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“You two don’t have to pretend you’re not banging on my account, y’know,” Kent says. “I know what a freshly-laid Jack Zimmermann looks like.”

He’s sitting on the floor, pretending to fish around in the dregs of the tortilla chip bag for one that isn’t broken, but Jack can tell he’s peeking so he won’t miss their reactions. Kent’s always had a thing for getting reactions out of people.

Jack knows better than to give him one, but Bitty doesn’t disappoint. He looks from Kent to Jack and back, eyes wide and panicked. “What?”

Jack sighs. He should have seen this coming. He knew Kent would show up for the graduation blowout--Vegas is out of the playoffs early this year, victim to L.A.’s annual postseason Mr. Hyde routine, and Kent is one of those guys who parties his feelings away. He’s always the last one doing shots, and Jack always stays up to keep an eye on things until everyone else is safely conked out, and Bitty’s always bustling around clearing out trash at the end of the night. Of course they’d be the last three standing.

And of course Kent would figure them out. No matter how much Jack hates to admit it, Kent still knows him better than anyone.

“Ah, don’t freak out, dude. Nobody else would be able to tell.” Kent looks a lot more awake than he normally does by this hour. Sharper, like he hasn’t been drinking much. “Jack can never keep secrets from me.” He winks.

Bitty sits down on the green couch, which means he must really be in shock. “Jack. You said you’ve never come out to anyone except me.”

Technically, he hasn’t. Jack’s pretty sure getting caught checking out Kent’s ass, freezing up like an idiot, and then being tackled onto his bed and deflowered doesn’t count as “coming out.” But it’s not the technicalities that matter here, and he knows that.

“Sorry. I didn’t want to talk about it.”

“Aw, was I really that bad for you, baby?” Kent slaps a melodramatic hand to his heart. “I’m hurt.”

Bitty really does look hurt, hurt and confused and embarrassed, and Jack feels like shit for letting that happen. “Shut up, Parson,” he snaps.

Kent immediately settles down. He’s spent enough time pushing Jack’s limits that he knows when he’s gone too far. “Sorry, I just don’t get it. I know you’re bad at communication, but with your kinks, how’s it even possible to get into a new relationship without talking about what you’ve done?”

Shit.

Kent looks at Jack’s face and echoes the sentiment. “Shit.”

Bitty is trying to ask a question, but Kent shakes his head. “I’m out. You guys need to talk.” He starts to get up.

“No!” Jack blurts out, and Kent pauses. “Don’t go. Please.”

Kent slowly sits back down. Jack closes his eyes, shutting out both of them for a second. He’s not sure he can handle this conversation at all, but he knows he won’t be able to do it if Kent leaves now. He’s never been able to think straight about what he wants unless Kent is there with him.

“Jack,” Kent says.

“I know.” Jack forces himself to glance at Bitty, who’s sitting there quietly waiting for someone to clue him in. They should have talked about this already, but... he didn’t want Bitty to feel obligated, like their sex life wasn’t enough. And looking at him now, so unsure, it’s a little hard to picture him dominating anyone.

But still. He should know.

Jack tries to think of the right words, but they haven’t come in the months he’s been trying to think of them so far, and they’re not coming now. He’s starting to work himself into a panic when Kent scoots closer on the floor and says, “Hey. Want me to tell him?”

Jack is nodding before he can even think about it. Yes, god yes, he wants someone else to do this for him. Take on his responsibilities, make his decisions, deal with the consequences. Kent used to go to bat for him like that all the time.

“He’s submissive,” Kent says, like he’s ripping off a Band-Aid. “He’s into taking pain, obeying orders, being punished if he fucks up.”

“Oh,” says Bitty. He’s trying to make eye contact with Jack, but Jack just can’t. “I’ve never done anything like that. But I’ll try my best if it’s what you want, Jack.”

He touches Jack’s shoulder, tentative, and even through his relief Jack is suddenly certain that this can’t work. It worked with Kent because Kent was willing to take what he wanted. Bitty doesn’t do that. It’s one of the things Jack loves about him, the way he always checks in, never assumes anything--but it means Bitty can’t take charge the way Jack wants. It’s just not who he is.

It’s okay. Jack doesn’t need it, definitely not more than he needs Bitty. He likes regular sex well enough. He’ll be fine. They’ll be fine.

Bitty, apparently unable to read his mind, says, “If you’ve done this, Kent, maybe... you could give me some tips?”

“Yeah?” A wicked smile slowly spreads across Kent’s face, and he turns to Jack. “What do you say, should I show your boy how to make you cry?”

A memory hits Jack like a slapshot, and for a moment he forgets to breathe. When he can, he chokes out, “I-I don’t think that’s what he meant.”

“Um, no,” Bitty confirms. “It was not. But..." He looks weird. Jack can’t figure out what’s going on with his face. “I really have no clue how this works. It might help to learn from someone who knows what they’re doing. Do you think... that might actually be a good idea?”

“Fuck yes, it’s a good idea,” Kent puts in, sliding right up to Jack.

“Oh, I beg your pardon, I was talking to Jack,” Bitty informs him, all sincere Southern manners with the slightest bit of an edge. It would be funny if Jack wasn’t distracted by the thought of getting on his knees for both of them, together.

It’s a hell of a thought. Jack never lets himself remember what Kent used to do to him without fighting to keep the images out of his mind, but now it’s impossible, with Kent right there smirking at him and Bitty offering to let it happen again. It’s been a long, long time since Jack wanted anything this much.

Except maybe for how badly he wanted Bitty. And now he has him, and none of the fantasies flashing through his mind would be worth losing him.

“Don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with.” Jack meets Bitty's eyes. "I'm serious. If you don't want to, don't."

Bitty nods. “I think I’m okay with it, if we agree to stop if I need to. Or if anyone needs to.” His forehead wrinkles worriedly. “Maybe not right now, though? You look kind of wrung out.”

Kent wraps his hand around Jack’s wrist, squeezes, and fuck. Jack can just feel the tension easing out of his whole body.

Kent smiles even wider. “That’s when he needs it most.”

Bitty strokes his knuckles up and down Jack’s arm gently. “Jack? Do you really want to do this now?”

It’s a struggle to focus. He’s not used to having to think when Kent is holding him like that. But Bitty needs reassurance, and if it means Jack gets to have this one more time, he can give it.

“Yeah,” he manages to whisper. “Please.”

Kent grabs a chip clip off the floor. “Watch this,” he says to Bitty, and clamps it down on Jack’s nipple.

It hurts. Jack lets out a pained breath, slumping down the couch. God, he’s almost forgotten what it’s like--feeling like it’s too much, overwhelming, impossible, and taking it anyway. “Good, Jack,” Kent murmurs, and Jack is vaguely aware of being rock-hard.

“We should take this upstairs,” says Bitty, sounding a little far away. Kent takes the clip off, and through the jolt of sensation Jack gets it together enough to notice that Bitty’s cheeks are pink and his lips are wet. He knows what that means.

Bitty likes it. He likes seeing Jack shuddering with pain.

The thought is more comforting than anything Bitty could possibly say aloud. If Bitty's into this, really into it, then Jack doesn't have to worry that he’s suppressing laughter or disgust. For the first time since Kent opened his stupid mouth, Jack doesn’t feel like he wants to run away.

He tilts his chin up and Bitty kisses him, running a hand down his chest and stomach to grope the bulge in his jeans. The touch isn’t tentative anymore, not at all, and yes. Bitty's into this, Jack is sure. He clutches Bitty’s slim shoulders, desperately grateful.

Bitty breaks the kiss with a little squeeze of Jack’s crotch, and Jack moans. Bitty taps his shoulder. “Up, Jack. Upstairs, let’s go.”

It’s no different from the way he’s said that kind of thing dozens of times before, when Jack has nodded off over his textbooks, but in this context it sends a pulse of blood to his dick as he stumbles to his feet. He can feel Bitty’s hand on his waist all the way upstairs and into Jack’s bedroom, where Kent closes the door and says, “Clothes off, on your knees.”

Jack starts to obey, but Bitty says, “Wait,” and he stops.

“Just...” Bitty does the time-out signal with his arms. “Jack, you went somewhere else back there with the, um, nipple thing. And that’s great, I--I want to be able to do that for you.” His cheeks are pink again, or maybe still. “But it seemed like you weren’t thinking too straight, so could we go over things a little bit before we start getting into it?”

Jack buttons his jeans, resigned.

“Like, what if someone needs to tap out?” Bitty continues. “Can we just say stop? Or are you going to be saying that without meaning it?”

Kent shakes his head impatiently. “Jack’s not into that. Stop is fine.”

Bitty nods, and takes a deep breath. “And... please don’t kiss each other. I want to keep that for me. Is that all right?”

Jack doesn’t give Kent a chance to respond to that. “Yes.”

Bitty looks a little more relaxed now. “Okay. Can you guys give me the basic rundown of how this goes before we start?”

Kent gives Jack a look. Jack gets where he’s coming from--it kind of ruins the mood to plan everything out. But there’s no way he’s saying that out loud and scaring Bitty off. He waits, pleading with his eyes, until finally Kent sighs and says, “So, basically what he’s into is challenges. He likes it when you push him to the edge of what he can handle, make him take a lot, and then if he gets it right he wants praise and if he gets it wrong he wants punishment.”

Jack has never really thought of it like that. He thought he just liked being bossed around. But now that he’s heard it said, he realizes that it’s true: rising to challenges is the best part, and he likes knowing what’s going to happen when he succeeds or fails. The certainty is comforting.

“Does he ever get it wrong on purpose just to get the punishment?” Bitty asks.

Kent shrugs. “Does it matter?”

That’s a surprise. It matters to Jack. “I don’t mess up on purpose,” he says. “I try really hard not to.”

Bitty frowns. “I don’t think I understand. If you don’t want to be punished, why set it up so you have to be?”

Jack was right. This isn’t going to work. Bitty doesn’t get it. He looks at Kent, expecting him to be just as frustrated, and Kent... looks like he’s actually considering the question.

Jack stares at him. Kent never, not once, actually talked to Jack about what they were doing. And okay, maybe Jack never tried to start a conversation either, but if he had, he knows Kent would have laughed it off. It wasn’t something they needed to talk about. They just did it, and it usually worked out okay.

Jack tries to picture how he would have reacted if Kent had brought it up, and winces a little inside. Maybe they’ve both changed a little since they were seventeen.

“It’s not really about wanting,” Kent says thoughtfully. “If he wanted to be punished, it wouldn’t be punishment. It’s like, satisfaction? Catharsis? I dunno, it’s complicated, but he sure as hell doesn’t enjoy it.” He grins. “I do, though.”

Jack looks away from them both. He isn’t going to push it until Bitty is ready, but he’s thrumming with eagerness to stop talking and start doing. It’s humiliating enough to admit to wanting this shit without listening to them try to break down what exactly is going on in his head.

Bitty slips his arms around Jack’s waist, gently forcing him to make eye contact again. “If it’s not the right... catharsis, whatever it is... if you want to stop, promise me you’ll say so.”

So sweet. Too sweet. Jack can’t help kissing Bitty’s forehead, even though it takes him even further away from the right headspace for this. “I promise.”

Bitty smiles up at him. “Is there anything I should be careful not to do?”

Jack doesn’t know how to answer that. He doesn’t have this stuff categorized in his head in any useful way. He looks to Kent, silently asking for help again, and Kent says, “Don’t call him names. Learned that one the hard way.”

Jack suppresses a snort. He remembers that--Kent called him a slut, and Jack ended up getting dressed and leaving--but he can’t imagine Bitty ever calling anyone names.

“Don’t hurt his hands or his balls unless he fucks up,” Kent says. “That’s punishment. Don’t tickle him. Don’t ask him to make decisions.”

That makes Bitty frown again. “What if he doesn’t like my decisions?”

Kent smirks. “Kinda the point.”

“But do you talk about it later?” Bitty presses him. “So you know how to make it better for him next time?”

They never did that, as far as Jack can remember. Kent mostly got it right, and when he didn’t, Jack just dealt with it. That’s the point, like Kent said. When they do this, decisions aren’t Jack’s job. That’s one of the things he likes best about it.

“Kent can tell you what I want,” he says.

Bitty lets go of Jack. “Okay. Are you guys ready?”

Jack has been ready for this for years. Kent appears to be thinking along the same lines. They both nod.

“All right then.” Bitty cocks a hip like he’s lecturing the oven and says, “I want you naked and on your knees for me in fifteen seconds. Go.”

Jack’s brain shuts down. There’s nothing in his head except counting and stripping. Four, five, socks off. Seven, eight, shirt.

He makes it in twelve seconds. His knees burn from hitting the carpet so hard. He stays there, heart pounding, waiting.

“Good,” says Bitty, and it feels just like it does when Kent praises him. Jack takes a deep breath, settling, getting used to the idea of Bitty standing over him like this. It’s not quite as strange as he thought it would be.

A brief pause, and then Bitty says, “What do I do now?”

Kent’s eyes are absolutely sparkling. He obviously knows how turned on Jack is, just from that. Jack bows his head, face hot.

“Couple options,” Kent says, casual like he’s chatting about faceoff strategy. “You can go for pain, hitting or pinching or scratching or whatever. You can do straight-up endurance stuff, like making him hold his arms up. That gets fucking brutal after a few minutes. Or.” He’s grinning, Jack isn’t even looking at him but he can tell. “You can fuck his throat. Want me to show you how?”

Bitty is silent for long enough that Jack almost gets concerned, but then he says, “Yes, please,” and that’s not reluctance in his voice.

Kent sits down on Jack’s bed. His pants are already open--Jack’s not sure when that happened, but it hardly comes as a surprise, knowing Kent. He lays a firm hand on Jack’s head, and Jack leans into the touch, shuffling on his knees until Kent has him where he wants him.

“Been a while.” Kent strokes Jack’s hair as he slides his dick in. “You been facefucked at all since me?”

Jack shakes his head, as much as he can with his mouth full of cock. He’s given Bitty normal blowjobs, but he hasn’t had this in years. He honestly didn’t realize until this moment how much he’s missed it.

Kent shoves his head down without warning, choking him until he gets control of himself. He loves it like that, getting caught a little off-guard, having to recover fast. Jack relaxes his throat and lets himself go, wipes away everything from his mind except the task at hand: moving with the rhythm of Kent’s hand, keeping his throat open, breathing when he gets the chance.

“Be careful to let him get enough air,” Kent says over his head. “You want to time it so he’s having a little trouble, but make sure he can keep going without passing out. You can tell by how bad he sounds when he gets a breath--if he’s really gasping, back off.” He pulls Jack off for a moment, then pushes him back down. “See, he’s fine right n--”

Jack squeezes his throat around Kent’s dick, and Kent cuts himself off with a grunt. A shiver of pleasure runs through Jack’s body, knowing that he’s doing it right. He presses down further, resisting Kent’s fingers pulling him up again. He wants to do better, wants to be as good for Kent as he used to be...

He chokes, coughing Kent’s dick out of his mouth. Kent's hand tightens brutally in his hair, and Jack sags back onto his heels, knowing what's coming next.

"What the fuck was that?" Kent demands.

Jack can feel his eyes starting to sting. He blinks hard. "I'm sorry."

"Is sorry good enough?"

Jack shakes his head. Words are never enough. He needs to feel it, to know that he's paid the right price.

Kent takes him by the arm and yanks him up onto the bed, positioning him flat on his back, and then grabs his balls. Jack cries out from the pain, tears leaking from his eyes now. Kent holds him tight, making him take it. Jack’s breaths are ragged gasps; he’s barely holding it together, even though he knows it won’t be too much longer, he just has to--

"Shit," Bitty’s voice cuts in. "I'm sorry, Jack, I have to talk to you."

Jack jolts out of it, startled. He almost forgot Bitty was in the room. But there he is, standing a few feet away and looking incredibly freaked out.

"Stop," Jack grits out, and Kent lets go. "Bitty, c'mere."

Bitty sits down next to him. "Sorry. I need to..." He doesn’t finish the sentence, just clutches at Jack’s hand.

Still panting, Jack wraps a hand behind Bitty's neck. "We can stop. It’s fine."

Bitty shakes his head. "Not if you're okay. I just... gosh, you looked like you were in real pain. I just want to make triple sure you really want this."

"It is real pain." Jack tries to figure out how to explain it. "It’s not that I want it. It's..." He looks at Kent helplessly. He can't put it into words.

"He fucking needs it," Kent says.

"No." That’s wrong. Jack shakes his head hard. "I don't. I've been fine without you for years, Kent, I don’t need it."

"You don't need me," Kent agrees flatly. "You've made that pretty fucking clear, Zimmermann. But this? You've been fine? You telling me you never have days when all you can think about is getting on your knees and shutting up your head? You gonna fucking lie to me, Jack, really?"

Jack cringes. He hates making Kent mad. But he’s not going to say what he’s thinking: that he can’t need it, because if Bitty won’t give it to him, he’ll have to live without it. He wants it--shit, he wants it so much now that he’s had another taste--but it’s not a need.

"Hey," Bitty interjects. "If you have to yell at him, do you think you can wait until he's dressed?"

Jack is trying to figure out how that’s relevant to anything when Kent holds up his hands and says, "Whatever. Are we doing this or not?"

Bitty seems okay now--kind of irritated at Kent, but at least reassured about the punishment, and that's the important thing. It’s totally possible to have sex with Kent while being irritated at him, Jack knows that from experience. Bitty should be fine.

Maybe he should make sure.

"Uh, are you gonna be all right?" he asks.

Bitty nods. "I just... had to check in about that last part. Before that was good. I really liked watching you get throatfucked."

Jack's breath catches. He didn’t expect Bitty to say it like that, without any stuttering or hedging around. His dick, soft since the punishment, starts to harden again.

Kent throws up his smirk. "Well, Jack always wants to try again after he fucks up. Gotta get it right. So why don't you give it a shot?"

Bitty’s eyes light up, and Jack immediately slides back down to his knees, waiting for instructions.

“Do you need to finish up what you were doing when I butted in?” Bitty asks.

Kent waves a hand. “Nah, that was enough.”

“But what happens when it’s done?” Bitty looks at Jack, addressing him instead of Kent. “Do you need some time to recover, or should I tell you I forgive the mistake, or do we just get right back to the do-over part?”

Jack is almost settled back into the state of mind where he shuts up and does what he’s told, but Kent is saying, “Just get back to it,” and... that’s not what he wants. It’s how they always used to do it, and he always accepted that because Kent never offered anything different. But.

Bitty is offering. To forgive him. Jack never would have asked Kent for that--wouldn’t even have thought of it--but now that Bitty’s said it...

Jack clears his throat. “Uh. If you want. You could forgive the mistake.” How did Bitty say that without making it sound so awkward? “Not right away, I mean. But if I do it right.”

Bitty lays a gentle hand on his hair. “I will. Ready?”

Jack nods.

“Okay. Undo my pants.”

He’s better at striking an authoritative tone than Jack expected, considering how polite he normally is. Jack obeys the order and then waits, even though he’s dying to fill his mouth with Bitty’s cock. He’s already screwed up once--he won’t do it again. He can be good. He will be.

Bitty takes Jack’s head in both of his hands. His grip isn’t as harsh as Kent’s, but when he thrusts into Jack’s throat, he doesn’t go easy. He holds Jack down instead of pounding into him like Kent does, using one hand to keep him still until his throat spasms and the other to pet his hair.

“Yeah, Jack,” Bitty whispers. He lets Jack take a breath and then pushes him back down. “Take it for me. You’re doing so good.”

The words aren’t much different from the things Kent says, but there’s something about the way Bitty sounds--possessive, almost proud. Jack can’t really process it, but god, he wants to deserve it. He swallows Bitty’s cock, and breathes when he’s supposed to, and doesn’t fight when he’s tugged up and off after a few minutes, even though he doesn’t want to stop.

Bitty leans down, cupping Jack’s face in his hands. “I forgive you,” he says, and kisses Jack. “You did great, sweetheart.”

Jack shivers, even though it’s warm. Kent never kissed him in the middle of things like that.

“Oh, wait, does ‘sweetheart’ count as calling you names?” Bitty asks, worried. “I thought he meant insulting names. Should I not say that?”

“I did mean insults,” says Kent, closer than Jack expected him to be. “But the sweetheart thing is kinda, I dunno. Too nice. Crack down on him more.”

“I’ll try,” says Bitty.

Jack is too far gone to say anything now, but that doesn’t seem right either. He remembers telling Bitty that Kent knew what he wanted, and trusting that it was true, but through the haze of grogginess and arousal, he’s beginning to think maybe it isn’t. He and Kent did this for almost a year, and found so many of his kinks and limits that he thought there weren’t any more to find, while he and Bitty haven’t done anything in bed beyond the basics. But right now, it feels like Bitty knows what he wants better than Kent does.

“You were talking about pain,” Bitty is saying. “You said hitting, pinching, and scratching. Those last two I think I can manage, but what did you mean by hitting? Slapping?”

“Sure, that works,” says Kent. “I used to use a belt if we could get away with making noise.”

Jack remembers the time his billet family was out for the day, when Kent tied him down to his bed and beat him raw, then licked the welts until he screamed. His back tingles with the memory, and he slumps a little as his muscles give out.

“Jack?” Bitty touches his shoulder. “Are you okay?”

“Please.” Jack looks up, not at him but at Kent, because he knows Kent will understand without making him talk in full sentences.

Kent hunts around the room until he comes up with one of Jack’s belts. “He wants this.”

“Is that a good idea?” Bitty asks. “We’re not exactly alone in the Haus, Jack.”

Shitty once slept through a fire alarm, and Jack saw Ransom and Holster leave with a pretty girl around midnight. “Please,” he says again.

Bitty kneels down next to him and lifts his chin up. “Are you sure?”

Jack nods. He wants it, god, so badly. He wants to hear the groans Kent makes when he belts Jack’s ass, and he wants to find out what kinds of noises Bitty will make. He wants Bitty to learn how he likes it so they can do it again and again. It seems almost conceivable now that they might keep doing this without Kent. The thought feels like the good kind of pain--almost too much to take.

He listens to Kent explain how he wraps the belt around his hand to get it to the right length, which parts of Jack’s body to aim for and which to avoid, how to start easy and increase the intensity, how to tell when Jack is getting close to his limit. Kent really does know a lot about him--more than he’s ever said out loud, for sure.

“You can put him on his knees or flat on the bed for this,” Kent says.

“He’s been on his knees a long time,” Bitty decides. “Jack, get on the bed and lie still.”

Jack does as he’s told, positioning his arms up above his head to keep them out of the way. He turns his face to the wall so the strikes will come as a surprise, and then he focuses on not moving, because Bitty said to lie still.

“You do a few first,” Bitty says. “Show me how it works.”

“Yes, sir,” Kent teases, loud and brash, and the first blow lands smack in the middle of Jack’s ass sooner than he’s expecting. It takes all his concentration not to jerk in response; it’s a hard hit, after all that talk about starting off easy. But the next few are lighter, and Jack starts zoning out, losing himself in the sensation. Kent gradually amps it up, working over Jack’s thighs and back up to his ass, and Jack can hear him starting to moan a little each time the belt lands.

Inflicting pain is Kent’s favorite part. He likes punishing Jack best, but this is something they can both enjoy. Jack loves it when he can make it good for Kent by being good, instead of by messing up.

“I want a turn,” Bitty says, and the blows stop coming.

The belt buckle rattles, and there’s a warm hand on Jack’s ass, lightly grazing his stinging skin. Then it’s gone, and the belt is back. Tentative at first, while Bitty gets a feel for it, then more confident, until he’s hitting as hard as Kent was.

“Wow,” Bitty says, and his hand is on Jack’s skin again, rubbing the back of his thigh. “That’s beautiful. You’re gorgeous, Jack, you’re doing so well.” Another smack with the belt, and a pause. “I love this,” Bitty says, like a confession. “I can’t believe how much I love seeing you like this.”

Jack is so distracted by the words that the next blow takes him by surprise, and he flinches. His heart sinks. Bitty just hits him again, like he didn’t notice, like it doesn’t matter to him that Jack disobeyed.

“I moved,” says Jack.

The belt stops. “What?”

“I moved. You told me to be still and I moved.” Jack turns his head so he can see Bitty. “I messed up.”

Kent moves into his field of vision. “You want to try squeezing his balls, or something else? He hates blindfolds and earplugs too, we used to do that sometimes.”

“No,” Bitty says.

Kent raises his eyebrows. “You want me to do it?”

Bitty drops the belt and puts his hands on his hips. “No. I was watching you, Jack. You didn’t move.”

“I did,” Jack insists.

“You can’t let him get away with shit,” Kent says. “He needs--”

“I got this, Kent.” Bitty takes Jack’s shoulder and urges him to sit up, perching on the bed next to him. “This is about kicking back and letting someone else make the decisions, right? You want to put down all that responsibility and relax?” He rubs his hand up and down Jack’s arm. “That means you don’t get to punish yourself. It’s not up to you.”

Jack shakes his head. “I have to know what to expect. I have to be sure I’ll get what I deserve.”

Bitty leans forward and looks him in the eyes. “Is this about meeting your own expectations, Jack?” he asks. “Are you being good for yourself? Or do you really want to be good for me?”

Jack swallows down an entirely unexpected lump in his throat. “I--I want to be good for you,” he says, trying to get himself under control.

“Then let me decide what counts as good.” Bitty kisses him softly. “Let me round you up to perfect once in a while.”

That’s almost worse than anything Kent has ever made him endure. Jack closes his eyes, avoiding having to react, and lets himself be kissed again and again. Bitty eases him back until they’re both lying down, Bitty half on top, still kissing him. The mattress dips by Jack’s feet as Kent sits down next to them, but he doesn’t intervene.

Bitty kisses his way down Jack’s neck to his chest and takes a nipple into his mouth, rubbing his hand along Jack’s stomach, his hip, his thigh. As he takes Jack’s cock in his hand, he bites down. Jack gasps, but takes it. Bitty sucks and nibbles, jerking Jack off, wriggling his other hand between them to pinch Jack’s other nipple, and Jack feels like he’s floating. The bites and pinches get rougher and rougher, building up pleasure and pain...

“He likes it when you push him to the edge a few times before you let him come.”

Jack opens his eyes. Kent is watching them with a funny kind of smile.

Bitty lets go of Jack’s dick and lifts his head. “How do I know when he’s close?”

“I just got a feel for it after a while,” says Kent. “I guess you could ask him to tell you. That might work better than my way.”

Jack tilts his head to get a better look at Kent. There’s a weird thought niggling at him. Maybe it’s just Bitty shaking up his brain tonight, but there was something about the way Kent said “yes, sir” earlier. He sounded the way he sounds when he’s insecure, trying to cover something up by being overconfident. Jack heard a lot of that from him when they were teenagers. He doesn’t hear it much these days, but he still knows what it sounds like.

It makes him uncomfortable sometimes that Kent knows him so well, but maybe that goes both ways.

“Kent,” says Jack. “Do you even like being in charge? Or do you just like hurting people?”

Kent shrugs. “Same difference, isn’t it? Can’t hurt someone without being in charge.”

Jack looks at Bitty. He can tell they’re thinking the same thing.

“Maybe you can,” says Bitty. “Want to try?”

Kent laughs uncertainly. “Sure?”

Bitty hops off the bed and cocks his little hip. “Jack, sit up. Kent, down on your knees.”

Jack sits up. Kent says, “Uh.”

“You’re the one who got all antsy about havin’ conversations ahead of time,” Bitty says cheerfully. “You wanna talk about it, or you wanna do it?”

Kent gets down on his knees. Jack is pretty sure that bulge in his pants wasn’t there a minute ago.

Bitty threads his fingers through Kent’s hair and guides his head to Jack’s thigh. “Bite him.”

Kent sinks his teeth into Jack’s flesh. Jack presses his lips together and takes the pain. It’s not too bad, but he’s still sensitive from teetering on the brink of orgasm a minute ago.

“Harder,” says Bitty. “Now stop.”

Kent’s jaw goes slack. His eyes are unfocused, and he’s breathing hard.

“Doing okay?” Bitty asks, and Kent nods vigorously. “Good. Y’know, I wonder if any of the stuff you tried on Jack was just you projecting. Maybe you really want someone to call you names. Do you think?”

Kent gazes up at Bitty, wide-eyed. Jack doesn’t think you’d have to know Kent as well as he does to read that expression.

Bitty bends down. “Unfortunately,” he says right up against Kent’s ear, “I am a gentleman, and I don’t say things like that without talking it over first. Maybe next time you find someone to do this with, you should think about gritting your teeth through that conversation beforehand, hm?” He stands up. “Bite.”

Kent bites, and Jack gasps. Bitty leisurely strips naked and crawls on the bed behind him, sliding his arms around Jack’s waist. “You’re doing great,” he says, and kisses Jack’s neck. “I want you to be quiet now, all right? Not a peep unless you need to stop.”

Kent clamps down harder at that, trying to make him slip up. Jack clenches his jaw. He won’t. He can do this.

“Kent, come up here,” says Bitty. Kent releases Jack’s dented, reddened skin and sits where Bitty’s pointing, on the bed next to Jack. “Bite his shoulder,” Bitty says, and resumes kissing Jack’s neck. The contrast of tender lips and sharp teeth is excruciating, harder to take than pain alone.

Jack keeps his mouth shut, determined not to disappoint Bitty.

Bitty’s hands roam up and down Jack’s body, alternating between stroking and scratching, adding another layer to the overwhelming sensation. Jack keeps it together when Bitty’s nails dig into his hip, and he keeps it together when Bitty twists his nipples, but then those torturous nails find their way to his cock and his breath hitches.

Jack freezes. Bitty draws back. "Jack? You okay?"

Maybe it wasn't loud enough for anyone else to hear. Maybe Bitty did hear it and ignored it. God, Jack doesn’t want to be rounded up to perfect. He wants to be perfect. He never wants to deserve a punishment again, but if he does deserve it, he wants to be sure that he'll get it.

There’s this part of his brain that's constantly evaluating himself. He knows it's there, draining his energy into self-criticism, but he’s never been able to turn it off. He doesn’t try, most of the time. It’s good to be aware of his flaws, to work on improving himself. He needs that.

It occurs to him now that if he could turn it off--just for a little while, just for a break--that might be all right.

He nods to Bitty. He’s okay.

It would never have worked with Kent. Being with Kent made Jack more aware of his shortcomings, not less. But Kent didn't know it all, apparently, and Jack doesn’t feel like that now. He feels like Bitty has everything under control. Like it’s okay to stop monitoring himself, because someone else is on it.

Bitty's kiss morphs into a vicious bite, and this time the noise Jack makes is definitely audible.

"I told you to be quiet," Bitty says, and finally Jack lets it go.

Bitty's got this.

The punishment isn't as tough as it is with Kent, but Bitty watches his face carefully the whole time he’s got Jack’s balls in his fist, and Jack has no doubt that given enough time he'll do just as good a job of nailing down limits as Kent did. Probably better.

"You can jerk off if you want, Kent," Bitty says from above him. Jack’s heard the noise Kent makes when he comes often enough to be able to identify it a minute later, even through the agony.

Bitty lets go. "Try again," he says, and starts jacking Jack's cock roughly. "Keep quiet. Kent, use your nails. Hurt him. And tell me if you think he’s gonna come."

Kent obeys eagerly. Jack shuts his face and takes it. Kent knows how to push him just right, how to find that edge of his capabilities and hold him there, and it's not long before Jack is crying silently.

But it’s silent. He makes no noise; not when Kent turns his chest pink with scratches, and not when Bitty jerks him almost to orgasm before stopping at Kent’s warning.

When he’s finally allowed to come--Kent warning Bitty again, and Bitty not stopping this time, whispering encouragement--Jack doesn't make a sound.

Bitty kisses him. "You're amazing, Jack," he says. "I forgive you, you're done, you can make any noise you want."

The word forgive feels like it’s healing something inside Jack, erasing all the guilt and shame that wells up inside him every time he screws up. He didn’t even notice before, because that feeling is always a little bit there, but now it’s completely gone. He hasn’t felt like this since the last time he took a pill.

Bitty straddles him and slides his cock through the slippery mess on Jack’s stomach, humping his abs, trailing his fingers across the hatch-mark scratches on Jack’s chest. He kisses them, then kisses Jack’s lips, and they’re still kissing when Jack feels him coming between them.

Bitty topples over onto the bed next to Jack, breathing hard. Jack fumbles for his hand and squeezes it tight, eyelids drooping. He’s never felt more worn out in his life. Hockey might work his body hard, but it doesn’t fuck with his head like this.

After a moment, Kent says, “Well, looks like you guys have your shit figured out,” and reaches for his pants.

“Wait.” Bitty sits up. “Is everything all right?”

“Sure.” Kent pulls his jeans on and buttons them up. “Got some shit to think about, I guess.”

“I bet you’ll figure it out,” Bitty says warmly. “You were really good at figuring Jack out.”

Kent snorts. “Not that good at it, apparently.” He turns away so Jack can’t see his face.

Jack hauls himself upright and says, “Whoa, hey. Kent.”

“It’s fine.” Kent tugs his shirt on and heads for the door.

“No, get back here.” Jack crosses his legs to make room on the bed.

Kent doesn’t sit down, but he turns back around and waits.

Jack can’t express himself nearly as well as Bitty, but he knows Kent well enough to be pretty sure what he needs to hear. "Parse, you taught my dick how to live."

That startles a laugh out of him. Jack leans forward, elbows on his knees. “Seriously, you did figure out a ton about me, and you did it when we were seventeen. Bitty’s just fine-tuning. Like, y’know when you wear out your hand trying to open a jar and then somebody else comes along and pops it without even trying?”

“Jack Zimmermann: hockey royalty, team captain, pickle jar.” Kent grins. “We’re good, Jack. I just... thought I knew you better than I did. On the real, I’m happy for you.”

He leans over Jack’s desk to scribble something on a piece of paper. It takes a long time. Finally, he straightens up and salutes. “Best of luck, boys. Jack...” He opens the door. “See you on the rink.”

The door swings shut behind him, and Jack grabs the paper from his desk. There are two chickenscratched columns on it: a list of things he likes, and a list of punishments. At the bottom is a note that says, “cuz I bet he wasnt paying attention.”

He reads through the first list, smiling. It’s hard to believe Kent remembered all this off the top of his head. It’s true, Jack wouldn’t have come up with half of this stuff.

He passes the paper to Bitty and lies back down. Bitty reads it carefully before starting to fold it up. He pauses. “He wrote this on the back of a contract offer from the Blackhawks.”

Jack snorts. Of course he did. “It’s okay, I don’t need that one anymore.”

“Your life is ludicrous, you know,” Bitty tells him, smiling. He grabs his pants from the floor and tucks the paper into a pocket. “So. How do you feel like that went?”

Jack reaches out, tugging him down to cuddle. “I can’t believe how lucky I am to have you,” he says honestly.

Bitty squirms a little and gives Jack’s shoulder a kiss. “I had no idea I would like it so much. I promise I’ll get better at being a hardass, that doesn’t come naturally to me.”

“You, uh. Actually.” Jack stares at the ceiling.

Bitty props himself up on his elbow. “Jack.” He waits patiently until Jack looks at him. “You have got to talk to me, okay? I can’t do this if I can’t trust you to tell me what you need.”

Jack takes a deep breath and resists the urge to argue that he doesn’t need this. “I liked the... forgiving,” he blurts out, and looks back up at the ceiling. When he and Kent did this, back then, he always felt shaky and vulnerable after a punishment. He thought that was the way it was supposed to be. He had no idea it could feel so fulfilling.

There’s something else he didn’t want to say in front of Kent, too. “I liked when you called me sweetheart,” he mumbles. “I’d like that kind of thing... while you’re hurting me.”

Bitty strokes his side, warm and comforting. “I think I’d like that too.”

Jack threads his fingers through Bitty’s hair. “What else would you like?” They’ve been talking about nothing but him all night--and he wants to be sure, absolutely positive, that Bitty’s getting something out of this.

“Hm.” Bitty’s quiet for a moment, thinking. “I liked seeing marks on you, and watching you... take the pain. I liked hitting you.” He tucks his face against Jack’s arm. “It feels so wrong to admit that. It’s okay, right?”

“God, yes.” Jack kisses the top of his head. He doesn’t want Bitty to feel guilty about the things he likes, but it’s still a tiny bit of a relief to know he’s not the only one. If Kent felt that way, he never let on.

“I need to think about it a lot more,” Bitty says. “This is all really new for me, and it’s late. We should sleep. But, um, one more thing.” He looks anxious. “Do you want to do this with Kent again? Or anyone else?”

Jack thinks about Kent beating him with a belt in his billet house. He thinks about the time Kent teased him for hours before letting him come, and the time they messed around with wax, and all the dirty texts he always deleted immediately and spent the rest of the day wishing he hadn’t so he could read them again. He thinks about Kent kissing him.

He imagines Bitty torturing his balls, whispering sweet nothings in his ear, and his heartbeat thuds in his head.

“No,” he says. “I think you’ll take good care of me.”