fine. But just in case it’s not, I want to know his address and what time you’re expected to leave there if you ever go through with this.”

“You sound like my mom if she actually gave a shit.”

“You’re my brother, Gav. I don’t want to leave you alone in a dangerous situation.”

Gavin sighs and sets his laptop down on the coffee table, pushing himself up from the couch. He’s anxious and scared of rejection, but he’s also terrified of receiving a confirmation for the requested scene and being an inexperienced disappointment in the eyes of his new dom.

“How about we hit the coffee shop? I need some food after this shit.”

His favorite coffee shop is an organic, vegan-friendly place on Lafayette Avenue. Tina often complained about the lack of meat options for snacks, but she had no bad words to say about their actual coffee.

“Why not?” She concedes, not moving from her spot. “Go get dressed. Choose a light shirt, you want your back to breathe.”

Gavin grunts an acknowledgment as he makes his way upstairs. He chooses a simple gray shirt, and the movement required to get into it shoots white hot pain over his back and shoulders. He grits his teeth and powers through. Once the shirt is on, the discomfort of the fabric against the cuts isn’t so bad.

It’s warm for a spring day in Detroit, so he chooses to forgo a jacket altogether. The plan is not to stay out late, so that decision should prove harmless in the long run.

He pockets his wallet and keys, then returns to the living room with a pair of shoes in hand, sitting on the couch to slip them on. Tina is silent, scrolling through something on her phone as she waits for him to get ready.

“Okay. Ready.”

They stand at the same time, Tina stopping to retrieve her own personal items from the coffee table before proceeding to the door. They take Gavin’s car purely for comfort’s sake. The day returns to some semblance of normality, easing Gavin back into a more secure state of mind.

After two weeks of checking his personal e-mail every day before and after work, he starts to lose hope. Niles had clearly read his application and thought him to be too safe, too inexperienced to be worth his time. He starts considering relapsing into his usual bad habits when a (1) notification pops up on his phone.

Surely enough, it’s from Niles Weston, subject line Scene Negotiation. As Gavin reads it, renewed tension settles in his shoulders, painfully locking the muscles. He decides not to open the e-mail in his work office, as it would be terrible for his employees to see him flustered in any way. He puts his phone down on his desk and ignores the message for now.

He arrives home at five that afternoon, taking time to brew himself a cup of calming tea before settling in front of his computer and opening his e-mail again. It’s easier to read this kind of thing on a bigger screen anyway.

Hello, Gavin, the message starts. The tone is respectful but already establishing a certain power imbalance through Niles’s use of Gavin’s first name on their first contact.

I reviewed the form you submitted to my website and found our interests compatible. There are some specifics I would like to discuss before I consider going scheduling an appointment and I greatly appreciate your open cooperation so we may make this an enjoyable experience for both parties.

I noticed that you listed few interests in the essay question, but were more open when offered pre-established answers. As we are discussing our first scene together, I would like you to be clear on which of these interests you are fully comfortable exploring during a potential encounter.

Your lack of experience with a professional makes me reluctant to induce intense pain during our first session. I would like to learn your tolerance by building up to it, and your requested one-hour session leaves little room for true exploration. I will trust your word and my judgment to make the final call, but should you desire a more fulfilling experience I strongly recommend a longer scene. I understand if that is not possible due to scheduling or budget limitations.

Your psyche section needs suggest the desire for physical submission and catharsis through emotional validation. It is common, when praising my submissives for a job well done, for me to use terms of endearment. Do you find this agreeable? Is there any word I should avoid using in this situation?

We will discuss your safeword and emergency stop gestures if and when the scene is set to happen. However, if you wish to inform me of them in advance, feel free to add them in your reply to this e-mail.

The most important thing I need to know at this point in our negotiation is your relationship with aftercare. I would like you to detail what works for you, what you think might work, and what is uncomfortable or off-limits after a scene.

This information is vital so I know no real harm has been done by the end of our time together. Feel free to be as descriptive as possible.

At last, I should inform you of my hourly rate. The cost of one hour is three hundred dollars. However, I offer a fifty-dollar discount for first experiences as a sign of good will.

I look forward to our continued negotiation.

Niles Weston

It’s a lot of information to take in. Should Gavin had expected something so detailed and eloquent? Perhaps, considering the man’s website. It still came as a surprise. Not only that, but being called out on desiring emotional validation made him fidget.

He clicks the reply button, but ends up staring at the white screen for nearly ten minutes. He’s not eloquent enough to match Niles’s message, not open enough with himself to write everything out without Tina’s forceful encouragement. Finally, he forces himself to type something.

Mr. Weston, he writes what he hopes is an appropriate way to refer to the man. If he’s forced to call him Master this is not going to work.

Thank you for taking an interest in me. I’m happy to clear up things that weren’t in the questionnaire, but discussing scenes in detail like this is kind of a new thing for me.

I think I’d be okay with getting tied up and I’m fine with all kinds of impact play I checked, but maybe we can leave breath and sensation play out the first time. It’s a lot of trust to put in someone on a first time, I hope you don’t mind.

I can spare the time for two hours if you really think it would make a big difference. I’m prepared to follow your guidance until I have a better idea of what I’m doing.

Two hours will cost him a lot of money. Gavin cringes at the thought of dishing out nearly six hundred dollars for one night of indulging his masochism, briefly wondering if he should just ghost the guy. In the end, his curiosity is what gets him to press on.

I don’t mind pet names. He doesn’t elaborate, doesn’t mention how much he loves the sound of praise, how it makes all the fight drain out of him.

As for aftercare, I don’t usually get much of that. I need water after a scene, but not much more.

Gavin doesn’t think he’s lying – he can’t admit to himself that he craves touch and reassurance. That’s a step too far, he’s already torn his heart open for this stranger.

Your rate is acceptable. What else do you need to know?

Gavin Reed

If Gavin is truly honest, his rate is not acceptable. It’s tolerable, of course, but he had expected to shell out maybe two hundred dollars at most. He can already see it – the experience is going to suck and he’ll be left sorely regretting the waste of money.

In the long run, that amount wouldn’t even make a dent in his bank account. There is no way he’d indulge in his fantasies if they destabilized his finances. He reminds himself of that, impulsively pulling up his bank balance as he has every day since he was too poor to afford food.

The numbers on the screen are expected. He’s safe. He’s stable. This is a luxury he can afford.

He expects to wait another week at least before receiving a reply, but the notification of a new e-mail from Weston pops up on his phone just after dinner.

Gavin,

I fully understand your reluctance to engage in riskier kinks before a trusting bond is established. You do not have to worry about displeasing me by stating your limitations, it is quite the opposite.

Your willingness to adapt to my recommendations is noted and appreciated. Your response did, however, raise some red flags concerning your experience with aftercare. Every submissive has their own preferred method of aftercare, but to go without any at all after a physically and/or emotionally intense scene is neglecting one’s health. I refuse to continue should you insist on no aftercare, as it goes against my rules as a dom.

I urge you to think of sensations you find pleasant and things you take comfort in. I will also accept it if you trust me enough to discover what works for you through trial and error.

If you can do that, the rest should be simple enough. What I need to know is what you expect from me. I can tell you I expect respect and deference, but not a passive bystander. I expect you to be a participant in the scene, be proactive, communicative, challenging. Do not fight me for dominance but understand that you are not a doormat.

Niles Weston

Gavin feels guilty for answering in a way that displeased Weston, wonders if he should include a proper apology in his reply. The words on the screen don’t convey anger, only… disappointment. The last thing Gavin wants is to disappoint him this early on.

The last paragraph draws a sigh of relief from him. He’s not one to submit in silence, as much as he enjoys the sensation of being helpless under another man. Knowing Weston wants a challenge, he feels his confidence rise.

Mr. Weston,

I want to apologize for alarming you. None of my previous doms have placed such great importance on my comfort, so I don’t really know what I need after a scene. I can say I enjoy feeling warm, and I always make myself some food to help wind down after being beaten. Other than that, I’ll let you try anything you think will help.

I’m not really sure what I expect from this.

Gavin swallows thickly. Oh. So he’s being honest now. He continues that paragraph.

I’m not really sure what I expect from this. I came to you because my previous relationship with kink was unhealthy, I don’t have a good framework of what should happen when it’s done properly.

There are some things I haven’t mentioned because I thought you might disapprove. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but at times I lash out verbally. I can just not do this if you think it will ruin the scene. I like being forced to submit.

Is that out of line?

Gavin Reed

Admitting all of that is extremely difficult. Gavin hesitates to send the e-mail once it’s written, wanting to erase it and type something nice and conforming in hopes he’ll be seen as a proper submissive instead of a bondage tourist. As soon as it’s sent, he closes his laptop and pushes it away from him, needing to take a deep breath.

This man is going to kill me, he texts Tina as soon as he regains some of his composure. He immediately follows that up with a second text: Not literally.

Did he get back to you? Her response indicates she knows exactly what he means even after two weeks.

Yeah. I think this is happening. Haven’t met him yet and he’s already fucking with my head.

Elaborate, she replies, probably concerned over his phrasing but knowing him well enough not to jump to conclusions.

He’s eloquent and even though I haven’t heard his voice he sounds dominant. In his e-mails. It’s weird as fuck.

So you don’t hate me for setting this up?

I could never hate you, Teeny. Now shut up.

You’re the one who texted me.

Go the fuck to sleep.

Gavin doesn’t bother turning off his laptop, he knows he’ll be back on it as soon as the sun rises. He slips his phone under his pillow and strips away his jeans, tossing them onto the unoccupied half of the bed before slipping under the covers to sleep.

His night is uncomfortable and restless, as is expected by now. Waking up with bags under his eyes is nothing new, his insomnia had only gotten worse once he left the army. Work helped, play helped, but nothing could solve the problem.

Gavin’s alarm goes off at five-thirty in the morning. He has enough discipline not to hit the snooze button or give in to the temptation of throwing his phone across the room.

He rolls onto his side and opens his unread text messages, reading through them as quickly as he can and replying only to the important ones. He knows he should have coffee before addressing any work-related issues, but he needs to be at the office in two hours and it’s easier to make his trip downstairs once he’s already awake and ready to head out the door.

The next step is to open his laptop and check his work e-mail. As usual, there are a few high-profile clients requesting a meeting with him to discuss short or long-term contracts, and Gavin’s starting to think he really needs to hire a personal secretary to answer these things for him.

He spends at least forty minutes propped up on his pillows answering e-mails. The level of tact and diplomacy required to deal with the people who seek his services is far outside his comfort zone, but Gavin knows there’s no one he can trust not to fuck it up. Only one person could screen a secretary qualified enough to handle what Gavin does and he has no intention of contacting that man.

He doesn’t check his personal e-mail. The only substantial thing that might come into that inbox is a reply from Weston, and Gavin is not dealing with that baggage before a full day of work.

Gavin dresses in the same jeans he wore the day before, not bothering to change his shirt either. As far as he’s concerned, one day with no sweat isn’t enough to warrant a fresh outfit.

He leaves the bed unmade as he slips into his shoes, gabs his bag and checks its contents. Exercise clothes, a tablet he used exclusively for task lists and calendars, a pack of his favorite double dark chocolate nut protein bars and, of course, his pistol.

The bag is slung over his right shoulder as he descends the stairs, only to be tossed on the kitchen counter. He has one hour and ten minutes to arrive at work and the drive should take him half an hour, so he brews a pot of his favorite Colombian coffee and makes toast from whole wheat bread, which is then covered in strawberry chia seed jam.

Gavin often wishes he had time to cook more elaborate meals during the week, but there is a restaurant near his headquarters that more than makes up for his slack at home. Lunch is always something to look forward to.

By the time he reaches headquarters, Allen is already conducting drills on the grounds. Gavin passes by him with a nod of acknowledgment, his silent way of recognizing the man’s hard work to keep his soldiers on the line and prepared for their duties.

His office is on the top floor of the main building, so he takes an elevator to reach it. The company’s secretary is sitting at her desk and typing away at the computer. The desk is covered in papers and sticky notes of all colors, but Gavin knows better than to berate her for the mess – she works well in her organized chaos, that's what matters.

“Hello, Mr. Reed,” she greets as soon as she spots him, wearing a polished, professional smile.

“Good morning, Traci. Have the latest reports on our overseas personnel come in yet?”

“I’m afraid not. However, I have completed the list of soldiers we’re set to deploy to Alaska for that big oil rig contract. I have also received a letter containing positive feedback from the prime minister of Sri Lanka, as written by his assistant.”

“Forward the list to me. If the feedback is good, put it out there. If it’s bad, just trash it.” Gavin will stress over the delayed reports later in the day.

“There is one more thing. A man called Jeffrey Fowler phoned in to speak to you on a personal matter. I informed him that this is a work-only line, but he insisted on leaving a message with his number.”

“Holy shit,” he can’t stop his grin. “He’s a fucking ghost coming back to haunt me. Give me the number, I’ll call the fucker right away.”

“Of course, sir.” Traci pulls one of the blue sticky notes from the bottom of her computer screen, handing it to him. “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

“No, thanks.” Gavin looks at the paper for a long moment before walking past Traci’s desk, through the glass doors that lead to his office. The entire space is decorated in brown and black – wooden desk, bookshelf, and private meeting table with black chairs and a slick black wall as a visual accent. The only pop of color was the bright green of the potted devil’s ivy hanging by the wide window.

He likes his office as much as he could ever like a space that confines him to a chair. Paperwork is definitely the second worst part of running a company – the first was navigating all the international laws that addressed this kind of operation.

Gavin’s favorite days were those when his schedule was free and he could conduct his own drills or join his men in the shooting range. Of course, butting his nose into their training usually means uncomfortable moments with Allen, which sometimes even escalates into fights over what constitutes the foundations of military discipline. The irony of his employee’s insubordination is not lost on Gavin.

Despite their disagreements, Allen does a good job of keeping everyone sharp and physically fit. He knows his exercises, combat routines and he’s a good shot, so Gavin isn’t about to fire him over some tongue-lashings.

Settling down into his comfortable chair, Gavin dials Fowler’s number from his phone. He hadn’t seen or heard from the man in ten years, which made the unexpected contact even more exciting.

“Fowler speaking.”

“You motherfucker. How did you find me?” His words are full of glee, followed by a short laugh. He’s not used to that voice anymore.

“Gavin, that’s no way to speak to your superior officer,” Fowler reminds him, but the annoyance in his tone is minimal. “I’ve been meaning to get in touch with you for a while. The boys have been throwing your name around ever since you made it big.”

“You can’t give me disciplinary warnings anymore, Jeffrey. It’s great to hear your voice again, particularly when you’re not yelling at me.”

“Very funny. What do you say we meet up, maybe you show me around that fancy compound you built?”

“I don’t see why not. Let me check my calendar.”

“That is the prissiest thing I have ever heard you say, Reed.”

“I’m a busy man, you asshole,” he barks back, setting the call on speaker so he can reach into his bag for the tablet that contains all his scheduled responsibilities. “I don’t have any meetings on Friday, if you’re free early in the afternoon we could meet up for lunch and then I’ll give you the grand tour.”

“Friday is great. Text me an address and I’ll meet you there.”

“Deal.”

The conversation gives Gavin renewed energy to get through the day. As fucked up as it is, his combat years had been the most emotionally stable periods in his life. Anything that set his mind back to the raw survival instinct he ran on in those days was welcome.

He powers through the reading he needs to do, reviews important contracts and ensures the swift assembly of the team he’s sending to the new oil rig in Alaska. His only break is at noon, and he spends it at his favorite restaurant, eating an eggplant-based meatless moussaka for lunch.

By the time work is over, Gavin feels mentally exhausted but physically energetic, so he delays his return home and drives to Tina’s dojo. She closes up at six, so he has plenty of time to catch her last class and perhaps treat them to sparring match between the two of them.

Not only does he do that, he stays after her students leave and tells her about Fowler. Tina had been much more in line with their superiors during the war, and she’s pleased to hear Gavin’s accomplishments got him recognized by someone that important to both of them.

Of course, the day’s excitement had made him completely forget about one Niles Weston. Then Tina brings him up and Gavin slumps back against a pillar with a loud groan.

“Do we have to talk about him?”

“Are you having second thoughts or is this just your anxiety spiking?” Tina asks, hanging her sword back on the wall.

“Neither. I’m just embarrassed, this whole fucking situation is humiliating.” He runs his hand over his face, stretching the skin with the force of his pull. “I told him a bunch of shit I shouldn’t have about how I have no idea what the fuck I’m getting into.”

“I’m sure he’ll appreciate your honesty. Are you scared he’ll turn you down?”

“Jesus, Chen, do you know me?” Of course I am, he doesn’t say. Gavin lacks the emotional maturity to handle rejection and he is well aware of that.

“Sorry I asked.” Tina raises both hands in surrender, then drops to sit cross-legged on the mat. “Come here.”

Gavin sits down in front of her, so close their legs almost touch. She places a hand on his knee and rubs it reassuringly.

“What was the last thing he said?”

“I haven’t checked. Not today, I mean,” he clarifies.

“You should. Come on, do it while I’m with you.”

Gavin sighs his defeat and reaches for his phone. There are three new e-mails in his personal inbox. The first is from LinkedIn, subject line these are the world’s happiest countries; the second is an UberEATS coupon; the third, finally, is a reply from Niles Weston.

Gavin,

I have concerns about proceeding with this negotiation, but you have been honest with me and so I would be negligent to turn you away without careful consideration.

If we develop a working trust, I will teach you how to connect to your kinks in a healthy, safe manner. I cannot blame you for being a victim to the abuse of power by people who claim to be Dominants.

You are not out of line. Even if I refuse to perform one of your desires, it is good for me to know them. I do not have a problem with bratty submissives or the need to use force. It is something I take great enjoyment in doing.

Would you be amenable to meeting in person so we may discuss any additional concerns and details before scheduling your session?

Niles Weston

“Oh fuck.” Gavin stares at the small screen, thoughts racing. He’s going to agree to this meeting and either Weston will blow him away or disappoint him by not living up to the expectations established by their extensive communication.

Tina is clearly curious, sitting patiently and watching him, so he passes the phone to her without a word and allows her to read through the entire e-mail.

“Does this guy not know what a contraction is?”

Gavin snorts despite his rising anxiety because that is such a Tina thing to focus on.

“I told you he’s all formal and shit.”

“I thought you were being dramatic,” she explains, returning his phone. “Write him back. You have to set this date.”

“Don’t call it a date, Chen, it’s not like that.”

“Dumbass, I mean date as in ‘time and date’.” Tina rolls her eyes, leaning back on her hands and tilting her head.

“Oh.” Gavin has the decency to look apologetic. He taps the screen to reply, typing in the greeting before even thinking of what to say.

Mr. Weston,

I don’t know how to thank you for sticking with me. I was scared you’d write me off after that. I’m excited to go forward with this arrangement.

Meeting up would be great. Is the weekend okay? If not, I’m only available after 4pm.

Gavin Reed

“I hate this honesty shit,” Gavin practically whines after sending the e-mail.

“Please. He has you wrapped around his finger and you haven’t even met him.”

“What if his voice is goofy? Or if he talks weird, different from how he writes? Or what if he’s short? Shit, I couldn’t take him seriously if that happened.”

“Jesus, Gav. Get a grip.” Tina laughs, likely picturing the man who looks so imposing in photographs being shorter than Gavin. That would be a treat. “If you don’t vibe with him in real life, you don’t have to go through with it. You keep talking as if you have no choice. There are other people who do this work out there.”

“It’s not easy to just… ‘not vibe’ with someone who knows your darkest secrets.”

“Dear, we both know those are not your darkest secrets. They’re just some embarrassing power fantasies you’re too proud to voice.”

“Fuck you, why do you have to say shit like that?”

“Because I’m your friend and I’m trying to keep you grounded.”

“Ugh. Thanks, Teeny.”

They end up going out for dinner together, this time to a restaurant that catered to both their diets. The sight and smell of meat does not bother Gavin, so he’s unfazed when Tina cuts into a medium rare steak that drips with juices as the knife goes through. It’s not something he misses, either. His choice of lasagna is perfectly balanced.

He’s on his last bite when his phone vibrates. He takes the time to clean his plate before reaching for the device, looking up to meet Tina’s eyes after reading the notification.

“He wrote back.”

“What are you waiting for, then?” Tina smiles, licking the red sheen of a wine reduction from her lips.

“I’m getting to it.”

Gavin,

How about dinner on Saturday? We can meet at a restaurant and proceed from there. I would like to choose the establishment, but if you feel uncomfortable meeting me for the first time on my terms, I am flexible to your suggestions.

Niles Weston

“He wants to have dinner,” Gavin announces after a minute of tense silence.

“So?” Tina tilts her head, lowering her fork back onto her empty plate. “What’s the big deal?”

“I’m going to have to mention… you know.”

“Gavin, goddamn it, you’ve been vegan for years and you can’t even say the word?”

“Shut up. It’s embarrassing,” he hisses, not wanting anyone to overhear.

“Gav. You just told this guy you want him to force you into submission and you’re afraid he’s going to judge you because you eat weird?” Tina is careful to keep her voice down, but her expression is a mixture of annoyance and amusement.

“Fuck you. God, fuck you,” Gavin closes his eyes, leaning his head back and exhaling slowly. “You have a point and I hate you for that.”

“You’re welcome, dear. What do you want for dessert? I’ll order while you type.”

“Just… y’know, nothing. I don’t think I can stomach sweets right now.”

“Okay.”

Mr. Weston, Gavin starts, as he always does.

That sounds good. I’d rather pick the place, not from lack of trust but for limitations in my diet.

Gavin stops typing to open up his browser and search the restaurant he wants to visit with Weston, copying the address and pasting it into the e-mail.

Does 8pm at 8029 Agnes St work for you?

Gavin Reed

“Let me see,” Tina extends her hand over the table, looking at him expectantly.

“Why?”

“Come on, don’t be an ass.”

“Fine,” Gavin sighs and passes his phone over, rolling his eyes when Tina barks out a laugh. “Before you say shit – fuck off.”

“’Limitations in my diet’? Seriously?” She shakes her head, smile fixed on her face. “Damn, Gavin.”

“Can we just go?”

“Sure, but I’m not dropping this yet,” she teases.

They don’t have to wait long for one of the waiters to approach the table, Tina politely asking for the tab. They split the bill equally between them and Gavin returns to the dojo with her to pick up his car, waving off any further comments about his upcoming encounter with Weston.

There is only one more answer from Weston before the weekend – a confirmation that Gavin’s pick of place and time was acceptable for their meeting. The lull in communication allows Gavin to focus heavily on his work, finally receiving and reviewing his requested reports, attending several meetings, signing a few new contracts.

The one free day he has is Friday, which is reserved exclusively for Fowler. In truth, Gavin doesn’t know what to expect from the man all these years after their service together, but his excitement is palpable. In contrast, he is also incredibly insecure about their place of meeting, knowing Fowler is likely to make a case of his eating habits.

He should not have offered lunch.

Gavin does his best to push those worries aside, knowing that they are minor things in the grand scheme of his relationship with the Major. The man had guided Gavin through eighteen months of hell, ensured he had the clarity of mind to carry out every mission, securing his place as one of the reasons he looked back on those months with some level of sentimentality. In the end, war was easy: he followed orders and was rewarded for it.

He meets Fowler at the restaurant at half past noon. He greets the man expecting a firm handshake, not the hug he’s pulled into.

“Getting sentimental, old man?” Gavin laughs it off as they part, motioning for Fowler to lead the way to their table.

“I may have missed your bullshit more than I let on, Reed,” Fowler concedes, shrugging his shoulders as he pulls out a chair to sit on. “Seems you’ve made a name for yourself.”

“Yeah. Got pretty lucky.” Gavin sits across from him, resting his clasped hands on the table. He smiles at the server who immediately comes to attend them, a boy comfortable enough to address him by name already.

They make easy conversation as they look over the menus, with Gavin settling for his usual salad and stuffed mushrooms. Fowler grumbles over the lack of meat options, but ends up ordering the tofu steak.

“You know,” Fowler starts, while they wait for their meals, “I don’t think luck had much to do with your business. You were a good soldier. A stubborn, hot-headed ass, but a good soldier.”

“Being a soldier has shit-all to do with running a company,” Gavin replies. “Learned that one the hard way. I even had to take a fucking course on it, just to be sure I was doing things right, and even then, I rely on accountants and lawyers to help me deal with it.”

“So, you still haven’t gotten through your thick skull that your team doesn’t make you weak, huh? That was the one thing I couldn’t drill into your head no matter how many times I said it.”

“To be fair, most of the guys on our team were assholes,” he frowned, tapping his fingers against the wooden table. “If it weren’t for Tina, I would have taken some teeth.”

“Didn’t you break Carlin’s front tooth?” Fowler asks, clearly amused by the memory despite his white rage at the time of the event.

“He had it coming. Tried funny business with Tina and you know how no one gave a shit about due process when it came to that.”

“I don’t disagree.”

“You gave me a disciplinary warning and yelled at me in front of the whole troop,” Gavin reminds him, annoyed.

“I was your commanding officer. Justified or not, you assaulted another soldier, I did my job. Let’s not hold grudges, Reed, or I’d hate your guts for undermining my authority.”

“Fine, sorry. I know I gave you a lot of shit, but I was… dealing with some stuff. It was worse on my first tour, you’re lucky you weren’t there. I think what got me through the second was having you and Tina there, you kept me in line.”

“Hm. Speaking of Chen, are you two still an item? You can’t seem to shut up about her.” Fowler smiles, obviously well-intentioned, but the question makes Gavin squirm.

“About that,” Gavin pauses, wetting his lips with the tip of his tongue as he tries to think of what to say. His anxiety spikes. This could go badly. “Tina and I were never a thing. I mean, we… kept each other company, you know, but I’m gay.”

“Oh. Sorry for assuming.” Fowler doesn’t seem bothered by the news, simply offering an apologetic smile.

“You just assumed what we wanted you to. DADT was some brutal shit back then.” Gavin sighs, shaking his head. “Don’t really want to talk about it. What have you been up to, Major?”

“Colonel, actually,” Fowler corrects him. “I retired last year. I’ve been a boring old man lately, spending time with my family and visiting doctors more often than I’d like.”

Their food arrives. Fowler seems pleasantly surprised by his choice, and continues the conversation to proudly talk about his family and what he’s accomplished in the last decade. He asks questions about Gavin’s personal life, most of which receive vague answers, and then shifts the focus to his company.

Gavin easily slips into the subject, talking about their corporate headquarters and his other four regional offices, the in-compound drills they run with select teams of soldiers, the training courses offered – which range from firearm safety and usage to medical field training. Though he prefers the tactical aspect of the job, his company is his child, his pride, and he does his best to paint it in a good light.

After lunch, Gavin leads Fowler to the compound where his corporate headquarters share space with primary training grounds, an area repurposed from old industrial warehouses into a brand-new collection of buildings.

They visit the open grounds first, then the firing range, making their way through the ground level operations as they pass classrooms and the armory. The last thing Gavin shows him is the office space, taking him through the employees’ cubicles first before leading him into his personal office.

Traci is there to greet them with fresh coffee, made to Gavin’s specifications with his own favorite brand. They spend the rest of the afternoon in the office, reminiscing about the war and everything they went through together.

At the end of the day, Gavin is exhausted. He indulges in a hot shower, allowing himself the rare pleasure of letting the water cascade over him for minutes before truly washing his body. He makes tea and combs through all the work e-mails he ignored throughout the afternoon, then settles into bed and calls Tina.

She indulges him in their own joined war memories for a time, but steers him away from them when the topic gets dark. Instead, she chooses to tease him about his encounter with Weston, easily establishing their playful back-and-forth. That lightness is what eases him to sleep.

It’s not a restful night by any means, but it’s better than most. Four hours of uninterrupted sleep, another three in between breathless waking moments, and Gavin is set for the day. He spends his morning at the gym after a hearty breakfast, takes time to prepare his own lunch, and even relaxes in the living room with one of his cheesy movies.

The sun is setting when he selects fresh clothes and changes into them: a dark wash pair of jeans and a gray V-neck t-shirt. He combs his hair and tries to get the unruly strands away from his face, but some insist on falling forward. He gives up.

It’s five minutes to eight when he arrives at Detroit Vegan Soul, an exposed brick building with large windows and a black angled awning over the front entrance. The sign is round, black and green with elegant brown letters.

Gavin asks for a table for two, giving his name to the server and telling him who he’s expecting. The moment the clock turns to eight, Niles Weston walks through the door. He’s led by the waiter to their table, and Gavin stands to greet him with an extended hand.

“Gavin.” Weston takes his hand and shakes it firmly, then both of them sit. “It is good to finally meet you.”

“Yeah. Yes, it’s… nice to meet you.” Gavin smiles somewhat awkwardly, trying not to overthink the situation. All his fears had been unfounded. Weston is tall, his jawline strong and defined, his eyes piercing. His voice is not disappointing in the least. The way he holds himself shows he can command any situation. “Sorry about the place.”

“Do not apologize. I have no problem with alternative diets, and this place is said to be very good.” Weston flips open the menu, eyes skimming over the options. “Have you been well this week?”

“Huh? Yeah, just busy with work.” Gavin tilts his head to the side, then mirrors the man’s actions and looks at his own menu.

“You certainly seem to have a lot of responsibilities,” Weston commented, humming a note as he read the ingredients on a plate that caught his attention.

“I do. Wait- how do you know that?” Gavin frowns and looks up at him, but Weston does not shift his attention from the pages.

“You provided me with your real name. It’s an impressive show of trust or a very curious mistake. Either way, I searched your name to be safe, I can never know enough about my clients. I apologize if this makes you uncomfortable.”

“Oh. No, that makes sense.” He looks at Weston a moment longer, then goes back to reading. There aren’t many options that fit his personal preferences, but there are enough for him to feel comfortable ordering a full meal.

When they’re ready to order, the server comes by and writes down each of their choices. They agree to share the hummus platter as a starter. Gavin follows it up with a sesame kale salad and a soul platter - mac-n-cheese, tenderly smoked collards, maple glazed yams, black eyed peas and a cornbread muffin. Weston goes for the community garden salad and the seitan pepper steak.

“Do you mind if I ask where you served?” Weston breaks the silence after their orders, finally meeting Gavin’s eyes with an impassive yet inquisitive expression.

“No. Uh, I did a year in Afghanistan right out of high school. After that I was stationed at a base for a few months, then I came home and went back for another tour in Iraq. That one lasted eighteen months.”

“That’s a long time. I imagine it was at the start of the war.”

“Yeah.” Gavin nods, losing himself in thought for a few seconds. “It was.”

“Why did you join the armed forces?”

“That’s a good fucking question,” Gavin replies, then catches himself and has the grace to look sheepish. “Sorry.”

“I’m not offended by foul language. Please continue.”

“Oh. I guess I wasn’t ever good at anything, you know? I was… average in school, didn’t want to go to college, couldn’t afford it anyway. Uh,” he pauses, looking around them before focusing on Weston again. “I was a shit kid. I needed the discipline, I had nowhere else to go, and so I signed up. I’ve always been a good fighter, and I may be an ass but I know when to follow orders. Getting used to the guns was easy. Getting used to the killing… that wasn’t.”

“I cannot begin to imagine the weight of taking a life.”

“You said it. Didn’t matter, though, I was good at it. My friend Tina joined the army because she wanted to help people, protect the country, same old bullshit advertised on every screen. I didn’t have any delusions about the army, I knew what I was getting into and I didn’t care. I just wanted to be useful.”

Gavin clicks his tongue once he’s done talking, his sight not quite focused. These are things he’s said out loud many times, but only ever to Tina. Unlike his best friend, Weston stands at the odd cross-section of being a complete stranger and knowing more about Gavin than any of the people who see him on a daily basis.

“It seems you proved yourself,” Weston finally adds, watching Gavin carefully through his whole answer. “You must have some additional talents to have made Attila what it is today.”

“I surprised myself with that one,” Gavin admits. “When I came back home I was… a mess, really. So, I thought of what I could do, called up some of my buddies from the army, we started a security company. It grew pretty fast. Allen had the idea of offering classes, we built our first building to hold the offices, in a couple of years we had two blocks worth of space. I’m not sure how the fuck we got this big.”

“I think you give yourself too little credit.”

“Hmpf. What about you? What got you into… your business?”

“It was a natural progression,” Weston starts, smoothing down the tablecloth with both hands. “My mother was very strict when it came to academics. For most of my teenage years, I had little freedom. Naturally, when I came of age, I wanted to explore my newfound liberty, particularly once I moved into my own apartment. I started going out to clubs, but they weren’t quite to my tastes, and then one day a friend invited me to a fetish convention because she did not want to go alone.”

“So you just fell into it?” Gavin asks, disbelieving. That seems oddly simple.

“In a way. I was intrigued by everything I saw at the convention, all the people talking about their experiences, their strange desires, their unique relationships. I admit I might have been in over my head when I began to explore things for myself. My mother had always taught me to research every interest of mine to make the most of it, and while I am sure she disapproves of this one, I did just that. I read every piece of information I could, spoke to people in the scene, visited a dungeon every chance I got. Eventually, they hired me to work the desk, then I studied under a dominatrix with two decades of experience. She taught me most of what I know today. Since then, I have kept up the habit of attending classes and workshops around the country to improve my skills.”

“Oh. That’s a lot. Did you ever consider working in another field?”

“For a time. Not since I opened my studio. I plan to carry on working there for as long as it is sustainable, or as long as my body and mind permit.”

“You seem pretty damn young, so I guess you’ll be doing that shit for decades,” Gavin comments, surprised when it draws a smile to Weston’s lips.

“You are correct. I pride myself in being skillful for my age.”

“Yeah?”

“Mm. I do not presume to be above my peers, but I can fully guarantee the quality of my service.” Weston’s smile twists into a smirk, barely perceptible but still present.

“I guess that’s why I wrote to you.”

Before their conversation can continue, the server appears with waters and a platter of black-eyed pea hummus, pita, cucumbers, olives and pickled beets. They both thank him, then proceed to slowly pick at the plate while continuing their conversation.

“Tell me, Gavin, what can you share with me about your previous experiences?”

“I- shit. Okay, look, you may have gotten some of this already but I guess I have to come out and say it. I’m not good at… at this vulnerability stuff. Talking about it, at least.”

“You have been very open with me up to this point,” Weston reminds him, dipping a piece of pita into the hummus. “I do not wish to pressure you to sate my curiosity.”

“I wish I could tell you. It’s just… a lot of crap.”

“You know, it is customary for us to refuse service to people who carry too much emotional baggage. You should seek out a therapist before seeking play.”

“Been there. Doesn’t help,” Gavin admits, feeling the cold pool of dread in his stomach. They can’t have come this far for Weston to turn him away.

“If I see you cannot handle our scenes, I will deny you service. However, I am willing to go forward with this arrangement until the day that happens.”

“Oh.” He swallows, nodding. “Okay.”

“Now, are there any questions you have for me? I know you answered negative in your e-mail, but I must ask again.”

“Uh,” Gavin hesitates, taking the time to eat some of the beets as he considers his answer. “How should I refer to you?”

“You may address me by my first name outside our scenes. During a scene, my preferred title is ‘sir’.”

“I know I said I don’t mind marks, but I don’t want anything permanent. Is that okay?”

“Of course. Only irresponsible people scar their submissives without explicit consent beforehand.”

“Right.” Gavin nods, licking his lips. “What… I mean, have you ever made mistakes before?”

“Did you research what to ask me?” Niles asks, eyebrows slightly raised. He seems oddly pleased. “I have. Every dominant has made mistakes.”

“Yeah, I did. Uh. Can you tell me about them?”

“The worst ones came when I was starting out. I was overconfident and ended up harming my submissive during impact play. After that, I requested special instruction so it would never happen again. Then… I used to tie my ropes too tight, which can be dangerous. Thankfully I was called out on that early on.”

“What do you think about discipline and punishment?” This is a hard question to get out. Gavin doesn’t quite know where to draw the line between his genuine enjoyment of pain and his need for redemption through it, so it is something that needs to be discussed.

“I believe each dynamic has its own set of rules. We have yet to establish ours, and so I cannot make any grand statements about punishments for you.” Niles pauses to take another bite from the food, the platter now almost cleared. “You desire physical pain and emotional acceptance, that much is clear. But you have not specified any requests for discipline. I am flying in the dark.”

“I find it difficult to submit. I know I already said that, I- I want you to push me, but I also want to learn. I want to be able to… just do it.” Gavin shifts his gaze away, pressure mounting in his chest with every word. “I don’t know how to get there.”

“What do you take from impact play?”

“It’s… the easiest way to get me into subspace. It feels like I’m high, and there’s this rush of energy afterwards. I feel fully aware of my body. It makes me feel closer to my dom. Like he could break me but he won’t.”

“Hm, so it helps you build trust when a scene ends well.”

“Except they rarely do,” Gavin mutters, closing his eyes.

“Gavin, look at me,” Niles instructs, voice still gentle and patient. Gavin obeys. “I will not permit our experiences to reflect the failures of your past doms.”

“I know,” Gavin replies, smiling softly. “I mean, I think I know that. You seem competent enough and not like an asshole.”

“Thank you. I cherish your trust.” Niles leans back in his chair, clearly considering his next words with care. “Where do you prefer to be struck?”

“My back, thighs, ass.” Gavin replies rather stiffly, looking around to ensure that no one is overhearing their conversation.

“How do you feel about blows to your chest?”

“I- I actually never tried that. I’m open to it.”

“Okay. Face?”

“That’s a bit much.”

“Understood.” Niles turns his head as the server approaches again, setting their salads down on the table and carrying away the empty starter platter.

Their conversation lulls as they focus on the food, but picks up again once only a few stray leaves are left on each plate. Niles is naturally the one to lead it.

“This one is important: do you prefer thud or sting toys?”

“I’m not sure I know the difference.”

“Thud toys are those with harder impact, sting toys create a sharper pain,” Niles explains.

“Thud, then. I like both but too much stinging can get tiring quick.”

“Is there any toy you don’t want me to use?”

 “I’m not big on the cane. Never used it before, don’t think I want to start now.”

“How do you feel about nipple play?” Niles asks, taking a long sip of his water.

“I never used toys on them. I… like having them played with.” Gavin is blushing, he has been for some time, but it darkens as he thinks about how sensitive he can be. “I’ve always been curious about clamps.”

“Hm,” Niles hums, and now it’s his turn to ensure no servers or customers are within hearing range. “You mentioned an interest in erotic toys, but not orgasm control. Do you wish to receive that kind of stimulus during our scenes?”

“Fuck,” Gavin chokes out, avoiding Niles’s eyes. “I don’t know. Didn’t you say you don’t do sex?”

“Oh, I have no issue with my submissives stimulating their own bodies. I will even lend a hand when the scene calls for it. What I do not engage in is direct sexual contact with my body.”

“I- how about we just… see how it goes?” Gavin suggests, too embarrassed to even consider giving him a direct answer.

“As you wish,” Niles replies, reassuring him. “We can always stop if you dislike it.”

“Yeah. Oh, the food.”

Finally, their main courses are delivered to the table. The conversation turns lighter as they enjoy the peak of their meal, with most important questions now out of the way. Gavin stops halfway through his soul platter to complain about the dryness of the cornbread, but eats the whole thing anyway.

Once their plates are cleared, Niles orders the apple cake and Gavin passes on dessert, explaining he’s not big on sugar. He’s tempted to order a coffee, but that would disrupt his already struggling sleep schedule.

“There is one thing I nearly forgot to ask,” Niles comments between bites of his cake. “Given your vegan diet, what would you like me to have on hand after our scene?”

“Most snacks are pretty unhealthy. Nuts are okay. Fruit, if you can get it fresh. If it’s too much of a pain I’ll take something myself, you don’t have to bother.”

“Nonsense, Gavin.” Niles waves the hand holding his fork, licking some crumbs from his lips. “I’ll provide for your aftercare. It’s part of the package.”

“Thanks, I guess.”

They call for the tab as soon as Niles is done with his dessert, with Gavin insisting on splitting it evenly despite Niles consuming more than him. When they part, it’s with the set promise of scheduling a scene, which has Gavin’s nerves tingling.

The first thing he does after changing into sweatpants is make a nest of his blankets and call Tina. He can’t help but go on about how Niles exceeded his expectations, how he was attentive and caring, how even when he embarrassed Gavin, he was careful not to let others bear witness to his shame.

She even teases him, claiming he has a crush, which he vehemently denies. It’s only natural to be into your dom, but he has no romantic inclination toward Niles, only the desire to serve and please him. If only it could stay that way.