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Algolagnia

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It’s the end of Sophomore year, and Foggy Nelson would like it to be known that he loves college. Loves it. It’s the first place where he feels like he can be himself and people actually like him. He’s taking awesome classes about stuff that interests him, and he’s got a professor who’s really selling him on declaring pre-law next year. Bonus: he’s got a Matty now.

He was right about Matt and the ladies, too: dude pulls in an amazing class of woman. Much like Reagan, he was wrong about his trickle down theory, though. Most of Matt’s girls and their Matt-adjacent friends don’t really give him a second look. They’re very nice, but just...not interested. It’s kind of depressing, except Foggy does okay on his own. (Not like, Matt levels of dating, he’s not Blind Foggy Nelson, but he’s been told he has an adorkable thing going on and runs with it.)

But Matt usually likes to do his thing away from the dorm room, which: respect. So Foggy’s getting some decent study time in—Punjabi ain’t gonna learn himself—when someone knocks on his door. It’s unusual because most people respect the sanctity of a closed dorm room door, so Foggy puts his books aside to find out what’s going on.

Standing there is the hottest, most intimidatingly put-together woman Foggy’s ever met. Not a hair out of place, her outfit coordinates down to her socks, and featuring a permanent smirk that makes Foggy think she finds most of the world beneath her, though amusing.

“Oh. Hey! Hi. You’re, uh, Matt’s…the Greek...one…”

“Elektra,” she says, arching an eyebrow at him. He tried to teach himself that move one summer but never managed, which is unfortunate because it looks hella cool.

“Right! Elektra. Matt’s not here. Except. Didn’t you and Matt. Um.”

“We broke up.”

“Right! Natchios girlfriend any more.” Foggy makes a face at himself and bangs his head into the doorframe. “Shit. Sorry. That was not funny.“

“It was a little funny,” she says, smiling at him, and it really lights up her face. Right, he remembers liking her the couple times they met, more than most of the others.

“Matt still isn’t here,” Foggy says, and her humor leeches away.

“I know. May I come in?”

“Sure. Mi casa es su casa.” She nods regally at him and steps inside. Foggy dithers about whether or not he should shut the door and decides to leave it slightly cracked.

When he turns around, he finds her standing in the middle of their room, arms crossed, sharp eyes taking in every detail. Foggy feels judged. He feels judged on Matt’s behalf too. They live in a dorm, ok? Choices and space are limited. Still, Foggy quickly gathers up the clothes spread around his side and shoves them in the closet, aware of Elektra watching him.

“Would you like to have a seat?” Foggy asks, gesturing at the newly clothes-free, school-issued desk chair.

“Do you know why Matthew and I broke up?” Foggy bristles, because Matt’s pretty vocal about how much he hates being called by his full name and isn’t shy about telling people.

Matt said it didn’t work out. Is there a reason you’re here talking to me about your relationship? We aren’t friends and I’m firmly Team Matt.” The smile she gives him is a razor, and Foggy feels like someone just walked over his grave.

“Matt’s a hardcore masochist with highly submissive tendencies who doesn’t actually trust anyone to top him, or trust himself to know his own limits. We broke up because he wanted me to go far past the bounds of safety, and I refused to be the instrument of someone else’s self-harm. His behavior isn’t healthy, and he’s a danger to himself and others.”

Well. That was…not what he’d been expecting. He’s not really sure what he expected but it wasn’t…this. Foggy’s pretty sure he’s gaping stupidly at Elektra, who’s just watching him with this expectant look on her face, and scrambles for something to say.

“Have all Matt’s girlfriends been dommes?” The look she gives him is definitely judgmental, but Foggy has a process, okay? He likes to prioritize his information gathering, ease himself into the big stuff. Also it might explain a thing or two about why they’re not into him.

“He’s not really interested in anything else. And from what I hear, his tastes are...escalating.”

“Okay. Excuse me, I need to be right back.” Foggy lets himself into their suite’s shared bathroom, locks the door, and quietly freaks out. When he’s done, he forces himself to think through everything Elektra just said logically, bit-by-bit. When he’s unpacked it all, laid it out in his head, he opens the door with as much dignity that he can muster and reenters the room. Elektra perches primly in the desk chair, hands folded on her lap and looking way too calm for the bomb she just dropped.

“Okay. One—what you just did to me was really unfair and not cool. For a lot of reasons, but just springing that on a guy? Not okay. Try easing into it next time. Foreplay is a way of life. Two—super not okay that you’re telling me Matt’s secrets.” She starts to speak but Foggy cuts her off, “Nope, this is my time to talk, you used your time to be mean and rude. Now I’m telling you that outing someone without their consent is unacceptable. I’m pretty sure you know Matt would not appreciate you telling me these things.” He reminds himself to send his pansexual eldest sister an e-mail so she can share in his indignation. Without mentioning specifics, of course, but the First Rule still stands: Thou shalt not out. “Three—I really don’t know a lot about this stuff you’re talking about. I took human sexuality as my psych elective, and I may have, uh, dabbled in a few things, but that’s all, so I’m really not sure how I’m supposed to help. Other than tell Matt he’s being stupid, which I can do, a lot and loudly, but I doubt it’s going to accomplish much. Matt’s bullheaded. And I don’t know if he’d be into…” He motions to himself and trails off because wow, okay, that sounded way more pathetic than he intended. He had a four and five but he can’t remember them right now. Elektra arches a meaningful eyebrow at him.

“Oh. Right, I’m done. For now. I reserve the right to add to and revise my points at anytime in the future. You may have the floor.” Okay, definitely going pre-law.

“Thank you. You’re right. I apologize, this was poorly done of me.” The person underneath the perfect mask slips through. “I’m...still a little angry at Matt and may have unfairly taken it out on you.”

“You know, Matt’s usually pretty good about staying friends with his exes. It’s almost supernatural. I can’t imagine what he did to make you so mad.” She’s silent for a moment, fidgeting with a bracelet around her wrist before she answers the implied question.

“I trusted Matt to tell me when to stop in a scene. I ignored my own instincts to try and give him what he wanted and. Well. Let’s just say it’s going to be a long time before I trust myself again.”

“Jesus,” Foggy says, running his hands over his face. Matt’s Catholic guilt and figurative self-flagellation has been a running joke between them. It doesn’t feel so funny anymore. Or so figurative.

“I know Kaitlyn Powers.”

“You know—oh. Oh.” Foggy blushes. They’d dated casually for most of Freshman year. Kaity liked to be tied up, and they’d both taken some beginner rope classes together at a local sex shop, giggling like idiots when they weren’t pretending to be mature adults. But that was nothing like what Elektra is describing.

“The community is pretty small, and the school has an unofficial club. She’s one of the reasons I thought I could approach you.”

“I’m really not, like...deep into it.”

“I know. Kaitlyn said as much. No details,” she’s quick to say, hands up, “just her general impressions about you as a person and a dominant.”

“What do you think I can do?” Elektra smooths her flawless hair down and contemplates Foggy’s question.

“No one will scene with him. Well. No one respectable, or who knows what they’re doing. He wants too much, too fast. Once I realized he wanted things beyond me, I took him to a couple of clubs, tried to introduce him to a few experienced people who could help him figure out what he really needed. He wouldn’t listen. Wasn’t interested in taking things slow. He finds himself beginners and pushes them hard and fast, because they often don’t realize doms can and should safeword out as well. Finds himself the people who are just barely allowed in the clubs because we can try and keep an eye on them. He won’t safeword at all—doesn’t even like to admit he has one. He asks for things and endures them. But most of all, he has no trust. In himself, in others, in the very things he’s asking for, to work.”

“And you think...”

“I think gender doesn’t play as big a role in Matt’s…needs as you believe.” Foggy doesn’t really agree with that, but whatevs. “I think you’re the only person in the world he does trust. I met you twice and honestly didn’t know Matt for all that long, but I know that you’re special. I can’t tell you what to do with that, but I can tell you that if Matt continues doing this…”

“Yeah,” Foggy says, his mind racing in circles. “Yeah. I get you.”

“You may. But the real problem? I don’t think he’s ever going to stop.”

***

Matt doesn’t come back to the dorm that night and Foggy can’t sleep for worry. Can’t help imagining what Matt’s doing, what’s being done to him, trying to figure out why, what’s going on in that stupid head of his. So he does what he does best and starts researching. He’s got three separate sets of tabs going with a dozen sites each by the time Matt stumbles into the room and falls face first on his bed, fully clothed. Before tonight, Foggy wouldn’t think twice about it, but now he finds himself looking for any sign that Matt’s hurt, wanting desperately to go over and check for himself.

It becomes part of Foggy’s routine. He translates the small gestures sighted people take for granted, guides Matt around obstacles, and checks to see if Matt’s hurt. The last part is harder than it should be.

Matt’s pretty graceful for a human being, blind or otherwise—way more so than Foggy will ever be—but now that Foggy’s on the alert he sees the stiffness some days. Observes how tentatively Matt sits down, how he angles his back away from Foggy when he changes, but can’t hide the flinch when he pulls a t-shirt on. Once he catches a glimpse of bruises high on Matt’s wrists and barely stops himself from reaching out. He finds bloody gauze in the trash, and a big box of assorted band-aids in Matt’s desk, half used. Sometimes Matt smells of antiseptic and vinegar; when Foggy googles it, he finds out vinegar is good for treating bruises.

Matt knows something’s wrong, tries to talk to Foggy about it in that roundabout way he has. Normally that’s all the invitation Foggy needs but this time he plays coy, mumbles something about stress and school and dealing with it. Matt frowns but doesn’t push.

Foggy calls Elektra and they make summer plans.

---

“Are you sure this is okay?” Foggy tugs at the sleeves of his black button up. He’s wearing a really old pair of faded black jeans that cling. Elektra had declared him passable in a weird tone of voice, so he’s going to trust her, but still.

Elektra rolls her eyes.

“You look fine, Foggy. Not everyone is into leather. The meanest dom I know only ever wears jeans and a grey t-shirt, so relax. Besides, the club’s technically not open.”

She’s taking him to a sex club. A BDSM-oriented sex club. It alternately excites and freaks him out. He doesn’t really know what to expect, but if he’s going to do something—and he hasn’t decided what—about Matt, he’s going to do it right. Research only goes so far and he will know all the things.

When they get there, the exterior of the club is pretty nondescript, just a gold-painted sign on a black background that says “Touché.” All the windows are opaque.

Inside there’s a small vestibule with a coat check station, unmanned at the moment, and two doors with no markings to choose from. Elektra breezes past, through the left hand door that leads into a well kept, well lit bathroom/locker room.

“There’s always a monitor in here during business hours. No one gets onto the floor without checking in. No cell phones, no cameras unless pre-negotiated with the House. They’re very serious about security.”

Inside looks...like a club. Seating on the periphery, a darkened stage at the front, two bars on opposite diagonals and a wide, open floor in the middle. The only difference is a preponderance of metal bars, d-rings, and the implements on the stage and in the corners. He recognizes a St. Andrew’s Cross from his research, and he thinks one of the tables on the side might be a vacuum bed. It’s all so...real.

“Jerand!” Foggy momentarily forgets how to function because the most model-gorgeous man he’s ever is seen is walking towards them. He’d even put Matt to shame, and now Foggy really does feel underdressed. And like he should go to a gym. At least twice.

“Elektra! We’ve missed you around here. Who’s your friend? He’s cute.” Foggy blinks as the force of that much good looking is directed at him. The man’s skin is a beautiful medium brown, he’s got full lips that naturally curve into a smile. His eyes legitimately sparkle. He thinks Foggy’s cute.

“This is Foggy, he is, and he’s here to try and help Matt.”

“Ah. Good man.” Jerand slaps him firmly on the shoulder. Foggy kind of wants to melt into a puddle on the floor. “Let me know if you need anything.”

“We will. Thanks, Jer.” Elektra gets a hug and Foggy feels vaguely jealous.

“Who was that beautiful man?” Foggy asks, awed.

“Jerand’s one of the owners and acts at the general manager,” Elektra says, smirking at him. “If you ever need help, he’s your go-to guy.”

“I really don’t think I’m heterosexual anymore,” Foggy says distantly.

“He has that effect on most people,” Elektra says, a little wistfully. “Now, let me introduce you to Cass and Elton. They’ll be able to answer all of your questions. They’re both practicing psychiatrists and volunteer as sex educators in their free times. Believe me when I say there is nothing you could say that they haven’t already heard before.”

Which is how Foggy starts his second major: Kinky Sex, with a concentration in sadism and a minor in bondage. It’s actually a great way to spend summer break.

Bondage 101 begins with what Cass calls ‘proper BDSM etiquette.’ It comes with a list of words, phrases and acronyms Foggy’s expected to know (he’s proud to say he could probably define about half this based on the reading he’s already done). These things can get surprisingly complicated and specific; it alternatively eases Foggy’s mind (he is aaaaallllll about the enthusiastic consent, that is fantastic, why hadn’t he heard about this concept sooner??) and worries the hell out of him (because he can’t imagine doing this without all those safeguards, which Matt undoubtedly is).

Somewhere around his 200-level classes, Cass and Elton have an incredibly entertaining (though slightly mystifying) argument about the relative merits of “Safe, Sane and Consensual (SSC) versus “Risk Aware Consensual Kink (RACK) as fundamental BDSM philosophies. Foggy’s pretty sure he knows where Matt will fall.

It takes a while for Foggy to cotton onto the fact that Elektra introduced him to, like, the Who’s Who of New York’s BDSM community. They all know each other, and Foggy meets other people, a few he recognizes from the society pages, though Cass and Elton are his main mentors. Jerand has the most zen aura Foggy’s ever encountered. The man answers any and every question with professional thoroughness and lack of judgment, and knows everyone. He’s like a walking rolodex of kinksters; you have a question about something, he’ll tell you who to talk to.

Jerand’s the person Foggy goes to with his concerns about Matt’s straightness. He’s also the first person he actually admits his own non-straightness to. He doesn’t feel like ‘bisexual’ fits, but he hasn’t really stumbled upon any label he wants to claim, either. He leaves that conversation with some reading on platonic kink and relationships, as well as an assurance that if he decides his sexuality is “Whatever Foggy feels like today,” that’s as acceptable as any other label. He also gets a hug, which, yeah: definitely not straight.

Sometimes Foggy feels guilty about taking up so much of their time, ‘cause he isn’t even really into all this stuff. Well. Most of it.

Okay, yeah, he kind of likes tying people up. Ropes are fun, probably his favorite part, and he likes what Cass calls “sensual sensation play.” But the whole hitting-whipping-bruising aspect of it isn’t really his jam, though after he figures out safewords and limits and negotiating he finds he doesn’t mind it. He’s just never going to get off on it. (Not like the first time he sees Cass scene with her submissive; there’s something about their energy, the feedback they get from one another, that’s erotic and mesmerizing. He discovers he may be something of a voyeur.)

He stutters over explaining this jumble of thoughts to Cass, who looks at him fondly.

“Darling boy. No one is ever 100% into what someone else is. We all make compromises between, with, and for our partners, regardless if it’s in a scene or a more ‘vanilla’ relationship. The important part is that you don’t do something that harms you. Or your partner. If you hate something someone needs to be happy, you figure out how deal with it. Even if that sometimes means going your separate ways.”

“Oh,” Foggy says. He’s probably learned more about having healthy relationships in these last few months than the entire rest of his life.