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Hey Jim, where have you been this week? I haven’t seen you in days. - LM

Sorry. Busy. Oral presentation in Advanced Tactics tomorrow, remember? Also practicing for the flight show with my squadron. - Jim

Jim, when was the last time you did something that wasn’t directly connected to schoolwork? Hell, when was the last day you didn’t wake up at 0400 to do extra physical training? - LM

Bones, I’m still trying to come back from the crash. I can’t let up now. - Jim

Jim, you’ve been fully recovered for months. Your academics are fine. You need to take a break. This isn’t healthy. - LM

Can’t. Presentation is a third of AT grade. Flight show next weekend. Exam next week in field engineering. Hand-to-Hand competition and history exam the week after that. - Jim

If you don’t take a break, I will come over there and make you take a break. - Dr. McCoy

After the history exam. - Jim

Leonard looked at the small screen of his comm unit and sighed. “Okay, kid. You asked for it.”

*********

Jim’s mind was still spinning in dizzying circles as he dragged himself back to his dorm.

His tactics presentation had gone well enough... or, at least, he thought it had. It was all a blur now, and while he was pretty sure he’d hit all the points he wanted to cover, his brain kept combing over everything he’d said, looking for mistakes and omissions that it was too late to fix anyway. In fact, he’d continued to spin his mental wheels through his two-hour flight session with Nova Squadron immediately after Tactics. Flying normally helped him clear his mind from everything else, but today, it just felt like another thing making his brain fray around the edges.

It was 1827 hours on a Friday, and he was too fried to think straight. He should be thinking about heading off-campus for a drink or maybe hooking up with Christie Wu from his hand-to-hand section... because damn, she’d definitely been flirting with him, and she was one of the few people who could pin him hard, and that alone was attractive as hell.

But no, he wasn’t going out, and he wasn’t bringing Christie (or anyone else) back to his dorm room. He was going to take a shower and start studying for his engineering exam. He’d only had time to read the material once for that class because he’d been too busy getting ready for his Tactics presentation, and now he only had four days to review everything and prep for the engineering exam. To make his schedule even tighter, his command seminar instructor had dropped an essay assignment in his lap. Every cadet in the class had been given a computerized model of a shipboard crisis, and they had to give a complete play-by-play of the decisions they would make as ship’s captain and defend those decisions. That was due on Thursday.

He could do it, though. It was just schoolwork. Sure, it was a heavy course load, but he could handle it. Compared to some of the shit he’d been through, this was nothing. Just one and a half more months until the end of the semester, and he could rest for a few days before the summer courses would begin. It would be fine. He could get through a few more weeks.

Fuck, his head hurt.

The turbolift deposited him on his floor, and while he was glad that his exhausting week was over, part of him was dreading going back to an empty dorm room to study for the rest of the night. While, on one hand, he’d been surrounded by people all day, he’d been working, not playing. He hadn’t had any social time in weeks.

Damn it to hell, he was lonely. He considered going over to Bones’ place to study, but that was pointless. Bones was working a late shift on Fridays at Starfleet Medical for the month, and he wouldn’t be back until 2200. By then, Jim was pretty sure he’d be passed out on top of his study materials.

He let himself through his door, and did a double-take at the sight of Bones reclining on the unused bed that his ex-roommate had once occupied. He was dressed in black pants, a black shirt with a high collar, and boots that Jim had only seen him wearing a few times.

“Bones?” Jim dropped his bag and stumbled slightly as he automatically shrugged off his uniform jacket and hung it next to the door. “I thought you had clinic duty tonight.”

“I did, but I traded off with someone else,” he said in a suspiciously neutral tone. “Told them that I have a family issue to deal with.”

Jim toed off his boots, leaning against the wall to keep from tipping sideways. “Why’d you do that?”

Bones gave Jim a searching look. His arms were folded across his chest and that dangerous eyebrow of his was approaching yellow-alert. “Because it’s the truth.”

Suddenly, Bones’ last text comm came back to him, and Jim realized what this really was. “Bones, what are you... are you kidding me? Is this a damned intervention?” He grabbed his bag, hauled it across the room, and dropped it on his desk with a thud, before spinning around to look back at Bones. “I don’t have time for this!”

Bones unfolded his arms and let one foot dangle over the side of the bed, but made no move to actually get up. “Oh really? Don’t have time for what?”

Jim opened his mouth, then stopped. Bones hadn’t actually said why he was there. Jim forced himself to take a slow breath. “Listen, I’m sorry... I’m just wound a little tight, I guess. It’s been a busy couple of weeks.” He tried for a hopeful smile. “I was actually thinking about heading over to your place to study instead of staying buried in my room, but you were at clinic, so now that you aren’t...”

Bones wasn’t shaking his head ‘no,’ but the subtle shift in his expression told Jim that he was going in the wrong direction.

“What?” Jim asked nervously.

“Have a seat, Jim.”

“I’ve got work to do.” Suddenly even more twitchy, Jim spun around and began digging things out of his bag and putting them in their places. Regular PADD, engineering PADD, his paper notepad because he was weird like that, running shoes, data chip with the digital model of the shipboard crisis for his Command Seminar...

“Jim.”

The name was spoken from just behind him, and Jim actually startled and spun around to see Bones standing there, looking at him with an expression of sad frustration.

Jim forced himself to take a couple of breaths, then said, “What?” again, feeling stupid.

“Please sit down.”

The request was surprisingly gentle but carried an authority that Jim recognized immediately, and shit, he should have realized what was happening before, but it didn’t matter. Something had changed in the dynamic in the room, and for the first time in weeks, Jim felt part of his brain slow down... just a little bit. He stepped over to his own bed and sat down heavily, cringing as the impact made the tension headache flare for a moment. In annoyance and a bit of embarrassment, he closed his eyes.

“That’s better,” Bones said softly.

There was the sound of Bones rustling around, and then the familiar whirr of a tricorder. Whereas the sound of a medical tricorder had once sent Jim running in the other direction, it changed when it was in Bones’ hands and they were behind closed doors. Bones had a need to take care of people, and that need often landed squarely on Jim. What Jim had discovered, to his surprise, was that he liked it when someone he trusted took care of him. He needed it. And Bones was the only person he trusted like that.

“What’s the prognosis, doc?” It was their code - Jim giving Bones permission to treat him in whatever way Bones deemed necessary. Sometimes, it was as simple as telling Jim to take a vitamin pill or to drink something with electrolytes. Other times, the treatment of choice tilted into a realm of unorthodoxy that Jim couldn’t have fathomed a year ago.

When Bones didn’t answer immediately, Jim opened his eyes and saw Bones staring at him with intense concern.

“Hold on a second, Jim.” He reached back into a duffel bag that Jim hadn’t noticed before and pulled out a small kit. He selected a chip, put it into a device about the size of a communicator, and pressed the narrow end of the gadget against the underside of Jim’s wrist. There was a clicking sound, and Jim thought he felt something prick his skin, but he was more distracted by the look on Bones’ face.

“What is that?”

“Biochemical analyzer,” Bones said as he studied the small readout screen. “Jim, your cortisol and epinephrine metabolite levels are obscene for someone who isn’t in an active, sustained combat situation, and there’s evidence that you’ve been producing inadequate levels of melatonin.”

“English, Bones.”

Bones put down the device and looked Jim square in the eye. “Your stress levels are through the damned roof, kid. The hormones that control your sleep cycle are way off, which tells me you haven’t been sleeping, and your body is bombarding itself with other hormones that are okay for short periods of time, but after a while, they start to cause damage.”

Jim frowned. “What sort of damage?”

“Are you kidding me?” Bones shook his head and rolled his eyes. “Jim, your blood pressure is notably elevated, you’re physically shaking, and you’re even showing signs of developing a temporary cardiac arrhythmia from the adrenaline overload! That sort of damage!”

“Oh.” Jim fidgeted. “But Bones... it’s Starfleet Academy. It’s training. It’s not supposed to be easy. We push like crazy and then take a break between semesters. Other people survive this just fine.”

“Other people aren’t taking two to three extra courses every semester because they’re convinced they can do a four-year program in three,” Bones said flatly, putting his tricorder down and fishing into his bag again. “Other people don’t take the whole damned world on their shoulders.” He pulled out a hypospray and loaded a cartridge into it. “And other people aren’t you, kid, and I don’t care about them quite so much.”

Jim felt a flush of heat up his neck. “What’s in the hypospray?”

“Something to neutralize the effects of your little adrenaline overload,” Bones said, coaxing Jim to tilt his head to the side. “Should help get your blood pressure back down and prevent your heart from overstressing itself so it can recover.”

Jim shuddered at the sensation of Bones’ hand against his cheek and cooperated, flinching slightly at the sting of the device when it activated. Then he frowned. “Wait a minute, you didn’t just give me a sedative, did you? I’m not going to fall asleep in five seconds?”

“No, kid,” Bones said as he tucked his equipment back into his bag and sat back on the floor, leaning against the unoccupied bed. “That’s not what I’m here to do, although you really do need a good night’s sleep.”

Jim breathed a sigh of relief. “I know, and I promise, I’ll get one,” he said, standing with an indulgent stretch. And damn, whatever Bones had given him was already having an effect. He could actually feel his body stop shaking and his heart rate slow down. The headache seemed to ease a bit, too. He hadn’t even realized how physically tense he’d been.

He grinned at Bones. “But I feel better now. Whatever was in that hypo, it’s working, so thank you for that. It should make it a lot easier to focus on my studying. Besides, there’s also this report that we just got assigned today in my command seminar, and it’s due next week in the middle of everything else, so I’m going to have to finish that this weekend, too. I figure I can get at least three more hours of work before I fall asleep for the night, and -”

“Jim.” Despite the fact that he was sitting on the floor, Bones was giving him a level gaze that projected authority and control and... damn. “We’re not done yet.”

Jim felt himself wilt a little bit. “But, I... seriously, Bones, I have a ton of work to get done. I can’t just blow it off. Maybe we can go back to your place, and I can study there.”

But Bones was shaking his head. “Jim, you can crunch out a top-notch report in a couple of hours. And that engineering test? Don’t even pretend that you don’t know the material cold.”

Despite the drug that Bones had given him, Jim could feel anxiety creeping back up through his chest. “I can’t stop.”

Bones sighed and stood with an exaggerated groan. “That’s exactly why you need to stop.” He cast a sideways glance at the door, then looked back at Jim. “You know that you can tap out at any time, kid. I’m not about to force you to do anything. But I also know that you trust me, and that you know that anything I do is because I know you need it.”

A shiver worked its way up Jim’s spine. “I know.”

“You asked for the prognosis.”

Jim swallowed tightly. “I did.”

Bones reached out and wrapped his fingers around Jim’s wrist, pressing gently against his pulse. “Here’s the prognosis: You’re going to burn out. By the time you get to the end of the semester, you’re going to be in the hospital instead of in your classes. You’re going to miss your exams because you’ll collapse before you get there. Or, if by some miracle, you do make it to the end of the semester without ending up in the infirmary, you’ll be so anxious that you’ll mess up. No matter how hard you study, your brain is going to be so scrambled from overload and exhaustion that it’s going to short-circuit on you. You’re sabotaging yourself, kid.”

Jim could feel himself breathing just a bit too fast. It was true. Bones was right, and as much as he wanted to deny it, he was on a fast track to burning out at the moment. “I’m just trying to keep up.”

“Keep up?” Bones’s eyes widened slightly in incredulity. “Jim, you’re a masochist on a normal day, but this is self-abuse.”

Jim cringed. “So... what’s the therapy for this?”

Bones finally smiled and released Jim’s wrist. “There are a few ways we could treat this, but I’ve got one in particular that I’d like to try on you first.”

Jim actually felt himself smiling back a bit, despite the strange flip his stomach had just done. “Should I be scared?”

The smile turned into a smirk. “Well, it might sting a bit, but I think you’ll find it very therapeutic.”

“Your room, doctor?”

To Jim’s surprise, Bones actually shook his head. “Nope. We’re going on a field trip.”

“A field trip?” Jim echoed, confused.

“Go get dressed,” Bones said easily. “Dark clothes. Something nice that shows off your ass.”

“My ass?”

“Actually...” Bones’ smile changed - heavier, devious. “I know what you should wear. You need to stop thinking, so I’m going to do it for you.” He walked over to Jim’s closet and started rifling through. “I saw you wearing this the night you let that Orion lady drag you to that old-fashioned disco place. Still have no idea what people see in re-creating an era of music that never should have happened, but I’ll say this, kid...” He came up holding a pair of pants Gaila had selected for him from the fashion district in town. “Your Orion lady friend sure knows how to truss up your pretty little ass.”

He threw the pants over to Jim. They were a synthetic material that looked like a hybrid of leather and denim, and they made his ass look obscene. Jim had loved wearing them at the disco, but he couldn’t have imagined Bones, of all people, telling him to wear them. He stared at the pants in his hands, and looked up at Bones, who was smirking.

“Go on, Jim. Get dressed.” He stepped over to Jim’s dresser and began digging through the second drawer.

Jim put the pants on the bed and started to take off his uniform, but then he stopped. “Wait a minute, Bones... I might have time to swing by your room for a bit of play, but... where are you planning on taking me? And what time will we get back? And what about -”

Jim.” That look was back, and it was damned effective. “Stop thinking, stop talking, and get dressed.” He tossed a sleeveless black shirt onto the bed next to the pants.

Jim managed to keep his mouth shut as he quickly stripped out of his uniform and pulled on the outfit that Bones had selected for him. The shirt was snug and the pants clung like a second skin. Gaila had loved it, and by the look on his face, Bones had a similar opinion. Bones almost never looked at him like that - they were friends first and foremost - but when the setting and situation crossed into the murky world of kink, the lines between friends and something else got really blurry. They’d never bothered to define it, and that was fine by them.

Even though Jim had stopped talking, his brain was still spinning, and questions were on the tip of his tongue. Where the hell was Bones taking him? Bones had told him to dress nicely a few times when they’d gone out to eat, but Jim suspected that he wasn’t planning on dinner. What sort of place that Bones would take him to would want him to dress like that? What did Bones have in mind? How much time would it take? And why -

“Jim, I said to stop thinking.”

Jim swallowed nervously. Damn, Bones could read right through him. A few years ago, the idea of someone being able to read him like that would have been terrifying. With Bones... it was different. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

Bones smiled at him - a normal smile this time. “It’s okay, kid. We’ll fix that by the end of the evening. So put on your favorite boots, grab that leather jacket of yours, and let’s head out.”

A minute later, the door to Jim’s dorm room was sliding shut behind them, and they were on their way. Bones was carrying that large duffel of his, and Jim was getting even more confused. Sure, it contained the ever-present med-kit, but there had to be some other stuff in it, and... if this was going anywhere similar to the places their other kink adventures had gone... Where could we be going that Bones would be bringing along stuff like that?

They got a few curious glances as they walked out of the dorm building and down the path to the south gate of campus. Jim suspected some of those glances were at his ass... not that he minded that in the slightest.

“Oh good, our cab is here,” Bones said as they passed through the gate. “All aboard, Jim.”

Jim slid across the back seat of the cab, waiting for Bones to give the driver directions. When the cab started moving and Bones hadn’t said a word, Jim tentatively asked, “Are you going to give him our destination?”

Bones gave him a sly look. “I gave them the destination when I ordered the taxi.”

“Curse your sudden yet inevitable betrayal,” Jim muttered.

Bones snorted. “Relax, kid. Actually... it’ll take about ten minutes to get there, so you have ten minutes. Start telling me about your presentation today. How did it go?”

Jim frowned. “I thought you wanted me to stop thinking about it?”

“I want you to get it out of your system now.” Bones slid an inch closer so that their knees were pressed together, and he placed one hand firmly on the back of Jim’s neck and began massaging the over-tense muscles. “Why are you asking questions, Jim? Just tell me about your presentation.”

Knowing that it was all the explanation he was going to get, Jim launched into the outline of his presentation, his main points, the instructor’s questions, and the reaction from his classmates. He was only halfway through discussing his analysis of using close maneuvers around dwarf planetary bodies when he realized the cab was stopping. He’d missed the entire ride and had stopped wondering where they were going.

Jim blinked as Bones swiped his credit chip across the reader. “You did that on purpose, didn’t you?”

Bones only grinned knowingly. “C’mon, Jim. Out of the car.”

The cab drove away, and Jim looked at his unexpected surroundings. They were on a side-street that he didn’t recognize. In fact, it was narrow enough to almost qualify as an alley. At the end of the street was a much busier road, but he didn’t have enough clues to figure out if he should recognize it. It was unnerving. “Bones, please, just tell me where we are.”

“This is the Castro district.” He put his hand on the back of Jim’s neck again and steered him around. “And this is the doorway to the Balls and Chains... a private BDSM club.”

Jim had to look twice. Even staring at it, the doorway was so well-matched to the wall that Jim wouldn’t have noticed it if he’d just walked by. Then... “Wait a minute. A BDSM club? And it’s private?” That meant Bones was a member of an actual, honest-to-God... “Holy shit.”

Bones merely laughed as he hoisted his bag over his shoulder and pressed his thumb against a small, almost-invisible access pad on the wall.

A male computerized voice greeted them. “Identification confirmed. Welcome back, Leonard.

The door slid open, and a shadowy entryway greeted them.

Bones gave Jim a look, raised an eyebrow, and tilted his head towards the door before letting himself in. Trying to ignore the pounding in his chest, Jim followed him.

There was a coat-check room with a service countertop open to the entryway, and a man dressed in a black leather vest, a bowtie, and no shirt underneath smiled at them as he took their jackets. “Do you need one of the changing rooms, Sir?” His question was addressed to Bones, and to Jim’s surprise, only to Bones.

“Actually, yes.”

“Room Two, Sir,” the man said, pointing towards one of several doors off the entryway. “Enjoy your evening.”

A moment later, they were ensconced in a small room with a velvet-padded bench and a mirrored wall... and maybe it was good that they were alone just then, because Jim didn’t know if he was about to bounce off the walls in excitement or panic. Maybe both.

“Bones, what are we doing here? You’re a member of a place like this? Why didn’t you tell me? How did you find out about this place? What is the changing room for? What are we -”

Suddenly, Bones had him pinned against the wall of the room, one thigh between Jim’s legs, with one hand firmly over Jim’s mouth and nose. The feeling of Bones’ solid body pressing against his front and the hard wall against his back short-circuited Jim’s ability to think, and the sudden knowledge that Bones was restricting his air brought his entire span of attention to a pinpoint. Nothing existed beyond that space, that moment, that sensation, and Bones.

Bones must have seen Jim’s sudden shift in focus, because he nodded and slid his hand down just enough so that it was only covering Jim’s mouth. Bones never toyed with real breathplay, so Jim knew what he wanted was Jim’s undivided attention, and damn, he had it. Jim could breathe, but he couldn’t talk. He couldn’t move, but at that moment, he didn’t want to.

“There you go, Jim. Easy there.” Bones’ voice was low and intense, which was soothing in a way that had Jim’s brain going just a bit fuzzy. “Now listen. The first thing you need to do tonight is to stop over-thinking everything. Stop asking questions. Stop trying to control everything. Can you do that?”

Jim nodded.

“Well, I’ll believe it when I see it, but that’s a good start. Now, we’re here because you need to get yourself away from campus and other cadets, but you also need some social interaction. Tonight is going to be a bit different, but if I know you - and I’m pretty sure I do - you’re going to love this. Do you trust me?”

Jim nodded again, more emphatically this time. He did trust Bones. He absolutely did.

Slowly, Bones lowered his hand from Jim’s mouth and took a step back, not completely out of Jim’s personal space, but not pressing him to the wall, either. Strangely, it made Jim feel disconnected and directionless. He kept his back against the wall for support. “Do I get to ask any questions at all?” he asked when he found his voice again.

At that, Bones smiled sympathetically. “That sounds like a question to me. But okay... one question at a time, and I’ll decide whether or not to answer.”

Jim thought about that. “What happens at a place like this?”

“All sorts of different things. It’s a BDSM club, so use your imagination. There’s open play space as well as private rooms. There’s one open room where people can have sex, but the main room is for kink play only, not intercourse.”

“Open rooms where...” Jim shook his head, trying to absorb this. Despite already knowing that Bones had a pretty kinky background, it still took him by surprise every time Bones said something that was so... so blunt. “What are we going to do?”

“We’re going to do whatever I decide for us to do,” Bones said flatly, in a voice that left no room for argument. “You get to make one decision tonight, and only one decision, but you can make it at any time.”

“What’s that?”

“The decision to stop and go home.” Bones leaned back against the wall, crossing one leg over the other and folding his arms across his chest, and damn he looked good when he stood like that. “Until you make that decision, you agree to trust me and cooperate. I won’t do anything where you can’t tap out instantly. You have the right to safeword at any time, Jim. You always do. Same thing here as when we do this back at my place.”

“I... okay.” Of course he could safeword. That wasn’t even a question. Bones would never force him to do anything. But at the same time... “So... there are a lot of other people here?”

“Well, it’s early in the evening. There will be some people here already, but it will get busier in an hour or two.”

“Are there... well... special manners and codes of courtesy at a place like this? I’ve heard that there are Dom/sub protocols and stuff, but... I mean... how do I talk to people?”

“Just follow my lead. As long as you’re not rude in general, you’ll be fine,” Bones said as he leaned off the wall and began digging through his duffel bag. “But as far as what to say to people today... I’ve got that solved for you.” He pulled something out of the duffel.

Jim felt his eyes go wide. “Shit, Bones, is that what I think it is?”

“Classic ball-gag and head harness,” Bones said happily, holding it up so Jim could see. “I bought it for you last month. I figured this was the perfect time to bring it out.”

Jim stared at the contraption, but he wasn’t sure what he thought of it. It seemed humiliating, degrading, restricting... but at the same time, there was something intensely appealing about the concept, even though he wasn’t sure why it felt appealing. “How would I safeword?”

“Hand signals, Jim. What signal would you use if you were doing land-based battle drills and you wanted people to stop?”

Automatically, Jim held up his right hand, clenched into a fist, surprising himself at how naturally he did that.

Bones smiled. “See? You don’t need words to communicate. You can also tap me three times, or... hell, Jim, I know you. If I can see that you’re in distress, I’ll stop and get you out of here. You know that.”

“Okay,” Jim said, feeling hesitant. “But... Bones? As much as you say you want me to shut up half the time, why this? Why tonight?”

“You’ll see. And that’s enough questions for you. So make your decision: yes or no? Because it’s either this, or we go back to campus.”

Jim stared at the ball gag in Bones’ hands.

Yes, he should go back to campus. He had too much work to do to waste an evening like this. This whole kink club thing was tempting - very tempting - and hell, the idea of it was stirring sensations in his body and mind that made him absolutely certain that this was a brilliant idea. The temptation, however, was completely offset by the massive list of things he had to do before next week.

“Jim?” Bones was looking at him with that unique blend of authority and concern that sent Jim’s stomach in somersaults, and screw his massive to-do list and homework and exams, because the look on Bones’ face made all the rest of it seem completely inconsequential.

Feeling a bit strange about the whole thing, but sensing that a grand gesture somehow fit the situation and perversely made him feel better about it, Jim smoothly sank to his knees in front of Bones, opening his mouth to accept the gag.

For a second, Bones’ smooth confidence was blasted away as his eyes widened in surprise. “Jesus, Jim, I...” He shivered, then pulled himself together. “You never were one for half-measures, were you?”

Jim shook his head, still holding his mouth open.

Bones’ hands were gentle as he slipped the gag and harness into place and buckled the straps. The rubbery texture of the ball was strange in Jim’s mouth. It was large enough that there wasn’t any extra space, but it didn’t seem to put too much pressure on his jaw, either. The straps of the harness went around the back of his head and neck, and another fastened snugly under his chin, all connecting to the strap holding the ball through metal rings over his cheeks. It was a strange sensation... and then Jim realized that he really couldn’t talk.

Of course you can’t talk, you idiot, Jim thought to himself. It’s a damned ball gag, and you agreed to it. But rationalization didn’t help when he was used to being able to communicate easily at all times, and suddenly, his communication outlet to the world was gone. He couldn’t tell Bones if he was nervous or scared or in pain or -

“Jim! Look at me, kid. Come on, deep breath, through your nose.”

Jim blinked to see that Bones was also kneeling now, directly in front of him, and was gripping Jim’s upper-arms, steadying him... because he’d been panicking. Focusing on Bones’ eyes, Jim forced himself to breathe steadily until the panic subsided.

“Jim... you need to trust that I’m going to take care of you, even when you can’t talk. And... I know you’ve been gagged before under bad circumstances, but this isn’t like that at all, okay?” His eyes were sincere and steadying. “This isn’t exactly like the other ways we’ve played, but you can still consider this to be treatment in a sense. This is psych therapy. I want you to come to your own conclusions about why we’re doing this as we go, but the first step in this sort of treatment is to relax and let things happen.”

Jim made a desperate sound in his throat, but he had no idea how Bones would interpret it. Hell, he wasn’t even sure what he meant by it in the first place.

Sighing softly, Bones brushed his hand softly over Jim’s cheek, thumb stroking his jawline, then his fingers traced down to the pulse that was hammering away in Jim’s neck. “Easy there, kid. Easy.”

Jim shivered under the attention. Throwing himself into the emotions and sensations and silent needs that he never admitted except when he and Bones were doing this sort of thing... he tilted his head forward and rested his forehead on Bones’ shoulder.

The warm, strong hand moved to the back of his neck, stroking and rubbing, and Jim felt his brain slow down just a little bit more. Thoughts vied for his attention. He could still feel his tactics presentation from earlier clawing at his brain alongside the massive pile of work he had to do, but they weren’t quite as loud. It helped.

Then, Bones’ hands were on his upper arms, gently pushing him back. “Are you ready?”

Jim nodded, and Bones smiled at him.

“Come on then, up ya go.” Bones got to his feet and pulled Jim up after him. “And Jim... I’ve got to say this...” His voice dropped to a low growl. “You look fucking hot as hell like this.”

The rare sexual compliment stirred something in Jim’s stomach, but before he could think of a way to express it, Bones was grabbing the duffel bag and steering him out the door.

Another couple was in the entryway now - a pair of men, checking their coats. To Jim’s surprise, when one of them took his ankle-length coat off, he was wearing nothing above his knee-high boots except a leather thong, a chest harness, and a collar. Jim’s eyes went wide as the obviously Dominant man bit the first man at the spot where his neck met his shoulder, and the guy’s knees buckled as he let out a low moan. Jim’s own breathing quickened, and he suddenly felt flushed.

“Jim,” Bones said into his ear, “it’s not polite to stare with your eyes quite that wide. Voyeurism is absolutely acceptable around here, but just don’t gawk.”

Jim nodded vaguely and let Bones lead him up a flight of stairs.

There was a bar in the room, and everyone was male so it was obviously a gay establishment, but compared to any other club Jim had seen in his life, the similarities ended there. The seating was plush and set in a variety of different arrangements. Patrons were wearing everything from elaborate costumes to strikingly simple clothes. Leather, lace, fishnets and corsets. Some were wearing dark slacks and tight shirts. Some were wearing things that bordered on formal attire. Some were wearing almost nothing at all. Jim was pretty sure that one man was wearing a horse’s bridle, a tail, and what were meant to be hooves. There were various seating and lounging areas, some in very unique configurations.

He wasn’t sure where to go next, but Bones’ hand found the back of his neck again and was guiding him forward. “Come on, let’s take a look around.”

It was all Jim could do to nod and let himself be led. The atmosphere was almost instantly infectious, and Jim found himself moving differently within a few steps as his mentality shifted into something seductive and exotic. There were eyes on him as Bones led him through the room, admiring him like a showpiece on display, and to his amazement, it felt incredible. A couple of people gave Bones a grin and a nod, and Jim got the impression that Bones knew them by the way he nodded back. It seemed like Bones was showing him off, and Jim didn’t mind that one bit.

“Len!”

It took Jim a moment to realize that the voice calling from over by the bar was talking to Bones.

A man with a round, ruddy face and more presence than actual height came bustling across the room wearing a broad grin. He caught Bones’ hand in an enthusiastic handshake. “Good to see you.” He softened his voice to an undertone. “I need to thank you again for patching up Ivory after that suspension accident last week. I’ve never had something like that happen here.”

Jim could tell that Bones was trying very hard to keep his face from flushing red, but Bones just shrugged. “Every scene has risks. Human skin has its limits. That Dom needs a few lessons in suspension safety.”

“Well, he’ll have to get those lessons somewhere else. He’s not coming back to this establishment again, I can tell you that. So glad you were here, Len. So very glad.”

“Thanks, Ted, but my name is Leonard.”

Ted waved his hand. “Leonard sounds so stuffy! Can’t call you that. What about Leo?”

“Leonard.”

“Lenny?”

Bones gave him a look that could have scared a Klingon. “Ted...”

By then, Jim was trying not to snicker and failing.

Ted laughed. “Leonard it is.” He glanced sideways at Jim for the first time and winked. “Does he make you call him that when you misbehave?”

For a split second, Jim felt a surge of panic, wondering how the hell he was supposed to answer that, but Bones answered for him smoothly. “He’s got his own name for me, but in scene, it’s usually ‘Doctor’, if you have to know.”

Ted raised an eyebrow and grinned. “Medical kink? And you found a handsome doctor like this to indulge you? You are one lucky sub.”

“Actually, he’s not a sub,” Bones replied for Jim. “Jim, with a capital-J, is a bottom, but he’s nobody’s sub.”

Jim found it strange that Bones was answering for him, but what choice did he have? And at the same time, he’d never really thought about whether he was a bottom or a sub. He played with Bones, and Bones took care of him, and that was good enough for him. He nodded in agreement with the description, and Bones smiled at him.

“Ah! My apologies, Jim.” He looked honestly apologetic and turned to fully face Jim for the first time since he’d walked over. “It’s usually only subs and slaves I see with ball gags. I shouldn’t have assumed. I’m glad Leonard brought you down here. Have you ever been to a BDSM club before?”

Jim shook his head.

“Well, you started with the best!” Then Ted looked back at Bones for a moment before returning his gaze to Jim. “Do you play with other Tops? Because a gorgeous bottom like you is going to have to draw a raffle considering the number of Tops and Doms who will be scrambling to play with you.”

Jim’s eyes went wide. While the idea of playing with other people appealed on some level, he was there with Bones, and in his current state - vulnerable and unable to talk - he wasn’t about to trust anyone else. He took a decisive step closer to Bones, latching onto his elbow.

Bones raised an eyebrow at him, then smirked at Ted. “Well, it’s up to him, but I think Jim has made it pretty clear that he’s with me tonight. Besides, it really is his first time in public. Maybe another time.”

“All the pity,” Ted said with a shrug. “But you might want to put a play collar on him for the night... just to let people know.”

“Oh, I don’t think that will be necessary,” Bones said in a different tone of voice. He maneuvered Jim in front of him so that Jim’s back was pressed against his front. He draped one arm over Jim’s left shoulder, and tucking his chin over Jim’s right shoulder. “I’ve got other ways to mark my territory.”

With that, Bones’ mouth was latching onto the base of his neck, at that sensitive junction where it met his shoulder, and there were teeth and suction and pressure and... Jim’s breath caught, and his entire world was Bones’ arm wrapped around him, and Bones’ mouth claiming him. The rest of the room disappeared, and it was hot and intense as Bones’ teeth dug into the pressure point with exquisite sharpness.

“Whoa, easy there, Jim!”

Jim blinked a few times and realized that Bones was partially supporting his weight.

“He swoons so pretty,” Ted mused. “Anyway, I was going to offer you one of my private rooms if you wanted for tonight, on the house, in appreciation for what you did last week.”

The words “last week” resonated loosely in Jim’s head, and his memory bounced back to some of the cryptic messages Bones had sent him over the past couple of weeks, asking what he was doing that night.

“I think I might like that,” Bones said thoughtfully. Then, stepping away from Jim, he said something in Ted’s ear.

An even broader grin spread across Ted’s face. “That one is being used right now, but when they’re done, I’ll have it sanitized and re-set for you.”

Bones nodded and stepped back. “Sounds good. We’ll probably be in the main play room.”

“I’ll come find you. Thanks again, Len... ah... Leonard.” Ted pumped Bones’ hand a few times with a hearty handshake, then hurried out of the room.

Jim gave Bones a questioning look.

Bones shook his head with a long-suffering sigh. “That’s Theodore Wilson, the owner of the Balls and Chains. You can figure out the rest of it...” Then he grinned. “Or, at least, as much as you need to right now.” He slid one hand around Jim’s waist, pulled him around, and started walking towards the back corner of the room. It was only as they got close to the wall that Jim realized that it was a door, blended neatly into the dark and intricate structure of the wall.

The door slid back, and Jim stepped through to an overwhelming view. Dark recesses and brightly lit stages and platforms created a complex texture of light, woven through by the talking, yelping, moaning, and laughing patrons. One stage had a man blindfolded and tied to a large X-shaped device while a man with a whip was leaving an artistic pattern of marks on his back. He yelped and squirmed with each strike, and if Jim could have let his mouth fall open, he would have. On another stage, a man tied in an intricate harness of rope was being lifted off the ground by that harness. And another lit area had a man tied with his hands above his head while another man was in the process of applying... clothespins? Yes, those were old-fashioned clothespins all over his body.

Undercutting it all was a low thrum of music with a heavy beat, but not loud enough to make conversation difficult.

“Come on, kid,” Bones said in his ear. “Let’s grab a seat where we can watch the action for a little while.”

Jim could only nod dumbly and let himself be led. The more he let Bones tell him what to do, guide him, and speak for him, the easier it became. There was no reason to fight this. He was in for the duration, whatever that might mean.

Bones was steering him towards a small group that was sitting in a recessed area off the main room where they could see everything but not easily be seen by others. One of them waved as they approached.

“Gentlemen,” Bones said, using the thickest drawl Jim had ever heard out of him. “Got space for myself and this pretty little thing?”

“Of course, Leonard,” said the one who had waved. He was wearing long pants and a collared shirt, like Bones, and Jim guessed he was one of the Doms in the group. “And is this Jim that you told us about?”

Bones maneuvered Jim into one of the seats - a broad, softly cushioned bench of sorts - and then sat down next to him as he dropped the duffel bag onto the floor. “That he is. Finally got him away from his schoolbooks.”

“Mmm... I’d like to see him in a schoolboy uniform,” one of the other men mused, giving him an appreciative up-and-down gaze.

Jim felt his cheeks flush hot.

Bones laid a hand on the back of Jim’s neck and began kneading the muscles there. “Now, Bill, that’s not his scene. Although, I must admit, it might be a nice view. But really, we’re still figuring out his scene as we go along.”

“So he really is pretty new to this?” the first guy asked.

“Only been playing for a few months. I thought it was time to bring him on a field trip.” Bones’ fingers caught in his hair and tugged lightly before going back to that kneading motion. Jim’s breath caught, and he melted just a bit more.

“Well, I’m glad you did. And it’s good to see you becoming a regular here,” Bill said. “Hopefully, Jim will, too.”

Bones chuckled softly. “Well, he hasn’t tapped out yet, so I think he’s enjoying himself so far.”

Bones’ voice was low and rumbling, and the rhythm of the music was deep and pulsing. Outside of their little alcove, the scenes on the brightly-lit raised platforms were carrying on. The sights and sounds were overwhelming, but Jim was starting to understand that he didn’t have to do anything about it. He could watch the man with the whip change over to a massive flogger, and listen to his sub make sounds that should have been impossible for a human larynx. He could see the man covered in clothespins gasp and squirm as the Dom started removing the clothespins. He could take in the sight of the blissed-out expression on the face of the man who was suspended in the air by nothing but a few ropes and his Dom’s best intentions. He could do all of that without needing to do anything.

Jim listened to what the people around him were saying, and he nodded when it felt like he should. They were talking about scenes they’d played or were planning to play, and kinks they’d been trying out, but the conversation was starting to wash over him. It was a strange, heady sensation... a bit like being drunk, but far more relaxed and far less delirious. Bones’ hand was still working his neck, and it was hot and demanding and almost like Bones’ mouth on his neck...

The thought sent a flash of something warm through him, and he gasped at the memory of the teeth digging into his neck.

Bones must have noticed because he shifted in his chair and looked Jim in the eye, his hand still firmly on the back of Jim’s neck. “You doing okay in there, kid?”

Jim nodded, and slowly closed and opened his eyes to show Bones that he was relaxed and happy.

Bones smiled, then brought his fingers around to press gently on Jim’s carotid pulse. “You look like you’re doing a bit better than earlier. I think the plan for therapy is working so far.”

Jim quirked his head, furrowing his eyebrows in curiosity.

“Not yet, Jim. I’ll know when you put it together, but don’t dig for the answer. I want you to relax... take it all in. Watch the scenes over there. But for the moment, I’ve got something here I need to do.” Bones looked over at the first guy who’d greeted them and nodded him over. “This is Master Gordian. Experienced Master. Specializes in rope bondage. He’s going to watch you for a moment because his slave over there, pip, is hankerin’ for a bit of needlework and a doctor’s touch, and that’s one of my specialties.”

Watch me? What? Jim blinked, confused.

“It’s okay, Jim. I’ll be right over there, and if you need anything, just tap Master Gordian and he’ll get me for you.”

Bones? What are you doing?

“But first... I don’t want you to feel left out. Hold your wrists out in front of you, Jim.”

I trust Bones. I trust Bones. Jim held his wrists out.

“Good, kid. Now, I could do this, but Master Gordian is much better at it. So just relax for a minute.” Bones looked over to the other man. “Go ahead.”

Gordian smiled at him. He was a big guy with a dark complexion and broad shoulders. Non-threatening but definitely confident and in control as he began weaving a piece of rope around Jim’s right wrist and forearm. Jim watched in a mixture of fascination and confusion as he worked, all deft hands and smooth twists, but there was no way such a loose set of rope wraps could possibly -

With one final tug, the whole rig tightened around Jim’s forearm like a clamp. His eyes widened as he looked up at Bones, who chuckled at him as Master Gordian began making short work of the other arm. When he was done, Bones came over and took hold of the loops of rope at Jim’s wrists.

“Thank you, Master Gordian.” Then he looked back down at Jim. “Now, remember, you can tap out at any time. Just because I’m not looking doesn’t mean you can’t get my attention. But... enjoy this, Jim. Nobody is going to touch you without my permission, so relax and watch the show.” And with that, he tugged the loops of rope up over Jim’s head, hoisting his arms.

Jim was confused until he heard a soft click, and he twisted around in place to see that there were metal clasps attached to the wall above his head, and his right arm was attached to one... and his left arm to another. Jim gave the rope an experimental tug, and realized he was good and truly stuck.

“Keep an eye on my buddy for me,” Bones said to Gordian before grabbing something out of his bag and crossing the little alcove.

“Will do,” Master Gordian said as he settled in next to Jim.

Bones tapped something on the wall, and the lights intensified over one seat where a slender man with mocha-toned skin and almond-shaped eyes was already tied up to a pair of metal clasps on the wall above his head.

It occurred to Jim that it wasn’t just the raised platforms and stages that were designed for kink play in this room; everything was built with the idea of scenes happening spontaneously at any time, any place. It was overwhelming to consider the possibilities, and Jim was happily overwhelmed.

Jim didn’t know what had his attention the most: the sense of restraint from his arms tied above his head, the gag in his mouth, the man on the other side of the room tied to the X-shaped thing who seemed to have climaxed just from being flogged, or the sight of Bones running a sterilizer over pip’s chest.

Yes, definitely happily overwhelmed.

He knew what was coming, but that didn’t stop the sharp intake of breath when he saw Bones pierce the skin on the man’s chest and slowly thread the needle through it. The ghost of that sensation echoed through his own body from his memory, making him shiver. He’d always liked to watch other people being sexual, but this was a type of voyeurism that he’d never experienced. It was kink by proxy, and the imagined sensations seemed more real than some of the actual sex he’d had.

At the same time, another sensation, less physical this time, began to brew in Jim’s gut: jealousy. Bones could certainly play with anyone he wanted, and Jim had no problem with that... but at the moment, he wanted Bones’ hands, attention, and ministrations focused on himself. Even tethered to the wall and gagged at Bones’ hand, Jim felt lost and uncertain.

Everything around him was rhythm and moaning and talking and laughing. The beat of the music was thrumming through his chest in time with his heart. He couldn’t move and he couldn’t talk. His eyes couldn’t take it all in, but he could watch Bones.

The man under Bones’ ministrations was letting his head roll back between each piercing, while his skin quivered. Bones wasn’t talking to him, but his hands were firm and decisive. It was hypnotic in a sense, and Jim was fixated.

“You like watching that, do you?” Master Gordian’s voice rumbled warmly in his ear.

All Jim could do was nod. He couldn’t even look away from Bones and pip to make eye contact with the man who was speaking to him.

Master Gordian chuckled. “Then you go ahead and do that. Because you know that your Doctor wouldn’t be doing this if he didn’t think you’d like the view, too.”

Jim let that sink in, and the odd sense of jealousy slowly morphed into something else. Now that he was paying attention, it was obvious that Bones had angled the scene so that Jim could see everything. He felt his body relax just a little bit more.

“My little pip has been mine for six years,” Master Gordian said conversationally, “and he doesn’t ask me to let too many other folks play with him... but after we saw your Doctor take over after that suspension accident last week...” He let out a low, breathy whistle. “The accident was horrifying, but Leonard was genius. He’s a gentle Dom most of the time, but as a Doctor, he’s gorgeously forceful... hell, even I wanted his hands on me.”

Jim nodded again. He wondered how many times Master Gordian and the rest of this group had seen Bones in action, who Bones had played with, and what Bones had done while Jim wasn’t there to watch... or participate. It was good that he didn’t have to talk, because he wouldn’t have had the words for what he was thinking and feeling. And damn, he wanted Bones’ hands on him, too.

Under Bones’ ministrations, pip writhed. His eyes were closed, and he was looking more and more blissed-out by the minute. He was wearing a pair of lacy black underwear that left nothing to the imagination, and it was obvious that he was achingly hard.

At the same time, Jim started to notice a pattern emerging from the needles on pip’s chest. Bones was forming two circles, one over each pectoral muscle, alternating adding a needle to the right circle, then to the left. It looked exquisite. Bones was so confident with each motion. The snap of the sterile casing on the needle, the firm grasp of skin with his left hand, and the sureness of each stab. Jim could see the needle raising the skin as it penetrated flesh and pierced back out on the other side, and again, the remembered sensation of that sharp burn echoed back to him. It wasn’t a strictly sexual feeling, but he felt a stirring of that, too.

“You really like that, don’t you?”

Jim could only nod.

“You want him to do that to you?”

Jim nodded again, feeling more desperate this time.

“Does he do it to you often?”

Jim started to nod, but then he stopped... and sadly shook his head.

“Well then... maybe you should ask him to do it more often,” Gordian said thoughtfully. “Because... now let me tell you something that I wouldn’t tell you if you were a sub or a slave... but you’re your own man, and you’re new to this. That man there? Your Doctor? They don’t make ‘em like that every day. He’s been coming here for a few months, and we kept asking him if he’s got his own pretty little toy to play with, and when he was gonna bring you.”

Jim whined tight in his throat and tried to bite down on the ball gag. Bones had been coming for months... and had been talking about him. What had Bones been doing in his absence? How much had Bones wanted to bring him along? Jim tugged at the restraints overhead, not to get loose, but just to pull at them.

Master Gordian must have noticed his desperation. “He talks about you all the time, you know. Not in so many words, but the small things he says. He likes taking care of people in general, but he loves taking care of you. So if you want him to do that more often... maybe you ought to ask.”

Across the alcove, pip let out a deep-throated moan, and Jim felt a deep shiver run up his spine. The two circles on pip’s chest were complete, and Bones was reaching for something else... a thin strip of either fabric or leather. Jim couldn’t be sure what it was, but then Bones was weaving the strip around the hubs of the needles on the right side of pip’s chest in a criss-cross pattern, like spokes on a wheel.

Jim stared, fixated, as Bones tied off the first web and began weaving the other one. Once both webs were complete, he fixed metal rings around the center of each circle where the lines crossed, and tied another strap between those two rings.

Suddenly, Jim understood. Bondage by needleplay. It was beyond Jim’s realm of comprehension, and he was starting to realize all the things he’d missed along the way. Bones ran his hand up along pip’s chest, then did his customary pulse check. When he was satisfied, he turned back to look at Master Gordian. “I believe he’s ready for you.”

“Thank you, Doc,” Gordian replied as he stood and walked over to pip.

In the background, Master Gordian was untying pip’s wrists from the overhead restraints, but almost all of Jim’s attention was on Bones, who was... who was... straddling Jim’s thighs as he reached up and unclipped the restraints from the wall. He brought Jim’s hands down, but he made no move to untie the ropes around Jim’s wrists.

Jim looked up at him, blinking stupidly. Even if he could have spoken, he would have had no idea what to say, and that was okay. Everything was okay. He didn’t need to speak. Bones was in control, and it was okay. It was more than okay - it was liberating. He felt his eyes go wide with comprehension.

“Do you understand now, Jim?” Bones asked, his voice heavy and husky. “With the gag on, you don’t have to worry about what to say. You don’t have to worry about what to think. You’re always in control in your day-to-day living, or trying to stay in control, and you do that a lot of time with words. You’re clever as hell, but you need to turn it off sometimes, and you need an excuse to let go. I gave you that excuse. You desperately need to let someone else take control, so I did.”

Jim nodded, staring at Bones as if his life depended on it.

“Good, kid. Very good.” Bones slid off Jim’s lap and sat down next to him, tugging Jim around so that his weight was resting on Bones’ chest. “Watch the show now,” he said in a low tone in Jim’s ear.

Jim hadn’t noticed that Master Gordian had finished untethering pip from the wall and was leading him across the play room to the platform with the large X-shaped thing. Unlike the man who had been on it before, Gordian positioned pip face-forward. Pip took hold of a pair of handles at the top corners of the X, and Gordian hoisted him up slightly and wrapped two broad straps around each of pip’s upper thighs, fixing his pelvis to the X.

“That’s a Saint Andrew’s Cross, Jim,” Bones said into his ear. “It’s an incredibly versatile piece of equipment. I’ve thought about buying a collapsable one to fit in my apartment. Would you like that?”

Jim could only nod again.

The image of Bones tying him to a cross like that suffused Jim’s thoughts as he watched Master Gordian measure a length of rope and begin winding it around pip’s torso, fixing it to hooks and loops along the cross. Torso... arms... legs... shoulders... part by part, pip was fixed firmly and artistically to the cross. The more rope restraints Master Gordian applied, the more relaxed and blissed-out his slave became. The writhing was sensual, not struggling. It was forceful but gentle.

Jim was panting heavily through his nose, and didn’t care that Bones knew how this was affecting him. There was a hand rubbing firmly and possessively at the back of his neck, and Jim felt his brain slip into neutral.

Finally, Master Gordian took the strap that Bones had tied between the two needle-webs on pip’s chest and fixed it to a chain that came down from the front loop on his collar, so that whenever pip moved his head, it tugged on all the needles in his chest at once.

Jim’s body ached just looking at it, and he whined piteously.

“You want me to do something like that to you?”

Jim nodded again. His eyes were watering with the amount of desperation and ache he was feeling.

Bones hummed low and deep in his chest, and shifted behind Jim, and suddenly, the mouth and teeth were back at that sensitive spot where Jim’s neck met his shoulder. Teeth and suction, sharp and hot and digging deep into muscle. Jim writhed, unable to control his motions or the high-pitched whine that escaped around the gag in his mouth.

Bones’ arms fastened firmly around Jim like living restraints, hands clasped and locked at Jim’s sternum, and Jim wasn’t going anywhere as Bones continued to bite and suck and bite again. He knew Bones had to be leaving a mark, and the idea of it made him buck and squirm, even as the white-hot pain of the pressure point threatened to overwhelm him.

And then, it stopped.

Jim sagged back into Bones’ lap, unable to think or move. He made a noise in his throat, but even he wasn’t sure what he meant by it.

“You okay, kid?”

Jim weakly held out his hand and gave a thumbs-up sign.

Bones chuckled. “Yeah, you’re okay. So... you like watching these folks up on the platforms?”

Jim nodded, even though he thought the answer was pretty obvious.

“Do you want to go up on one of those platforms?”

Jim froze, and he felt his eyes widen. He wasn’t sure. On one hand, he was an exhibitionist in his own right... when it came to normal stuff. On the other hand, this was brand new and totally overwhelming.

Before he could nod, shake his head, or even shrug, Bones’ hand was carding through his hair reassuringly. “It’s okay, kid. Not today. Maybe next time. Not before you’re ready.”

Jim instantly felt himself relaxing again.

“But for now... how about we take that ball gag out?” He started to reach for the buckle at the side of Jim’s face.

In Jim’s fuzzy brain, something snapped uncomfortably. If Bones was taking out the gag, that meant he had the option of talking again, and he’d instantly feel like he’d have to talk. Reflexively, Jim pulled away from Bones and clenched his teeth down on the ball in his mouth.

“Jim? What’s wrong? I know you’re enjoying yourself, but I promise, I’m not done with you.”

Jim spun around in place so he could look at Bones, furrowing his eyebrows together in questioning.

“Jim,” Bones said softly. “I know you’re in a great headspace right now, and that gag is part of it. I just want to take it out long enough for you to drink some water before we get into the next thing I’ve got planned.”

Jim felt himself pulling back a few more inches.

Bones sighed. “You don’t have to talk. Just drink some water... or actually, I brought you an electrolyte drink... and then we’ll put it back on and...”

Jim was shaking his head in twitchy movements. The gag gave him permission to stop thinking, to stop talking, and rest. It was like a security blanket, protecting his mind from a different place... a place that was painful and exhausting... a place he’d just barely managed to escape. He didn’t want to go back there. Not yet. He was still too tired, too threadbare.

Bones gave him an exasperated look. “Oh, kid... what am I going to do with you?”

Jim shrugged, then - throwing all sense of shame to the wind - he leaned forward and curled himself up on the seat with his head in Bones’ lap.

He felt Bones sigh again, and then hands were on him... rubbing... squeezing... scratching. It felt good. Sharp twinges of pain and soothing strokes of pleasure vied for dominance, and Jim felt himself relaxing again. Bones’ hand found the spot on his shoulder that was still sore from the bites he’d planted there and pressed down. The deep ache shot through Jim’s neck and arm, making his eyes water, and it was good and right. His brain was slowing down again. Bones wasn’t going to make it stop. Jim took a deep breath through his nose and let it out, sinking into Bones’ ministrations.

Around their secluded alcove, more incredible scenes and sights were unfolding, and Jim watched it all passively with his head in Bones’ lap. Bones resumed chatting with the other people sitting in their small area as he kneaded and scratched and pulled hair and had Jim all but purring under his hands.

Jim felt himself drifting into that faraway place again when someone approached and blocked his view of the play room floor.

“Hey Len... Leonard,” Ted said happily. “Well, would ya look at that? Looks like you’ve got Jim nice and relaxed.”

“He’s enjoying himself,” Bones replied, and Jim could hear the smile in his voice. “Is the room ready?”

Jim blinked and stiffened slightly. He’d almost forgotten about Bones’ earlier conversation with Ted, and something about a private room.

“Sure is. Coded for your thumbprint for access. You two have fun in there.”

“Of course. Thanks, Ted.”

“For you, Leonard? Anytime.”

Jim was still trying to wrap his head around the idea that Bones was favored enough at a private BDSM club that the owner was willing to do personal favors for him, but Bones was already maneuvering Jim upright.

“Come on, kid. I’m not going to make you take out the gag, but it’s time to up and move.” He stood, and pulled Jim to his feet. Jim felt himself wavering, but Bones quickly threaded an arm around his waist to steady him. “Oh yeah, you’re in a good headspace. I’m sorry for almost pulling you out of that. Didn’t realize it would be such a big deal, but I should have known. But don’t worry, kid. We’ve got options. For now, however, let’s move on to the next thing.” He looked around at the other people sharing the alcove with him, and tipped his head in a polite nod as he grabbed his ever-present duffel bag. “Goodnight, gentlemen. It’s been a pleasure. Jim, wave goodnight.”

Jim waved clumsily to a pleasant chorus of farewells, and found himself being steered out of the alcove and to a doorway that he hadn’t noticed before and down a hallway. A moment later, they were going through another door, and...

“Now would be a good time to take a piss, Jim... because you’re not going anywhere for a while once we get started.”

Jim almost laughed at the mundane nature of the order, but he was on autopilot, and it was easy to just follow instructions. They both took a moment to relieve themselves, and then Bones was dragging him back down the hall, past several doors and around a corner. When he finally stopped, he pressed his thumb to a small access panel, and the door slid open.

Jim’s breath caught.

It looked like a strange doctor’s office with an old-fashioned and slightly more sinister-looking biobed in the middle of the room. A dozen disjointed thoughts swam in his head while he stomach did flip-flops. A place like this existed? Bones had always said that he wasn’t the only one with a medical kink, but Jim had never quite believed that he shared that strange obsession with anyone else. But now, looking at this, it was impossible to deny it.

“In ya go,” Bones said, pushing him lightly into the room. “And strip, Jim. I can’t very well treat or examine you with those clothes on.”

Feeling simultaneously nervous and giddy, Jim began pulling off his clothes. Part of his brain was still demanding to ask questions, but that part had been thoroughly gagged, and Jim was pretty satisfied with that. He lined up his boots next to the wall, folded his shirt and pants neatly and placed them on a nearby chair, then intentionally hesitated at his underwear.

“All of it, kid.”

Jim was pretty sure he was just enjoying being told what to do.

The underwear followed the rest of his clothes, and Jim was standing in the middle of a private room in a BDSM club, wearing nothing but a ball gag, while Bones gave him a clinical look that made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end.

“As much as those pants look incredible on you, I think this is definitely preferable.” Bones shook his head, in amazement or amusement, and laughed lightly. “Okay, Jim... hop up on the bed.”

As nervous as he was excited, Jim did as he was told, and sat with his legs dangling over the side, kicking his feet childishly.

Bones rolled his eyes. “Brat. Lie down.”

Jim waggled his eyebrows, then followed medical direction and settled himself back on the biobed. Bones reached over and tapped a button on the side of the biobed, activating the screen, which already began spitting out basic data like heart rate and blood pressure. Then, Bones stepped back across the room to where he’d left his duffel.

Jim watched as Bones began unbuttoning his own shirt. He was starting to wonder what the hell Bones was doing when the guy pulled a blue scrub top out of the duffel bag and tugged it over his head.

When Bones noticed Jim staring at him, he nodded. “What did you expect, kid? A riding crop and high heels?” He grabbed an old-fashioned stethoscope out of his bag and looped it around his neck.

Despite the gag, Jim started chuckling. No, he was giggling. Giddy and ridiculous and -

“That’s it, you’re obviously delirious,” Bones announced, as he grabbed his ever-present tricorder out of his bag and activated it. “It’s good to see your stress markers have almost come back down to the normal range, although it looks like you’re still a bit antsy. Good overall... but your pulse is higher than it should be, and you’re a bit dehydrated.”

Jim let out a whining noise.

“Oh, don’t worry, the gag is working so well that there’s no way I’d discontinue that treatment. But first... I don’t need you squirming and jumping around while I work.”

Bones was smooth enough that Jim hadn’t even noticed him approaching with the medical restraint. A couple of years of ER work in a major city had given Bones the skills of a medical ninja, and before Jim could blink twice, his left wrist was firmly attached to the side of the biobed.

“That looks pretty good,” Bones mused to himself as he checked for Jim’s pulse below the restraint. “Not too tight.” Then he moved around to the other side of the table.

Jim held out his hand for Bones.

“Well now, aren’t you the most cooperative patient I’ve ever had? Who are you and what did you do with Jim Kirk?” He strapped down Jim’s right wrist, checked for a pulse, and moved around to the foot of the biobed.

Jim merely shrugged.

“I don’t know what you’re so happy about. You go and get yourself all beat up, and then just leave it for hard-working doctors like me to fix everything.” Right ankle. “And sometimes, I wonder why I bother. You’re just gonna go break yourself again. But hell, that’s what you Starfleet space cowboy types do, isn’t that right?” Left ankle.

Jim leaned his head back and smiled inwardly. He and Bones hadn’t played nearly as often as he would have liked, but it was often enough that the pattern of restraint application was a familiar ritual.

And then he felt a wide strap being pulled across his stomach and tightened down.

Okay, so that was new.

Bones fastened the strap in place, and Jim arched against it instinctively. He wasn’t trying to get out, but the act of testing the restraints was almost a reflex. He couldn’t move. His torso was firmly fixed to the biobed. If anything, it gave him an even stronger sense of security and mental freedom. That was something he couldn’t have imagined a year ago, but now... it felt so good.

Then, Bones hands were on the ball gag again. Jim let out another high-pitched whine of protest.

“I’m not taking it off, you big baby.”

There was the faint sound of metal clicking against metal near Jim’s left ear, then his right. He tried to turn his head to see what Bones had done, and then he realized that he couldn’t move his head... at all. Bones had clipped the harness of the ball gag to the biobed.

It wasn’t exactly anxiety, because Jim knew he had no real reason to be nervous, and Bones was taking care of him, and that’s what he wanted-needed-craved right now. But... he couldn’t move his head. He’d never been so completely immobilized before. His heart started thudding more heavily in his chest, and he could feel himself breathing just a bit too fast.

“Easy there, Jim.” Bones’ hands were on his shoulders, rubbing and kneading the muscles. “This is good for you. The more control I took away from you tonight, the more you relaxed. The endorphins helped, too. That’s all we’re doing here. And same thing as before... if you need to safeword, use hand signals. Tap the bed three times, and I’ll stop.”

Jim looked up at Bones, and then, slowly, conscientiously let his body relax against the biobed, signalling his agreement.

Bones checked his pulse for a moment, then smiled. “There ya go. Relax. That’s better.” Then, he slid his fingers around and began gently palpating Jim’s neck. “It’s been a while since you had a proper physical, kid, and tricorders can’t tell me everything.”

Jim’s breath quickened slightly. Manual physical? There was no way...

After a moment of feeling every muscle and gland on Jim’s neck, Bones’ hands slid down further, pressing and feeling around Jim’s collarbone. Bones’ attention felt like a physical thing on every point where he touched, intense in its own way. Jim squirmed... or, at least, he tried to. Bones chuckled, then stuck his stethoscope in his ears.

“Breathe, Jim.”

Jim took careful breaths as Bones listened around his chest. The stethoscope was cool but Bones’ gaze was hot.

“Good... very good,” came the clinical report. “That slight arrhythmia from earlier is gone. I’m going to have to strap you down more often. Seems like it’s good for you.”

Jim let out a deep-throated hum as Bones moved on to palpate his abdomen, pressing, exploring, testing. Then, his hand slid down and fingers pressed into the inside of his thigh.

“Femoral pulse, Jim. You know you have pulses all over your body. I should manually test every single one of them on you sometime... one by one.”

Jim was vaguely hoping that sometime meant now, but then Bones’ hands were gone, and there was the sound of Bones digging through the duffel again... then a tight snap. Then another.

Gloves. Exam gloves. He really was going to do it.

Hot damn.

The biobed began moving underneath him. His legs, tied at the ankles to the ends, were spread apart and bent at the knee.

Jim’s breath was definitely increasing.

“Slow down your breathing, Jim. This isn’t going to hurt. You’re going to feel a little bit of pressure.”

Bones’ finger was cool and slick, and it breached Jim’s hole so easily.

Kink play wasn’t always sexual for Jim. Sometimes, the attention was a completely different sort of thing. However, even when it wasn’t sexual, Jim always ended up at least half-hard. He’d been on his way there anyway, just from the restraints and the physical touch he’d been receiving, but as Bones hooked his finger around and pressed firmly and decisively against his prostate, Jim felt himself hardening rapidly. Achingly.

Bones twisted his finger a bit, rubbing his prostate back and forth.

Jim keened. Panted. And if he hadn’t been gagged, his mouth would have followed his brain with a babbling litany of oh God oh God oh God and fuckfuckfuckfuck. He was definitely hard now. Not that it would have been difficult to get there when he was already in a mindset like that, but it was almost overwhelming now. It was the setting, the situation, and Bones, who was adding another finger and hooking it around viciously.

“Your prostate seems pretty healthy,” he said in that clinical tone that seemed so neutral but controlling at the same time. “Good reaction to stimulation.”

Jim was having a hard time breathing, and it felt like he couldn’t get quite enough air through his nose.

“You know, they used to recommend milking the prostate as a therapeutic treatment for various ailments. Maybe I should try that on you, but I think we’re getting enough of a reaction for today.”

Jim moaned wantonly. He felt himself getting tighter at the sound of Bones’ voice.

“Almost too much reaction, actually.” The fingers were gone, and suddenly, something cool and tight slipped around the base of Jim’s cock - the cock ring that Bones sometimes used on him. “That should hold you.”

The whine Jim let out made his own chest vibrate.

“Relax, kid. We’ve got more work to do.”

The biobed moved again, flattening out and bringing Jim’s legs back down as Bones stepped away for a moment. There were more shuffling sounds, and although Jim couldn’t see Bones, he kept trying to picture what the man would dig out before it happened. He had no idea what was in that duffel bag, but he’d seen enough of Bones’ toy collection that his mind was already formulating images, all of which were appealing. Maybe it would be the TENS unit that Bones had used on him when his back was aching after he’d run the academy obstacle course too many times. Maybe Bones would do that nerve conductivity test he’d done once. Jim shuddered at the memory of electrical pulses racing up and down his arms and legs. Maybe Bones would do the same thing to him that he’d done to pip earlier, which would be fucking amazing.

He did not expect to see Bones hang an IV bag from a hook above the biobed. He blinked, then made a noise that, without the ball gag, might have been ”What the fuck?"

Bones nodded solemnly as he spiked the bag, straightened out the line, and filled it with saline. “I started keeping one of these in my play bag whenever I’d come to the club here because some idiot always plays too hard or wraps himself in too much vinyl and rubber and ends up passing out from heat exhaustion or dehydration. You’re not being an idiot, Jim, so don’t worry, but this way, I won’t worry about you dehydrating - because we’ve still got a lot of stuff to do to you - and I don’t want have to discontinue the gag in the middle of it.”

Jim blinked, considering this. Bones sometimes went for intense realism in scenes, but this was sending Jim’s brains in unfamiliar loops.

There was something tightening around his left upper arm, and Jim felt an unexpected jolt of anxiety as he realized that Bones was actually going to do it.

He could tap out, but that would stop everything. He could let Bones take off the ball gag and just drink the damned water, but that would break the strange spell that had settled over him. Besides, Bones had turned him into a pincushion plenty of times. And... not having the brainpower to be anything but honest with himself... he just wanted to let Bones do whatever he wanted.

“You okay, Jim?”

Jim made a sound behind the gag that would have been “Mmm-hmm.”

“Good, kid.” Bones’ fingers were pressing and tapping different spots along his hand and forearm. “There, this one looks pretty good,” he said as his fingers came to rest on one spot, prodding gently.

There was the familiar tingle of a sterilizer unit, then the sound of a wrapper being pulled apart. Bones’ hands were back on his forearm, just above his wrist and the restraint. His fingers were firm and confident, and that sensation alone caused a heady buzz in Jim’s brain. “I’d tell you to hold still, but I think we’ve got that covered.”

The part of Jim's brain that was still coherent wanted to make a sarcastic retort, but then the world narrowed to the bite of the needle and catheter piercing his skin and sliding into his vein. Jim had often tried to analyze why the sensation had such a strong effect on him. Part of it had to be simple masochism - the pain and the endorphins were intoxicating. Some of it was the feeling of being penetrated in such an invasive way. But mostly, the lack of control he had over it once it was in his arm was both terrifying and appealing at once.

When he’d been stuck in the hospital after the shuttle crash, the IV line they had him on had felt like a tether, keeping his restrained to the biobed. Now, with the multiple restraints already in place, the effect was even more intense. He was lying there, with Bones doing things to him, and he had no control except the simple decision to stop everything, but he didn’t want to, and it was okay. Bones was taking care of him. Bones was treating all the things that needed to be treated. He could just lay there and take it, and let these things happen to him because it was Bones, and everything would be fine.

Bones was fiddling with his arm just a bit more, and he could see the plastic tubing move as Bones attached it to his arm and taped it in place. Bones stood up and adjusted the flow rate, and Jim watched, oddly mesmerized as the drip chamber at the top counted out the rate of the fluid flowing into his veins.

It was hypnotic, and Jim felt his already-addled brain slow down, just a little bit more.

He blinked in surprise when Bones came around and pressed an adhesive strip to his forehead. It felt as though it had tiny teeth, digging lightly into his scalp.

“This is a neuro sensor,” Bones explained in his unwavering, clinical tone. “It will measure your brainwaves and tell me how deep you’re going into subspace. There are changes that take place once you really start slipping into it. You’re already partially there. Don’t fight it, Jim. Just let it happen.”

Of course he’d let it happen. It was so easy to just listen. So easy to just go along with it. So comforting. Soothing.

Jim’s head was strangely fuzzy, and even though he knew Bones hadn’t drugged him in any way, because Bones wouldn’t do that without telling him, he could almost let himself believe that there was something in the IV that was altering his perceptions. He felt strange and disconnected, but hyperaware and hypersensitive all at once. His body was vibrantly alive but completely still, and his mind was beginning to follow suit.

He’d experienced sub-space before, but this was taking him deeper. He was teetering on the edge of a drop, and he wasn’t afraid to fall. Bones would catch him.

“That’s good, Jim. That’s really good.” Bones’ fingers were on the pulse in his wrist, warm and comforting. Then he pulled away and stepped out of Jim’s range of vision. “Now, you’ve been putting yourself through some rough stuff lately, we’re going to do some neurological testing and stimulation.”

Jim listened intently, as if his ears could somehow deduce what Bones was pulling out of the bag. He couldn’t turn his head. His entire range of vision was the ceiling, the IV bag, and the edge of the biobed monitor.

Bones’ face came into view, and he held up something that Jim had never seen before. It was a small, metal instrument. It had a slender handle no longer than a PADD stylus, but at the end was a thin wheel, edged with vicious-looking spikes.

Jim felt his breath quicken just a bit.

“This is something a bit new for you. It’s called a Wartenberg wheel. They’re used to test nerve sensitivity. It’s an ancient medical device that’s still used today because it’s effective. So, first, we’re going to test your nerve sensitivity.”

Test... nerve sensitivity? Jim’s brain was running a bit slow.

Bones nodded at him, and then, there was something delicate and sharp tracing along the left side of Jim’s jawline.

Jim gasped through his nose as the exquisite thread of sharpness continued to roll up under his jaw towards his ear, then down his neck. It prickled delicately along his collarbone from left to right, and despite the fact that it was obvious that Bones wasn’t pressing it very hard, the pinprick sensation from each spike was bright and sharp. It felt like a line was being lightly traced in his skin. It almost tickled, but in no way could the sensation actually feel like a tickle.

The wheel moved up the right side of Jim’s neck, then back down along that side of his jaw. Then, with Bones’ attention focused razor-sharp, he traced the wheel down the front of Jim’s neck, over his larynx, through the hollow at the base of his neck, and down his sternum. It stopped at the base of his breastbone. Then, Bones began drawing it along the bottom edge of his ribcage, down and to the left. The skin along there was more sensitive than Jim expected, and he instinctively tried to squirm away from it, but the strap across his stomach had almost no give. All he could do was pant and shiver as Bones traced the wheel back up from the left and then drew it down along the bottom of his lowest right rib.

It almost felt like he was being carefully dissected. The Wartenberg wheel was like a scalpel in Bones’ hands, tracing muscles and curves, carving the outlines of vital living tissues. Bones’ focus was absolute, and the wheel was rolling faster now so that the individual pinpricks blended together. The pressure was more firm now. It tickled, but it didn’t. If Jim hadn’t known better, he might almost believe that it was a blade, actually slicing through his skin, except that the pain disappeared after the wheel passed. Where it met his skin, however, felt like an icy-hot line of sharpness, cutting everything else away.

Bones ran the wheel over the curve of his left hip, then down towards his groin. Jim couldn’t hold back the tight noise that built in his throat, and desperately tried to squirm against his restraints, but Bones merely planted one hand firmly on his hip as he drew the wheel down the inside of Jim’s left leg.

By the time the wheel began carving its way up the inside of Jim’s right leg, he was a mess, and he knew it. The wheel was suddenly everywhere - across his stomach, down the curve of his obliques, up towards his armpit, over his deltoid, down his neck again, over his chest, across his nipple...

Jim clenched his teeth tighter around the ball in his mouth, and he couldn’t hold back the high-pitched noise that escaped his throat.

“Mmm... you like that, do you?” Bones hummed as he ran the wheel over the other nipple.

Jim squeaked behind the gag.

Bones merely chuckled lightly, then dove right back into driving Jim out of his mind. The sensation was so unique, he didn’t know how to process it. It was sharp and intense and cutting and tickling and everywhere. He couldn’t think. His body was straining against the restraints and going absolutely nowhere. The wheel was on his chest, then his leg, up the insteps of his feet, and underneath the gag, Jim was laughing and gasping and whimpering and moaning all at once, and -

It stopped.

Panting hard, Jim blinked a few times and Bones’ face came into focus above his.

“There you go, Jim. Easy now. Breathe for a moment. We’re just getting you warmed up.” Bones’ hand, warm and soft, cradled Jim’s cheek. His thumb gently stroked along his cheekbone. “That was good, Jim. Really good. We’re going to change it up a bit, now.”

Bones held up an instrument that looked like a ridiculously tiny cane. It couldn’t have been much more than 20 centimeters long, and if Jim had to guess, it was probably a carbon fiber filament of some sort. “This thing has a few names, and while it’s not standard medical treatment, it’s excellent for inducing endorphin release. Colloquially, they call it an evil stick.”

Jim felt his analytical brain trying to kick in, just a little bit. A tiny tool like that? Evil? What was Bones going to do with it? Poke? Scratch? There was no way that little thing could inflict anything that would induce an endorphin rush.

“That’s no good, Jim. You’re thinking again. So... before we get started with this, it’s time to shut off some more of your higher cognition.” Bones pulled something small out of a pocket of his scrub top, and reached for Jim’s head.

There was pressure in his right ear, and then his left, and... ear plugs. Jim blinked a few times, staring at the narrow view afforded to him by his precarious position. He’d been relying on the sound of Bones’ footsteps, the shuffling noises he made, and other little cues to anticipate and predict what was happening. He hadn’t even realized he’d been doing it until that entire sensory input was gone.

There was a brief flash of worry, but Jim forced himself to take a slow, calming breath. Whatever Bones had in mind, it was okay. He could do this. Bones reached down and rubbed Jim’s shoulder for a moment reassuringly. He stepped back and took a moment to check the IV bag, adjusted something, and then stepped around to Jim’s right side.

Jim tried to look down to see what Bones was doing, but then Bones’ hand was reaching for his face, gently guiding his eyelids shut. Jim left them shut for a moment, feeling oddly detached. He was floating a bit, but not entirely. He blinked his eyes open, but now, he didn’t feel inclined to peek at Bones. He let his gaze drift at the ceiling.

A suddenly snapping sensation across his right pectoral muscle shocked his eyes wide open. A split second after the snap, the burn started. Instead of fading, the burn intensified, almost like the burn after a cane had... shit.

Jim could picture it now. He didn’t even need to see what Bones was doing. He was holding the carbon filament flat against his skin, then drawing it back and then letting it snap down, and the burn was the welt that was raising up. And damn, did it burn... and then there was a second snap, not far from the first one.

He arched against the restraints as the second burn set in. He breathed as deeply and slowly as he could, waiting for the burn to fade, but it was barely fading... not quickly enough... and then there was a third snap. The burn was building across his chest, radiating from all three points and blurring together. The first one might have been fading, but not enough. Everything was intensifying together.

A fourth snap.

Jim keened against his gag and squeezed his eyes shut. He didn’t usually like stingy sensations, and this was fucking intense. The sting and the burn and -

A fifth snap.

Jim was panting. He wanted to writhe and twist away from the fire that was spreading across his chest, but he couldn’t move.

Six.

Couldn’t move, couldn’t think, couldn’t... couldn’t...

Seven.

Eight.

A low, desperate sob escaped him. He wanted to brace against the next one, but he couldn’t even do that. He was straining against the restraints, shivering and burning at once, waiting for the next snap to come.

The next touch, however, wasn’t a snap, but Bones’ hand pressing firmly against his chest, rubbing, soothing. The heat of his hand both intensified and eased the burn, and Jim felt himself shaking in relief. A hand cupped his cheek, and a thumb wiped moisture away from his eyes. The stinging burn of his chest was morphing into a strange heat, and Jim realized that he could feel the edges of that elusive endorphin high that he’d only achieved a few times at Bones’ hands.

The hand on his cheek went to his ear, and the ear plug was gently pulled away.

“Hey Jim, look at me, okay?”

Jim blinked his eyes open, hardly realizing that he’d had them squeezed shut.

“There ya go. This part is a little bit intense, but I know you can take it. It’s going to help, I promise. You know you can tell me to stop, but I don’t think you want to.”

Jim made a sound that he hoped Bones interpreted as agreement.

Bones smiled at him, then pulled his hands away.

A moment later, Jim felt something pressed against the inside of his right forearm, and he heard a faint click. There might have been a tiny pinprick.

“Oh yeah, that’s much better,” Bones said with satisfaction. “Jim, your endorphin levels are looking great, and your stress markers are down even more. Hang in there for just a little while longer, and this will really start to work.”

Jim hummed a sound of agreement again, and Bones squeezed his shoulder. A second later, the earplug was being replaced, and the world went silent again.

The burn across the right side of Jim’s chest was hot and tingling, but the pain wasn’t the same as it was a moment ago. It seemed to have deepened somehow, sinking into his muscles and spreading oddly pleasant sensations through his body.

At the same time, now that he was back in his cocoon of silence, his awareness of his own body sharpened. He’d never been restrained so fully in his life, and he was acutely aware of every point where his body was attached to the biobed. He took a moment and tried to flex against the restraints one at a time - ankles and wrists, torso, and finally his head. The sensation of having his head restrained was new and bizarre, but being unable to speak or move in such a profound way had given him a mental freedom he’d never experienced before. Now, with the strange buzz starting to spread through his body, it seemed as though something was shifting in his mind.

He felt Bones’ hands on the other side of his chest, and there was a sudden snap against his skin. He twitched and gasped. The burn followed, but the vicious edge never came.

Another snap near that one. Burn. Heat. Tingling. Gasping and writhing.

It was pain, but it wasn’t the same as before. The heat spread as Bones moved along, leaving what Jim imagined was an intricate pattern of slender welts across his chest.

The buzz in Jim’s head simultaneously intensified and muted. He was floating in a strange world, held up by heat and pain and pleasure. The gasping turned into moaning. Nothing existed beyond the snap-burn of the tool in Bones’ hands, the table beneath his back, and the restraints tethering him to reality.

Every so often, Bones would stop using the tool, and his hands would connect with Jim’s skin, rubbing, kneading, gripping, and digging into the already beautiful ache, spreading the delicious burn deeper. He worked his way down Jim’s arms, the right, then the left. Jim swore his arms were floating away from his body.

Bones continued down Jim’s thighs, a few snaps on the right, then a few on the left, back and forth. He stopped just above the knees, then his hands were back, working the skin and muscle of Jim’s thighs before running his hands back up his torso, chest, shoulders, neck... and gently pressed two fingers against Jim’s pulse.

Jim opened his eyes to see Bones looking down at him, appearing decidedly satisfied. It matched how Jim felt. His whole body was burning with soft fire, hot but not painful. The table felt as though it was rocking gently beneath him, and the air itself seemed to tingle against his skin. If he hadn’t known better, he would have sworn that Bones had drugged him, but this was too natural, too right, to be something from a hypospray.

Bones’ hands pulled away, and a moment later, he was waving a tricorder probe around Jim’s head. Jim watched as the tricorder disappeared, and Bones moved around him. He felt something pressed against his arm again, followed by a tiny flicker of a pinprick, and saw Bones studying the screen of that small biochemical sensor decide.

A broad smile blossomed across Bones’ face, and he reached over and removed Jim’s ear plugs. “You did great, Jim. Your endorphin levels are as high as I’ve ever seen them, and that neuro monitor I stuck on you is telling me that you’re progressing very well. But we’re not quite done. Last part.”

Jim whimpered. Last part? He didn’t want it to be over. He was floating. His mind had stopped racing circles, and everything was quiet in his head. He wanted the silence to last. He wanted the earplugs and the restraints and the gag and...

Bones slipped the earplug back into place, and ran his hand softly across Jim’s cheek.

Jim didn’t bother trying to hold back the sigh that escaped him. He watched distantly as Bones moved around, and he guessed that the guy was digging into the duffel again when he ducked out of sight. This time, Jim didn’t even care to guess what he was doing. Whatever it was, it would be good. He could trust that.

He could always trust that.

Bones came back into view, but not for long, as something dark fell across Jim’s vision. It was completely opaque, and soft, and snug... and it actually took Jim a moment to realize that he was being blindfolded. Bones’ hands were gentle as he settled the blindfold into place, and Jim felt warm fingers caressing his cheeks, stroking his hair, and letting him know that even though he couldn’t see him, Bones was still there.

Some instinctive part of his brain wanted to protest or panic. He needed to be able to see! If he couldn’t see, he wouldn’t know what was going on, and he couldn’t... nothing. He didn’t need to be able to see because he didn’t need to know what was going on. He didn’t have to do anything.

And that was the point.

He could float in the darkness and silence, feeling the way his body tingled and vibrated with the echoes of the evil stick’s bite all over his skin, relaxing under Bones’ touch, and he didn’t have to do anything.

His mind was beautifully blank - just a canvas for sensation and emotion, painted with sharp tools and strong restraints.

Bones’ hands drifted away, and Jim was alone. Darkness and silence, but it wasn’t terrifying, and he wasn’t really alone. It was peaceful.

And then... something cool and smooth touched his shoulder. It wasn’t skin, it wasn’t sharp, and it wasn’t metallic. Maybe... glass? Or...

It didn’t matter. He’d find out if he was meant to find out.

The object moved down his arm and back up again, then traced across his chest and down the other arm. It was a gentle touch, cool and soothing across his abused skin. Back up to his chest, and down across his stomach, weaving lazy loops. It traced his groin, reminding Jim with a flicker of desire, that he was still wearing a cock ring, and - shit, maybe it was a plug or a dildo. But the object kept moving downwards, stroking the inside of one leg, then the other, before coming back up.

Jim was confused, but passive. Whatever would come...

Then, against his chest, the object began to tingle slightly. It might have been his imagination, but it almost felt like a faint buzz of electricity. Maybe a bit like the static electricity around a fully charged forcefield, but more focused, almost delicate.

The tingling sensation continued as the object moved all over his body, tracing almost the same route as before. When it came back up to his chest, there was a pause, and then...

Jim felt himself twitch as the intensity shot up. No longer a faint, tingling buzz, this was a full-on sting of electricity against his skin. He couldn’t hear it, but he imagined it was crackling and sparking. It wasn’t too strong, but it washed over the aching welts from the previous round, bringing them back to life.

Jim moaned at the sensation, even as he twitched and squirmed against his restraints. As it traced up the inside of his leg, he desperately tried to thrust his hips, but he couldn’t move. After almost entirely forgetting about any sense of sexual arousal, the tingling of electricity was doing something completely unexpected.

Bones moved the object across Jim’s hips, and Jim let out a tight keening noise. A sensation like this shouldn’t be arousing, but God damn it, it was. Even as it moved away from his groin, it felt like there was still a direct connection between that buzzing spark of electricity and his cock.

The object returned to Jim’s chest, and suddenly, it was everything short of overwhelming. The intensity cranked up, and it was fire and ice and stinging and sensual and - Jim couldn’t even think of what it was. Darkness and silence and electricity and Bones controlling all of it.

There was the tangy scent of ozone in his nostrils, and the incredible buzz and burn of the electricity was everywhere at once - down the inside of his arm, across his nipples, over his stomach, up the inside of his thigh. Jim’s mind couldn’t keep up with it, and it didn’t matter. Everything followed that cracking, sparking sensation as it ran over and through him. Time didn’t exist. Nothing else existed. His body was alive and shivering and vibrating and writhing with pleasure.

Suddenly, there was something warm and all-too-human wrapping around his cock. Bones’ hand, but Jim was beyond the ability to even identify it. It was good and it was hot.

The strange electrical object was still moving along his body, and now, Jim’s frayed attention was split between the intensity of the electricity crackling over his skin, and the feeling of skin and friction against his cock... but why should he need to pay attention to both? It was the same thing, a bright and brilliant burn reaching through to his core. Everything was hot and tight, and tighter... tight restraints, tight skin, tight squeeze, tight breath rushing in his lungs.

For a moment, the rhythm shifted, and something came undone, but then it was building again, so strong... so much... so much...

Even behind the blindfold, light burst against Jim’s retinas. Distantly, he felt his body clenching and shaking, and he was coming, but that was the least of the sensations flooding him. He was so alive, and nothing else mattered except that moment, that place, that experience.

And then... it started to subside. The sensation of the electricity was dimming and fading, and then it stopped altogether. Bones’ hand was no longer on his cock, but was instead rubbing him gently all over. It was a grounding sensation, keeping him connected even though it felt as if his body was going to float away.

The hands moved up his body, and one rested against his neck, feeling for his pulse. The other slid the blindfold off from Jim’s eyes.

Jim squinted against the anticipated brightness of the room, but to his surprise, the lights were dimmer than before. Bones was looking down at him, wearing a deeply satisfied expression. He pulled out one earplug, then the other. “Well, you look like you’re feeling a bit better.”

Even without the gag, Jim wouldn’t have been able to give a reply beyond the low hum in his throat.

“Yeah,” Bones said. “You’re feeling better. Let’s get you off the table and into recovery.”

Bones unclipped the head harness from the table, but made no move to take off the gag. Jim could move his head again, though, and he watched as Bones began moving around him, releasing the medical restraints from each limb and rubbing the skin underneath. It was part of their ritual when they finished a scene - the transition to aftercare. The feel of Bones rubbing his wrists and ankles, checking the pulses on each extremity, was intensely caring and personal.

As he watched Bones, Jim finally got a good look at the damage to his skin. It was just as he’d imagined, only more striking. Bones had created a pattern of tiny welts all over his body. They still tingled, but the burn was a faint and heady thing now, making him feel wrapped in sensation.

“You seem pleased with the effects of my handiwork,” Bones said mildly as he reached up to unfasten the strap across Jim’s stomach.

Jim nodded.

“They should mostly fade by Monday, but I can heal them if you want.”

Jim shook his head.

“Didn’t think so.” Bones ducked down and reached into his duffel, then came up with a piece of gauze and a roll of medical tape. “Let’s get that thing out of your arm. Hold still for just another minute here.”

Jim watched with detached fascination as Bones sealed off the IV line and then peeled back the tape around the catheter in his forearm. With a single confident movement, Bones pressed the gauze pad against the site and slid the catheter smoothly out of his arm. He taped the gauze down and held pressure against it for a moment. Jim sighed at the sensation of Bones’ fingers pressing firmly against the faint ache the IV had left. A moment later, Bones released pressure, then pulled the bag off the hook. The bag was empty, and Jim vaguely wondered how long he’d really been on the table. He honestly had no idea.

Time had lost its meaning. Maybe that was the point.

Jim closed his eyes and let himself drift - an island of stillness in the middle of a tumultuous sea. Time was grinding and howling on outside of the room, but in that space, it was silent. Along with time itself, Jim’s mind was motionless.

A soft sound caused Jim to open his eyes, and he saw that Bones was leaning over him again.

“Ready to get up?”

Jim held out his hand and let Bones gently pull him upright. He slid off the biobed at Bones’ prompting, and stumbled briefly until Bones steadied him with an arm around his waist. Automatically, Jim rested his arm across Bones’ shoulders, and then let himself be led across the small room. Bones pulled back an old-fashioned privacy curtain to reveal a cot tucked against the wall.

Bones lowered Jim onto the cot, then crouched down in front of him. This time, when Bones’ hands went for the buckle on the side of the ball gag harness, Jim didn’t resist. His mind was quiet, and removing the gag was okay now. He felt strangely naked and exposed as the harness fell away from his head and the ball slipped out of his mouth, but he could be naked and exposed in front of Bones. It was okay.

“There ya go, Jim. Here, have a sip of this.”

There was a straw in front of Jim’s mouth, and he automatically took a sip, recognizing the taste of the vitamin and electrolyte drink that Bones usually gave him after a scene. He slowly sipped at it until Bones pulled the straw away.

“That’s enough for now, kid. Here... lie down.”

Hands guided Jim down until his head sank into a soft pillow, and he closed his eyes as a blanket was draped over him. Everything around him was soft and warm, and his mind was fuzzy and blank at once. His skin still tingled all over, and the ache from the welts all over his skin was still feeding the strange buzz that had overtaken his senses.

His body was sated and his mind was quiet. Vaguely, he thought that he should thank Bones, but he didn’t feel like speaking. Words seemed foreign and distant to him. Instead, he reached a hand out from underneath the blanket and groped around until he found Bones’ hand.

Fingers wrapped around his own, and Jim opened one eye to see Bones smiling at him.

“Just rest for a while, kid. Take a nap. Let yourself recover. Ted gave us the room for the rest of the night, so don’t worry about needing to leave.”

Jim hummed a questioning note. He wasn’t sure what he meant by it, but he trusted Bones to figure out what he needed to know.

“It’s okay, Jim. I’m here, and I’m not leaving. I’ve got you.” He reached over and rested his hand on Jim’s shoulder. The weight of his hand was reassuring and comforting, almost like an echo of the restraints that had tethered him to the biobed only moments ago.

Jim sighed and closed his eyes again.

“Just relax,” Bones said softly. “There’s nothing you need to do right now. Sleep. I’ll be here when you wake up.”

It was the easiest thing in the world to simply do as Bones told him. Sleep. That was all he needed to do. So simple. Tomorrow, he had work to do, but tonight, all he needed to do was to listen to Bones.

As Jim drifted off, he thought Bones might have still been talking to him, but the words blurred incoherently in his mind. There were fingers carding through his hair, but nothing else moved.

Outside the room, the world went on without him. Under Bones’ watchful eye, Jim slept soundly.

*********

~FIN~