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“Do you trust me?” he asks.

It’s a simple question, but what he’s asking means a hell of a lot more.

The topic comes up because this return has been hard, for both of them. Bruce comes back a little more damaged, with surgery scars on his knee and his shoulder. He comes back alone, looking sober and tired and more distant than he left.

And Gordon, now that he knows where to look and how to see, can’t forget the knowledge.

They lie, of course. It’s expected when there are no masks involved. They stand around at some annual charity ball Jim’s never attended before and Bruce says, quite openly, that he doesn’t intend to return to old habits.

He’s holding no glass, has no date on his arm, and all the words could mean is that he’s mending his playboy ways after three years on the run.

Jim, now he knows, knows better.

Eventually Bruce does come back to the streets, and does don the mantle, and Jim is relieved if only because the city is too big for one man alone, and John is getting better but he is no Bruce.

Somewhere along the way, Jim drags the Batman down to his level and realises that even under the armour, Bruce is all too vulnerable to kindness, and gentleness, and pleasure.

He runs his fingertips over Bruce’s mouth and idly thinks that he could pull his gun. If he’s fast enough when he pulls the trigger, angles it right under the exposed jaw – at this distance, he’d blow the Batman’s brain apart.

Bruce is, mostly, vulnerable to people he trusts. There aren’t many of them, but of the few there are, they are trusted with so much. Of those few there are, Gordon has been trusted with everything. And now this, too.

Bruce watches him steadily through the eyes of the mask. Seemingly unconcerned. A relaxed state of readiness.

Gordon considers his options – their options – and comes to a conclusion: they’re going to have to set some rules.

“Just stress relief,” he says firmly.

Bruce looks mildly amused. “I meditate for that,” he says.

“We’re not dating,” Gordon clarifies, “It’s just a mutually beneficial arrangement. No strings, no expectations, and no one else finds out.”

Bruce nods.

There are no arguments on this. The whole thing is a monumentally stupid idea and Gordon wouldn’t entertain the thought except that they’re lonely, and they trust each other. He thinks of Bruce breaking into his office that very first time, and of how the stapler could have been a real gun. Bruce could have been a mob enforcer instead of a vigilante.

Bruce has had the opportunity to kill him countless times since then and hasn’t. Has, in fact, saved his life and the lives of his family. Has taken a bullet to do it, and crippled his knee badly in the process. Came back when Gordon asked because Gordon asked, and ended up temporarily paralysed in consequence.

He knows because John tells him, and John knows because Bruce mentions it in the fewest words possible, as a sign of trust that he hadn’t just run away when Bane occupied Gotham, hadn’t planned to come back with only hours to spare.

John and Bruce are working together, somewhat, and Gordon pretends not to know the faces beneath the masks. Not even when he meets them on the rooftop. Either one or both together.

“Have you ever done this before?” Gordon asks bluntly, watching Bruce between his legs, eyes fixed on Gordon’s erection like it’s a puzzle to be solved. Like there are facts to gauge, calculations to consider, trajectories to be worked out.

“No,” Bruce answers, and bends to the task.

Gordon lets him work it out. Enjoys it, actually. It’s messy and wet and sloppy but it’s determined. It works because it feels good and Gordon’s never needed street tricks to get off. Bruce’s technique is simple sensation and friction and Gordon groans when he comes, hands tangled in Bruce’s hair, trying hard not to pull.

Bruce spits, doesn’t swallow, and drags the back of his hand across his mouth when he’s done. But he also unconsciously licks a stray drop from the corner of his mouth as he sits up. The sight alone is enough to make Gordon’s eyes sharpen, enough to force him upright and aggressive.

Bruce goes down willingly because Gordon makes it clear he’s returning the favour. In terms of a physical power struggle, the Batman’s only humouring him.

In terms of emotional power, however, Gordon becomes increasingly unsure.

Bruce is cut off from most of the world. By reason of his secrets, yes, and his tragedy, but also sheer bloody-minded personality. Bruce doesn’t seem to understand people. At least, he understands mob rule and group dynamics and leadership patterns, he understands body language and communication skills and manipulation, but he doesn’t know how to interact with individual people without a goal in mind. The simple give and take of relationships.

Bruce sees a power dynamic in everything they do.

Oddly enough, the Batman accords a certain deference to the Commissioner.

Gordon’s not sure what prompts it, but even in the midst of working by himself, of going off on his own tangent, Bruce will give him one last word, one look back. Bruce always gives him something to work with; never leaves him cold.

On the rooftops, they’re equals. In private, there’s a certain shift in the dynamic.

This, like sex with men, is not a new experience for Gordon, though granted it’s the first time it’s happened simultaneously. And not since his marriage to a woman who had no use for games in the bedroom; preferred things simple and uncomplicated. Entirely fitting, since complications in all other aspects of their lives were what drove them apart.

Bruce, though, Bruce is nothing but complications. He is a junkyard of complexes, piled one on top of the other, a tangled skein of triggers and anger and pride, where unravelling the mess is too difficult and best not attempted for sanity’s sake. For his sake and the sake of the person trying.

Gordon suspects this is what went wrong in all the years Bruce was away. All three times. Someone somewhere attempted to untangle him and simply created more confusion.

But they have their rules and their guidelines, and one of the rules is that they aren’t lovers, merely sexual partners. They love women, so it isn’t his place to start untangling Bruce, merely to observe, understand, and let it go.

Which he does.

When he has thought it over, he arranges a time and place. This in itself is unusual and against the rules but in the circumstances, he prefers to do this when and where they will not be interrupted.

Bruce is suspicious but trusting. Walks in through the front door in disguise, and shakes off the slouch the minute the door closes. When he’s satisfied himself that this is no trick, no trap baited with someone he cares about.

Gordon doesn’t bother to offer things. This too is a rule. They don’t play pretend when it comes to these matters; they have no time and little patience. Seduction is something reserved for people who are not arrangements.

“I’d like to try something,” Gordon tells him, arms crossed.

Bruce listens. Characteristically silent. When he’s heard enough, he says, “What kind of restraints are we talking about?”

“Handcuffs, probably,” Gordon suggests, and, frowning a little, “You do understand what I’m talking about?”

“You want to call the shots,” Bruce shrugs, “We can try it.”

Gordon sighs and shakes his head. “Let’s get one thing clear, Bruce. If you want it, we’ll do it, or we can keep doing what we’re doing already, but I don’t take unwilling subs.”

He watches Bruce calculate that. Then, because he’s watching, he sees the line of Bruce’s throat shift.

“If I say yes,” Bruce says slowly, “Exactly what kind of restraints are we talking about?”

It’s a start. Gordon’s willing to discuss this, prefers it, actually. Bruce is complex and there are always triggers in these games. Some triggers are good, some are bad; knowing the difference is important.

“Sit down,” he says, and removes any hint of indecision in his tone of voice.

Bruce sits.

“The first thing you’ll have to remember is that I expect to be obeyed. We’ll talk about your limits in a minute. My one rule is very simple: you do what I say. That’s all.”

“That’s fairly comprehensive.”

“You’ll notice I don’t make a fuss about letting you speak.”

Bruce looks surprised.

“I don’t mind,” Gordon says seriously, “I like my partners to speak up. If I want you to be quiet, I’ll tell you. Or I’ll gag you.”

Bruce swallows again. “I asked about restraints.”

“Handcuffs. I can use rope, ties, leather cuffs. I prefer not to use chain. Unless you have a preference?”

“Not my area of expertise,” Bruce says, finally looking uneasy.

Gordon thinks of dispelling the awkwardness, and then decides against it. Makes that decision with cold-blooded foresight, preferring to deal with panic now than at crisis point.

“What are your thoughts on pain?” Gordon asks bluntly.

Bruce shifts. “No pain,” he says quickly.

Gordon moves forward to stand in front of him. Forces Bruce to look up to meet his eyes.

“There is a difference,” he says gently, “Between the kind of pain I’ll deal out and the kind of pain you’re used to.”

“I can’t afford to make other associations with getting hit. It can’t affect me when I’m out there,” Bruce says firmly.

“Trust me; nobody out there is going to do to you what I plan to. I admit I don’t like real pain either. I’m talking about something a little different. I’d like to try. If you don’t like it, we can stop.”

“Okay.”

Gordon reaches out, touches the point of Bruce’s chin and tips it up. Wonders if Bruce knows how exposed he looks, sitting passively without the armour of any of his suits including the ones he wears to board meetings and social functions.

They start with handcuffs.

It works, but Gordon is aware of how tense Bruce stays all the way through the session. He observes as he works, but no amount of reassurance or gentle pressure has any effect on the knotted muscle. It’s a success, but the method is faulty. If restraint is the key to control, then there are too many options left to a man who knows how to find the weakness in standard police issue handcuffs, and who can, if needed, subdue an attacker with his legs while his hands are bound.

He feels it in the way Bruce curls a leg around him, rocks against him in slick, eager thrusts of muscle and sinew.

When he unlocks the cuffs, Bruce rubs his wrists and there’s something odd in the way he curls on his side on the bed.

Gordon realises that it’s doubt.

He gets out of the bed – unhurriedly – and dresses, and then sits down on top of the sheets. Strokes a hand over Bruce’s hair.

“We don’t have to do it again,” he murmurs, and looks at the wall.

Leaves Bruce his dignity.

Bruce’s hand on his knee tightens. “Not the cuffs,” is all he says.

The next time Gordon uses his tie. They’re operating on the go, and honestly, they’re too tired to really spend much time doing this.

Jim strips off his tie and wraps it around Bruce’s wrists, ties them securely in the small of Bruce’s back.

Bruce tests the knot with a single hard yank, and frowns. “I could undo this,” he says, “In about a minute.”

Gordon raises his eyebrows. “If you can concentrate on it long enough, go ahead; I’ll amuse myself.”

He gets down on his knees and slides Bruce’s pants halfway down his thighs. And proceeds to blow him to the best of his abilities.

Bruce does manage to undo the knot but doesn’t free himself until after he’s come. Gordon knows the exact moment when the method works. Feels it in the way Bruce trembles and forgets, muscles clenching in his thighs and abdomen as the surge of pleasure swamps him.

The tie works, and is a success, and the method works better than handcuffs. But the knot is a problem.

Rope has the same effect, and Gordon’s mouth twists in displeasure when he realises that the rope leaves abrasions behind.

Bruce rubs his wrists when it’s over and there’s a kind of shiver that goes through him when he touches the abused skin.

Gordon observes, as always, and files the reaction away.

The next night is the first time he tries a little pain. Too late he realises he hasn’t asked about humiliation.

This, he finds, is the key.

Bruce is an adult, and fiercely proud. To be told to lie across another man’s lap and willingly submit to a spanking is the first thing he baulks over.

“Why?” he asks.

Innate sense of justice and fairness. Pain is punishment, and punishment is not doled out because someone feels like causing pain. There must be a reason for pain, and in a sense, a reason to willingly submit to humiliation. A reason to allow his pride to be hurt.

Gordon’s ready for this – “The Dolcetti Bakery take down. I told you to wait for back-up. You went in ten minutes before we got there.”

“The building was empty.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

Bruce watches him, calculations in process. “I told you that nothing we do out there is to be affected by what we do in here. I can’t afford the interference.”

“And I told you about the Dolcetti raid when we were in here. If we discuss tactics in here, they remain open to the rule. The jurisdiction is sound.”

“You sound like a prosecutor.”

Gordon simply waits, holding himself relaxed, keeping his gaze level.

Bruce moves slowly, skittishly, but he finally complies. Drapes himself awkwardly over Gordon’s lap and tries to figure out what to do with his hands.

It’s heartbreakingly erotic to watch.

Gordon runs a hand down Bruce’s naked back. Lingers over the scars, runs his fingertips down the dip of the spine. Bruce twitches. He can feel it. He can hear the barely audible change in breathing pattern.

He settles his hand over the flesh of Bruce’s ass and lets the warmth of his palm register, and the hard weight of it.

The first blow doesn’t get any reaction. The third blow gets another twitch. The fifth a jerk.

He can see Bruce’s fists clench in the sheets.

“Don’t move,” he warns.

Bruce stays still.

The blows fall rhythmically and Gordon doesn’t tell Bruce to count. There are no specifics involved. He continues until his arm is tired, and until some innate ticking alarm in his head goes off and he knows it’s been long enough.

The skin is hot and mildly bruised and he settles his hand over it again, lets the heat and the weight seep into the flesh before he lets one finger slide in and breach, gently, just the tip.

Bruce lets out a sound half choked off by wounded pride and confused passion, and Gordon’s so hard he’s ready to push Bruce off so he can use his mouth and be done with it.

But there are rules that he hasn’t told Bruce. Responsibilities. He has a responsibility to his sub, who is currently at a crossroads, and more to the point, he has put into effect a chain of events that he must see through to the end, his own needs aside.

Bruce isn’t emotionally capable of bursting into tears, thankfully, but he can’t look Gordon in the eye when he gets up. He looks away, turns his face aside, and Gordon knows he’s on the point of losing him.

So he puts Bruce on his back on the bed, kneels over him, knees on either side of the man’s shoulders, and he leaves Bruce unrestrained.

“I’m not tying you down,” he says, “But I expect you to behave. Open your mouth.”

He does.

“Open your eyes, Bruce.”

And he does. Simple as that.

Hands settle on Gordon’s hips, fingers spread and spanning the narrow curve, thumbs falling into the cup of bone. There is strength in those hands that Gordon only guesses at. The calluses alone proclaim a greater hand-to-hand combat skill than anything Gordon can retaliate with.

But Bruce holds still, stays passive, and merely holds on while his mouth is used.

For the first time since they’ve started Gordon looks down at Bruce and sees some small measure of solid acceptance behind the outward passivity.

For the first time, Bruce takes it, and likes it. Goes boneless and lax and when Gordon’s had enough, he gets off, pushes Bruce’s legs up and doesn’t bother much with niceties as he stretches him with quick, sure movements. All with the goal of fucking him through the mattress.

Bruce trusts him, and the half-painful roughness in the middle of the pleasure seems to push him off his pedestal a little, shakes his foundations and leaves him breathless, unguarded, reaching out for reassurance.

Jim is careful going in, but not too careful after that.

Bruce lets out another sound, slightly less choked back than the previous one.

He’s impossibly tight, almost unpleasantly so, but the way he undulates when Gordon shoves in deep and holds himself still just to see what reaction he’ll get, confirms that he’s slipping away into the sensation.

His pupils are enormous, drinking in the dim light even as he stares wide-eyed, unfocused, at the ceiling. Teeth caught in his bottom lip as he arches, pushes back into each thrust.

Gordon reaches down and around, digs his blunt fingernails into the mild bruises he’s left only a few minutes ago and Bruce actually moans, low and grating and desperate. It tips Gordon over the edge, and he follows the pleasure willingly. Takes a moment to just breathe, Bruce’s eyes fixed on his face.

After that, Gordon doesn’t bother to linger. He grips Bruce’s dick in the way he knows will be effective, and strokes hard and fast.

His glasses are off so the image is slightly blurred, but Bruce is close enough that he can see the shock of orgasm as it swarms out of nowhere, catching them off guard.

Bruce trembles as he comes down from the aftershocks. Gordon makes sure to be careful pulling out.

Gordon has his own rules to keep in this. He cleans them both up, methodical and matter-of-fact, and throws the used condom out. Bruce makes an effort to move but Gordon pushes him firmly back down.

One of the old rules was that they would not stay, but he prefers not to send Bruce out alone so soon after a successful session.

“You’re sleeping here,” he says, “We’ll have to find a way to bring in a few changes of clothes, some basic things for you.”

Bruce says, “I can’t stay. Can’t draw attention.”

He’s still breathing deeply, and his voice is burred.

Gordon curls up around him, slips a hand down his abdomen to stroke gently over the line where inner thigh meets torso. “You’re relaxed and off-guard,” he says quietly, “It’s too dangerous to go out there like that.”

Bruce presses his nose into the juncture between neck and shoulder, and for a moment Gordon is reminded of the times when Bruce decided to explore, decided to take charge and be aggressive. He’d enjoyed that as well, and there is nothing to say they can’t have both.

“This whole thing is getting dangerous,” Bruce whispers.

“You can stop whenever you like. All I’m saying is there’s no reason for you to leave, and there is a reason for you to stay. I don’t own you; I’m not going to force you.”

“That’s not what you said when we started this.”

But the tip of Bruce’s tongue against the pulse still hammering in his neck takes the sting out of the words.

“At any time you want,” Gordon says, “You could say no. You take me down and do whatever you want. But what you want is someone who already knows you’re a hero. Who doesn’t mind you being human.”

“I’m not a hero.”

“Then you’re the closest thing to one this city’s got.”

Gordon is aware that Bruce’s movements, while casual and seemingly random, are picking out the weak points on the human body. The touch to the soft insides of his wrists and elbows, the press of a chest against his own, the knee that slips between his legs to rub up against his balls.

There are other points, too. Spots on his body he’s never considered especially important. A place at the base of his skull, a spot along his spine, a point on his left shoulder.

He knows what Bruce is doing, and he understands it. These are all the ways Bruce knows to re-exert his power. A simple reminder that he has control, whenever he cares to use it.

Gordon trusts that Bruce never will, unless he has a reason to.

Two months later, Bruce does have a reason to.

Not against Gordon, but against one of Gordon’s own. A Sergeant with the Fraud squad.

Anderson was clean when Jim took him on board; he isn’t clean when he leads the Commissioner into a trap.

There are twenty of the Penguin’s best goons in the warehouse, and Gordon is already battered and half-blind in the dark. But he’s not important, not really. He’s only bait.

John comes ghosting in in black and blue, and holds what patch of warehouse he can, protecting Gordon where he can.

Bruce is late, almost too late.

And Gordon knows from the look of the suit, from the barely contained fury, that Batman has been made to work to make it there at all.

They survive, because that’s what they do. Whether they win or lose is up to interpretation. The Penguin gets away, and takes Anderson with him, temporarily incapacitated and all.

Gordon lasts long enough to stand on his own two feet while the fear and the adrenaline pump through his veins, but the minute that fades, his vision blurs and his head spins. He watches the concrete floor rise up to meet him and stops only when an arm grabs him from behind.

“Whoa,” John says, “You’d better see a doctor.”

“I’ll take him.”

It’s Bruce’s voice. They’re not bothering to disguise their voices which Gordon assumes means they’re very worried about him, and not worried about eavesdroppers.

The arm that slides around him pulls him firmly against Bruce’s side, holds him up and anchors him.

“Can you walk?” Bruce asks.

“I’m fine,” Gordon says, “Just need a minute to clear my head.”

“He’s probably got a concussion,” John says.

“I’ll handle it,” Bruce decides.

He does. He handles it all the way to the hospital, where he strips off, changes into a sweatshirt and jeans, and walks the Commissioner straight into emergency.

Bruce Wayne has a name that gets noticed even in casual clothing, even if it’s only for the memory of his father. The city’s Police Commissioner is also a high priority patient, and the mild concussion is given precedent over a stab wound, three broken limbs, four dangerously high fevers, and a dog bite.

“It’s a quiet night,” the nurse says, and leaves him to wait for the doctor.

Bruce sits beside him.

When the nurse is there, he fidgets, but when she leaves, he goes still and silent.

Gordon has seen it before, the ebb and flow of masks. Has seen it grow messy and chaotic, when one mask is assumed before the other has properly faded, leaving a splinter of warring extremes.

“You don’t have to stay,” Gordon offers.

“There’s no one else,” Bruce says shortly.

Together they wait, and together they get home. There is no question of dominance and submission, no question of games. This is serious, and being serious, they practice equality. Bruce is no shrinking violet when he drives them the long way around and leaves the tumbler in an alley four blocks away from Gordon’s apartment. He is the support Gordon leans on, and with the Commissioner in the state he’s in, he is Gordon’s most viable means of protection.

He stays with Gordon until the sun comes up, at which point he vanishes.

Gordon doesn’t ask how Batman gets home in daylight. Doesn’t ask where he hides the tumbler.

Gordon drags himself into the office in the afternoon, and calls in the arrest logs to see what the tally is. The head of the fraud division doesn’t believe Anderson would turn heel but Gordon repeats his story in ever more weary tones until it gets through.

There is enough work to carry him through the rest of the day, and then he takes the night off.

“Barring emergencies,” he says, and Montoya nods.

He sleeps for most of the night, and spends the next four days recovering. Doesn’t see Bruce for two weeks, in which time there is work done to uncover Anderson’s links to the Penguin, and to uncover the damage Anderson has managed to do.

Forensics in eight cases is contaminated, three search warrants are revoked, two promising leads are now cold, and two witnesses are dead.

Their mounting case against the Penguin is badly derailed.

Gordon is in no mood for pleasantries when he gets home.

Bruce Wayne arrives on his front door, looking as emotionally fraught with tension as he feels.

Gordon doesn’t wait for permission, for an invitation, merely grabs those perfectly tailored lapels in both fists and slams Bruce’s back against the thin wall of his apartment.

“I want to hear you scream,” he whispers.

“You never will,” Bruce replies.

And he knows he won’t. It will take far more work to take Bruce to that place. It will, in fact, require a systematic break down of every safeguard and shield in Bruce’s head, followed by a complete overload of sensation and emotion, and even then, there is no guarantee that it will work. There is no guarantee that he will not simply end up breaking Bruce for no reason except a whim.

Punishment must have a crime, and Bruce has committed no crime worthy of that sort of punishment.

Gordon lets go and steps back. Lets the steel seep into his voice and his eyes, and then says, “Bedroom. Take off your clothes. I want you face down on the bed.”

“I didn’t come for that.”

Gordon raises his eyebrows and waits.

Bruce moves slowly, but gains in momentum as he goes. His hands are already stripping off his tie, his jacket, both of which he drapes over the couch and leaves there en route to the bedroom.

Gordon waits until he’s out of sight before he takes a breath. Control is hard when his anger is aroused, and the trick is to use it as fuel, not as an excuse. He sorts it out into clear words and commands in his head before he proceeds to his destination.

Bruce isn’t face down on the bed. He’s still half-dressed, sitting on the edge, face drawn and pale. Tensed and ready to run.

“I told you what to do,” Gordon says calmly, “You haven’t done it.”

“I’m not sure I want to.”

Gordon walks until he’s right there, right in front of Bruce, and still Bruce doesn’t look up.

“Why?”

Bruce shakes his head. “This is beginning to get into my head.”

“It was always there. It started there.”

“This is my fault? I asked for this?”

“It’s no one’s fault,” Gordon snaps, with far more acid than he likes, “It’s not a failing. It’s what you like. There’s nothing wrong about it.”

“Maybe it’s what you like,” Bruce says, “More than me. I never thought about it until you asked.”

Gordon reaches out to catch the point of Bruce’s chin. Tips it up and leans down to kiss him. “Maybe it is,” he murmurs, and runs his moustache over the ridge of Bruce’s cheekbone, “But we both enjoy it. What’s wrong with that?”

Bruce doesn’t answer.

Gordon takes his time. He learned this the very first time: that Bruce is vulnerable to kindness, and gentleness, and pleasure. He kisses both closed eyelids, and the hooked bridge of the nose, the two small lines between the heavy dark brows that deepen when Bruce is worried, or concentrating, or angry. That are smoothed out now beneath his lips.

Bruce’s lips are already parted by the time he reaches his mouth, and it feels like coming home to slide his tongue straight in.

He takes his time with the kiss, but when his internal clock ticks down, he pulls away and says, “You disobeyed, Bruce. You know what that means.”

Want and need and worry war across Bruce’s face, appallingly open and honest, and there’s an odd expression just underneath the other three that Jim doesn’t recognise at first until Bruce looks down and nods.

It’s shame.

Gordon’s heart smashes into pieces and swells all at the same time, and he grunts softly as the feeling causes physical pain before it subsides to a fierce protectiveness that feels frighteningly alien. He’s done this before, yes, but he’s never been this involved before.

He’s not sure if he can control it.

Bruce strips completely and looks up at him.

“How do you want me?” he asks.

He considers pulling back, turning it back into something easy. But then the silence stretches out and Bruce seems to be collapsing into himself. Gordon doesn’t have the time to panic. Not now. Now he only has a responsibility to finish the chain of events he’s set in motion.

“On the bed, but I’ve changed my mind,” he says calmly, “I want you face up.”

Bruce complies without a word. Seems to breathe easier once Gordon’s talking to him. Doing things he can see.

Gordon strips down to his pants but leaves those on. Wonders if Bruce will react to being naked when his partner is half-dressed. Still covered in all the ways that matter.

Except that he isn’t.

Gordon knows Bruce responds to pleasure and gentleness. He also knows that Bruce responds to pain. And there are other places that respond to sensation that are not located between Bruce’s legs.

He thinks of the places on his body that Bruce mapped out, thinks of a few he’s known from street smart old cops and dirty fighters. Of the others he found from previous experience.

He starts with Bruce’s neck. Attacks with a hint of the ferocity he’s holding back. All lips and teeth. Marking.

He expects Bruce to say ‘no’ but all he gets is a shudder and tension. Bruce’s hands on his back. He pauses to take those wrists and press them down to the mattress, either side of Bruce’s head.

“Keep them there,” he says, “Don’t move them.”

Bruce nods once.

Gordon kisses him, and starts slow again before he works his way up to passion. This time Bruce responds. Slowly but surely, Bruce lets down his guard. And his wrists stay firmly on the mattress.

Pale skin and delicate bone against the pale blue sheets. The abrasions from the rope have faded, but the knuckles on both hands are abraded in spite of the leather gloves.

He slips his fingers between Bruce’s and goes back to the long column of neck.

This time Bruce lets out a sound and shifts, tilts his head obligingly and his fingers tighten, squeeze Gordon’s, and it’s not possible to know exactly why he does it. Whether he’s reminding himself that Gordon is there, or whether he’s declaring the strength in his hands. Whether it’s just reflex, a tentative request for reassurance.

Gordon whispers endearments against his skin, deliberately too soft and too mumbled to be understood. Whispers them as he sucks on Bruce’s earlobe and nips at the cartilage of his ear.

Bruce seems a little uncomfortable, but he’s hard against Gordon’s thigh and Gordon doesn’t get easily distracted from his goal.

“No one ever worked on just your ears before?” Gordon asks.

Bruce shakes his head.

Gordon nips hard enough to get a reaction. “Talk,” he says, “I want to hear you.”

Bruce squeezes on his fingers again. “Okay,” he says.

And Gordon realises why he was trying to stay silent. His voice is already shattered, already breathless and dense with desire. It drips need and grinds with want and it’s as though Gordon’s already balls deep inside and pounding hard enough to break the bed.

“You like that,” Gordon notes.

Bruce doesn’t turn his head away this time.

He shifts down to collarbone and the soft dip of skin at the base of Bruce’s throat. Untangles the fingers of one hand to cradle the back of Bruce’s neck as he sucks a bruise into the soft skin just there. Right there, where Bruce will knot his tie to hide it.  

He imagines the press of the knot through the barrier of the shirt collar, the whole exerting a barely-there ache that no one else will see.

Bruce is panting and heavy-eyed when he’s done, and the heaving breaths have a slight vocal rasp to the exhalations.

He moves further down to Bruce’s chest, and then further down to his stomach. Stabs his tongue into Bruce’s navel and draws it out only to stab it in again.

Bruce understands what he’s mimicking, promising, and the trembling that ripples over Bruce’s midsection under his fingertips tells him that Bruce is already half gone. Control half vanished.

He feels the hand in his hair before he even senses the movement. Grabs it and snatches at it, bites down hard on the sensitive inner wrist, though not enough to leave more than temporary teeth marks.

Bruce lets out a cry and Gordon feels his cock bob. It’s the first honest, full-blooded sound he’s gotten out of Bruce and the only reason he’s been privileged with it is the fact that the shock of pain broke whatever was holding Bruce back.

Now that he’s started, the sounds fall like water, slowly corroding away all resistance, all self-awareness. Bruce sighs and moans as his pleasure ebbs and flows, but his wrists remain passive on the bed, beside his head even as his head turns restlessly on the pillow.

He’s close, so close. And Gordon leaves him there for a moment when he leaves the room. When he comes back, he holds a length of faded ribbon in plain sight.

Bruce eyes the strand with blank curiosity, not understanding the significance, too focused on the rise and fall of his own chest, on his heartbeat, the thrum of his blood in his veins.

When he realises what it’s for, it’s already too late. Gordon’s already wound it around his erection and tied it off.

The last attempt at resistance is made here.

Bruce shakes his head violently and half sits up, but Gordon puts a hand on his chest, lets the warmth and the weight seep into the flushed, kiss-peppered skin, and asks, “Do you trust me?”

Bruce wavers.

“It’s not a trick question,” Gordon says, “If you can’t do this, I’ll understand. I’ll take it off. But if you can trust me, let go.”

It’s a war, a battle, and he can’t fight for either side. It wouldn’t be fair to Bruce. So all he can do is wait, and let Bruce decide based on the warmth of his hand and the honesty on his face.

Bruce settles back down with a flinch, but he does settle.

And Gordon strokes the trapped erection with light touches, drawing Bruce back into the heavy fog of need he’d taken him into before.

Bruce closes his eyes resolutely.

Gordon leans down and kisses the tip with its drip of pre-cum.

He gets a small gasp and a weak buck of Bruce’s hips. It’s something, at least, and he takes it.

It’s tempting to keep going but he sits back on his heels and taps at one thigh. “Turn over,” he says.

Bruce complies.

Gordon drapes himself over Bruce’s back and starts from the beginning. Starts from the border where Bruce’s hairline meets the delicacy of his neck. Kisses there carefully as he digs his fingers into Bruce’s shoulders.

The hum of contentment slips out after a few minutes of working on the knots. And then he turns his attention to Bruce’s spine.

For this, he is careful. Feather-light fingertips exert barely-there pressure. Soft kisses, no teeth and tiny touches of tongue. Derails himself a little to suck hard at Bruce’s shoulder blades. Just as a counterpoint. The bone pushes out through the heavy muscle like a challenge, like a beacon, and he rubs his thumb over one while his mouth tends to the other.

Bruce is starting to push up by the time he’s made his way down his spine, the shock of sensation between Gordon’s mouth on his shoulder blades and his spine turning to something else, something anticipatory as Gordon’s mouth moves inexorably down his lower back.

“Jim,” Bruce grunts, “Jim, you can’t be going to...”

He is. He is and he does. He can honestly say he’s never done it before, but he runs his tongue lightly down the crack of Bruce’s ass and the reaction he gets tells him Bruce is almost gone again.

Bruce gasps and muttered something in another language.

“Keep those hands on the bed,” Gordon says, and squeezes the curves of Bruce’s ass. The muscle is hard and the soreness from weeks ago has already faded. Now the heat is merely an all-over flush of arousal, of expectation.

Bruce is actually trembling under him. Waiting. Holding still and wanting, but waiting.

“So good,” Gordon whispers, and strokes his thumbs over the path his tongue traced seconds ago. “Tell me what you want now.”

“Jim, you can’t.”

“Tell me.”

“I-I don’t... oh God.”

“You want it, so ask.”

“Lick me,” Bruce gives him.

And it’s good enough that Gordon gives him what he wants. He starts as he has the whole night- with slow, careful touch building to more, harder, quicker, now – and Bruce writhes under him, jerks at every hard swipe of tongue in just the right spot.

Gordon turns his attention to breaching the tight ring of muscle with his tongue and Bruce actually lets out another cry, pushes back against the invasion and throws his head back and his hips forward and Gordon has to take a moment to calm down, because he knows he has Bruce right where he wants him, half-delirious with need.

He keeps going, and he holds Bruce right on that edge, where Bruce rocks back and forth into the mattress, and he is dimly aware that the sounds falling out of Bruce’s mouth are constant, each one an echo of the one before it.

 He replaces tongue with fingers, slicking them as a matter of principle.

The pitch of Bruce’s voice changes, turns lower and louder and more desperate.

From an impulse of mercy or torment, Gordon’s not sure which, he keeps his touch away from Bruce’s prostate. Just the stretching seems to provide enough to keep Bruce interested.

For this, he doesn’t take long. Takes only long enough to prep his lover and then he slaps at Bruce’s hip.

“Up,” he says, already wrestling with the condom.

Sinking in brings a long, slow growl that makes his toes curl in an effort to stave off the inevitable until he’s ready. He wants, but what he wants isn’t the point. What matters is this, the feel of Bruce clenching around him, slick and hot and trusting. Eager. Honest.

The way Bruce pushes back and asks – in actions, if not in words.

Gordon works them both hard and fast, rubs his mouth against Bruce’s shoulder as he aims. It takes a couple of thrusts but when he finds it, Bruce’s knees almost buckle.

By this point, Gordon estimates that the pleasure is good enough to hurt. Bruce’s cock hasn’t been touched since it was tied, and Bruce has stimulated it enough bucking into the bed.

“Hands and knees,” he says, “Stay up.”

Bruce’s knees are still planted on the bed but he gets his hands under himself and pushes. “I need more,” he says, “Now. Soon.”

“Soon,” Gordon agrees. Promises.

He reaches around and tugs on one of the hanging ends of the ribbon.

Bruce whimpers and shoves back almost hard enough to buck Gordon off. His knees fall further apart on the bed. For better leverage, to get Gordon deeper – it doesn’t matter. It changes the angle and makes him tighter and Gordon’s already breathless and sweating, biting his lips and tongue to hold himself back, desperately holding on for just a few minutes more. Just a few.

He tugs the ribbon again and Bruce trembles but not badly enough to fall this time.

He reaches around, unknots the ribbon and lets it fall, and the sound Bruce makes is like nothing he’s ever heard before.

He starts thrusting again, aiming again, and the gasps turn into moans that rise higher and higher as Bruce is caught right there on the edge. Incredibly, his hands stay on the mattress. He doesn’t try to touch himself, and Gordon waits especially to see if he will.

Bruce asks for permission to do so, and Gordon denies it.

“You can come like this,” he says, “If you want. Just with my dick in you.”

“Not enough,” Bruce growls, and arches again in that way that squeezes down on Gordon’s dick.

The thrusts falter, skew off course and Bruce is writhing, twisting, head hanging down as he drops to his elbows. Covered in sweat and panting, almost entirely gone.

“Please,” he grates out.

And Gordon is tempted. He almost does reach down. But in the end, he curls his hand around Bruce’s arm, pulls lightly.

“Come up here,” he says, “Be careful. I want to stay in.”

Bruce straightens slowly, breathing hard as his body adjusts for shift of balance, compensates for being stretched and filled.

Gordon pulls him back against his chest, reaches up and lays a hand on his sternum. Starts a series of deep, rolling thrusts, and trusts to Bruce to stay upright.

He can almost imagine those eyes wide open, staring at nothing as all attention shifts down to the hard, relentless cock fucking him, to the pulse of sensation he’s been made powerless to stop.

“Jim,” Bruce breathes, and tries valiantly to brace himself. “Please. Jim, please. Jim.”

His name like a litany, reverent and intimate. Entirely gone, now. Flying out of control.

And that’s when Gordon reaches up, pushing his fingertips against Bruce’s wet, swollen mouth and says, “It’s okay. It’s going to be okay, Bruce.”

And that seems to be about all it takes.

Bruce breaks apart right there, and Gordon wraps his arms tight around him as the sound forces its way out in a choked sob, orgasm washing like a tidal wave over them both. He keeps them upright, trying to keep himself seated deep inside, and Bruce is dead weight in his arms when he’s done.

He’s so fixated on Bruce’s pleasure that he doesn’t end up deriving any for himself.

When it’s over, he eases Bruce down to the mattress, and then starts again.

Bruce twists weakly. “No more,” he says.

“I’m not done,” Gordon says calmly.

He doesn’t take long, but he knows what it’s going to do to Bruce. The slow, relentless pressure against oversensitive flesh. Bruce doesn’t shift, doesn’t jerk, doesn’t try to stop him, but Gordon imagines the signals Bruce’s body is sending out and he aims his thrusts in sharp, quick bursts at Bruce’s prostate.

Bruce simply spreads his legs. Cushions his head on his arms and gives himself over to it completely.

Gordon comes from that thought, and that thought alone.

There is no question of Bruce going anywhere that night. Gordon is almost too exhausted to move but his work isn’t done. He forces himself up and throws out the condom. Goes to the bathroom.

He expects Bruce to be asleep, or at worst withdrawn after what he’s put him through, and in some ways he is, but when Gordon reaches down to wipe off the drying semen on his stomach, Bruce’s hand settles itself on his elbow with quiet, ominous intent.

“Now you know,” Bruce says.

The words confuse him. “I know?” Gordon echoes, “Know what?”

Bruce opens his eyes. “Think about it,” he sighs, voice raw, “Why it’s you. Why I can’t stop. Every time I say I can’t, Jim, you manage to show me I can. Think!”

The reality of it hits him like a slap in the face. And he drops the wet cloth in his shock. It lands half on Bruce and half on the bed, but Bruce doesn’t even notice.

He looks drained and far too thin, too delicate in spite of the muscle for the things he’s expected to do.

“I didn’t know,” Gordon says.

“Now you do. I told you, there is no one else.”

The words from the hospital come back and haunt him, dragging out all sorts of things he’d pushed aside in the hope that he wouldn’t think about them, wouldn’t look too closely. The rules they started with and the one rule they’ve kept rattle around in his head like a malicious joke.

“It was supposed to be an arrangement,” Gordon says tightly, “Not an affair.”

“It’s a little late for me,” Bruce tells him.

It’s always been too late, really. But this, this Gordon did not expect. Is not prepared for. He watches Bruce look drained and exhausted and utterly beautiful sprawled bonelessly in his bed, and he thinks about perhaps more than just this. More than just sex.

Thinks about trust, and waiting in hospitals, and comfort on those days when the whole world seems to be an enemy. Except this man.

In the end, Bruce is the one who slides his grip down to Gordon’s hand. Laces his fingers with Gordon’s and squeezes hard. To reassure, hold on, for comfort – it doesn’t matter.

“Do you trust me?” Bruce asks.

And Gordon does. Completely.