It’s hard to say which of us is more anxious as Dane emerges from the bathroom. Naked and scrubbed clean, he walks with purpose—but not enthusiasm—to meet me at the small couch. I’ve pulled on a grey t-shirt and a pair of loose boxers, the “Good Cop” version of myself. More like “Slumber Party Dom,” my inner sarcastic bastard chimes in.
“Have a seat and relax,” I tell him, though I’m not surprised his back and neck are stiff enough to accommodate a steel rod. Dane doesn’t quite know what to do with his hands, and after several failed attempts to place them elsewhere, he ends up folding them schoolboy-style in his lap.
“Dane, you’re doing great. I hope you know how pleased I am with your progress.”
He swallows, nods, and waits for the worst to follow. I’d kill to take away his worries, but the truth is, this isn’t going to be the easiest thing for him to hear.
“You’ve come so far in such a short time. I know I can take you so much further—but it’s going to mean bumping up against many of your limits.”
Thoughtful as ever, Dane takes his time considering my statement, which must sound more like a threat right now. His folded hands tighten, and he attempts a calming breath. “Master, am I meant to know which limits you are referring to?”
“That’s a fair question, Dane. Yes, I can tell you that, but I need you to understand something first. I’m not asking your permission. I’m your Master, and I will do what I believe is best for you. You need to trust that I have your best interests at heart and that I know what I’m doing. You always have your safe word, and you know you can yellow at any point as well—even when I command silence.”
Shit, did I tell him that before? “You know that, right, Dane?”
His nod is more of an uncertain “okay.” Master Marcus chalks up another demerit. Do better.
“Thanks to your honesty, both in completing your checklist and in your physical responses, I know exactly where and why you’re squeamish. We’ve already pushed through some of your barriers, but there are others holding you back.”
His upper lip disappears between his teeth, and I place my hand on his knee. “Dane, that’s not a criticism of you; it’s just ground we haven’t covered yet. Understand?”
Again, he nods, but there’s a wistfulness to it that breaks my heart. My thumb slides back and forth a few times across his knee until he looks up again. “This is how I work. Initial evaluation: Can I picture us working well together? That part was a cinch. I think I knew before they cut the wedding cake.”
Dane’s spirits lift at my message and my smile; hope seeps back into his eyes.
“Next, there’s the chemistry phase: Do we have a good rapport? Does it feel good? Is this fun?”
His mouth twists into a comical scowl. “Right now?”
I bump his shoulder with mine. “No. This part doesn’t count, but before I started torturing you with painful conversation, you seemed to be enjoying yourself. Do I need to remind you?”
“No, Master,” he answers with a bashful grin. “I remember.”
“Good. So, check, check, and off we go to the next, the ‘Are-we-good-for-each-other?’ phase: Can you and I challenge each other in a meaningful way without our bond crumbling under the pressure?”
“I don’t understand; I challenge you?”
Oh, the challenges. All the things I can’t do to him. All the things I can’t say to him. How I let him tease me. How I question everything. How, lately, my heart and my head don’t feel like two parts of the same person.
How he truly has no idea, and that is quite possibly my biggest challenge of all.
“Yes, Dane, every day, but it’s all good. This has to be a two-way street; besides, no great relationship is ever without its challenges.”
“Great relationship” hovers in the small space between us, offering a whole new set of issues. Dane’s questions aren’t exactly answered, but his preoccupation with the original proposition wins out over other concerns.
“How bad is this pressure going to get, Master?”
“That’s just it, Dane. It’s not going to be bad at all. If it doesn’t suit you and bring us closer together, we don’t do it. Soft limit becomes hard limit. End of story.”
He searches my expression for reassurance and must find something there he can trust. After a deep breath, he puts forth a shaky, “And the limits you’ll be bumping against?”
The best thing for Dane right now is to hear this from his Master, to remember that by turning this over to me, he serves both of us best. Good Cop slips away into the night, and Dane’s Master crowds him on the couch, throwing a leg over his lap, roping an arm around his back, tightening the grip on his hands.
“I will demand more of you in every way. You’ll become that much more mine. I’ll deprive you of your senses and make you more reliant on mine. I will train your body to experience pleasure from delayed gratification and even from pain.”
A ripple of worry creases his forehead, but at the same time, a promising presence meets my leg. I’m not exactly sure which part arouses him, but I plan to have an excellent time finding out. He’s ready for the rest.
“Soon, Dane, very, very soon, I will demand all of your body. You will oblige because you don’t have a choice, but you will love it because it’s what you need.”
He’s far too exposed to hide the whimper that escapes him.
Give him some time, Master Marcus cautions Good Cop. We sit in silence for several minutes while Dane digests and processes, his face an ever-changing palette of emotions. A parched, pink tongue swipes over even drier lips; his gaze lifts and lowers; he pulls and releases breath as if hefting a slab of granite up a steep mountain path.
My own nerves are a wild jangle for the eternity it takes him to meet my eyes once again.
“Master,” he begins, so tentative I need to lean in even closer to hear.
I’m ready with support and affirmation though I’m not sure I could conceal my devastation if Dane surrenders to his fears over his Master. Refraining from everything my heart aches to do and say, I press my lips to his temple, pinch my eyes together as I send up a brief but mighty prayer—Stay—and respond as steadily as possible with the only word I can manage.
The faintest trace of liner shades the corners of both eyes, but it’s his warm chocolate orbs I search for Dane’s verdict. He understands fully what he’s signing up for by staying.
“I trust you.”
And I breathe.
We keep each other up for a long time, talking about the minutiae of his day and to a lesser extent, mine. Dane regales me with what his colleague has termed “helpful hints for the hopelessly homosexual,” seemingly eager to try some out in practice the next day. He asks detailed questions about how I’ve spent our time apart and listens with interest to all my answers. We skirt around anything too intimate by mutual, unspoken agreement. When the conversation naturally peters out, I take off my clothes and climb into bed.
“How would you like me, Master?” Dane asks, waiting on what seems to be developing into “his side.”
“That’s a loaded question.” I chuckle; he grins. “Lucky for you, you wore me out earlier. Here, climb in. We’ll figure it out.”
He lifts the corner of the sheet and glides in beside me. I give him a reasonably chaste kiss and stretch for the light switch.
Settled onto my side, I reach for his warm body, and he scoots on his back until his shoulder meets my chest. “G’night, Dane.”
Damn, I could sure get used to hearing those words just before falling asleep. My hand wanders to Dane’s chest, greeted by a million tiny goose bumps and the tight buds of his nipples. His body tenses under my touch as he waits for direction.
“Relax,” I whisper. “Sleep.”
Given a small measure of freedom, he sinks into his pillow, exhales, and wriggles his butt into the mattress. My fingers play at the thin trail of hair leading down his abdomen, his taut dancer’s core. The tip of his cock knocks lazily against my knuckles as it swells and sways. Mine answers with a sympathetic hard-on I won’t be satisfying right now either.
His internal clock is as well-disciplined as the man himself, and I admire him all the more for it. His body is his instrument and his livelihood, and he respects himself enough to get adequate sleep and take care what he puts inside.
And that won’t be you, old man.
True, not tonight. But soon.
The heater clicks on and a warm stream of air blows across the bed. It’s not home, but it’s more than comfortable, and we’re together. If things work out between us the way I hope they will, our geographic challenges will require a more permanent solution. I want Dane in my dungeon and in my home, but he needs to be close to the theatre and the life he knows. I am more than willing to make sacrifices so we can be together like this—relaxed, intimate, and . . . apparently asleep!
A soft snore issues from the gently undulating body beside me. My fingertips trace random designs along the playground of his belly and chest, pulling him further and further into sleep, if the deepening snores are any indication. I can perfectly envision the bright red blush that would color his face if he knew he’d been discovered. There’s something so totally unguarded about this sleeping Dane, I am overcome by a rush of emotion for my sweet, innocent boy.
“Yes, Master,” Dane mumbles in his sleep, returning to his snores with the next breath.
Fucking hell, the boy is dreaming about me. His body jerks and he mumbles something unintelligible before settling back in.
I hope it’s a good dream, Dane, I muse to myself, sliding my hand down his happy trail to check out exactly how much fun he’s having.
The boy’s gone completely soft. Interesting. I pull back my hand, reluctant to intervene.
Dane twitches again. His breath is clipped, and his easy rest is long gone. A tiny pit forms in my belly. Something isn’t right.
“YES, Master!” This time, there’s an urgency to his tone that makes my blood run cold. He’s not aroused; he’s not even okay.
“No, no, please, no!” His arm suddenly thrashes out and he catches my arm with his fist.
“Wake up, Dane. You’re here with me. You’re safe.”
He startles awake, shooting up in bed, heart pounding, breath shallow and quick. I click on the bedside lamp. Dane’s eyes are wide with fear, and he seems to have no awareness of his surroundings.
“Catch your breath, now. You’re okay.”
He blinks at me several times, rubs his hand vigorously over his hair, and offers a tentative, “Master?”
It’s him again. First, he invades my dungeon and now, my bed. Hell, no, he is not confusing me for that bastard.
“Say my name, Dane.”
He doesn’t respond. It’s not like him to defy me, but fear will do crazy, awful things to a man.
“Dane, did you hear me? I need to hear that you know who I am.”
Remorse clouds his face, but still, he’s silent. My heart twists, and I wonder—not for the first time—just exactly how bad is this thing I’m fighting? And on the heels of that terrifying question—how the hell was I so cocky to think I could heal him by myself?
I can’t tell if he’s disappointed in himself or worried about my reaction, but clearly the next word pains him—nearly as much as it pains me.
The urge to scream in frustration nearly overpowers me. Has Dane lumped me in with the other one now? Possibly all the less-than-stellar doms he’s suffered under? Am I now just the next generic “master,” predetermined to hurt him and leave new scars on his body and his heart?
For now, I have no choice but to accept his response.
“I respect your safe word, Dane.”
But fuck it all, I absolutely hate that he’s shut me down. That has to be the end of it, or I’m no better than the last guy.
We’re at a standstill. The silence stretching between our two sides of the bed might as well be the Grand Canyon. I think back on our conversation about the challenges and all I can’t say. It’s Dane’s soft, still voice that bridges the abyss.
“I know exactly who you are. You’re my Master,” he says. “The one I’ve been waiting for.”
As I have been waiting for you. Relief pulses through my veins in rolling, crashing waves. “Dane, I promise you, I will never hurt you.”
“I know,” he whispers back, his voice quaking along with my nerves.
I’m feeling rather speechless, but Dane has more to say. “I’m sorry to disappoint you, Master. I’ve tried, but I don’t know if I can ever say . . . your other name. I’m afraid that’s always going to be a hard limit for me.”
Of all the things for him to choose, this one . . . I can learn to live with. I fight to keep my voice even. “I want you to know, Dane, I will always respect your limits.”
“Thank you, Master,” he says quietly, gratitude oozing from his pores. “I know that, too.”
Well, that’s something anyway.
“Do you want to talk about your nightmare?”
“I think I’d rather go back to sleep right now, if it’s okay with you?”
“Of course.” Shutting off the lamp again, I roll onto my side facing him. “C’mere.” Dane shimmies down into the sheets, nestles back between my open arms, and I pull his back firmly against to my chest. He sighs as he settles in against me, the plump, warm mounds of flesh pressing into my groin. Feels like home.
Careful with your fantasies, Marcus. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Per usual, my thoughts return to Dane, what’s best for him. “I think you sleep better on your side, no?”
He stiffens in my arms, his head lifts slightly, and over his shoulder, he groans. “Oh shit. Was I snoring before? That’s embarrassing!” Just beautiful.
I chuckle into his back before dropping a kiss into the sweet junction of his neck and shoulder. “How many times do I need to tell you you’re perfect before you believe me, Dane?”
The tension releases from his neck, accompanied by another audible sigh. My body inches forward while his inches back—two spoons aligning in the cutlery drawer. Dane covers my right hand with his and pulls our joined hands tight around his chest. “Oh, I don’t know, Master,” he says, and I can hear the smile on his lips. “Maybe a few thousand more?”
I'm traveling this weekend- getting some face-to-face editing time with Chayasara (and maybe rolling a matzah ball or two) - but I will do my best to keep up with my posting and your wonderful comments. Thank you all for putting a big smile on my face every day.
Speaking of that editor, I haven't thanked my amazing team in a while (somebody needs a spanking!) so let me do it here and now. Jayme, Jean, Meredith and Sue, I love you guys so much. Every single chapter is better for your eyes and hearts in it. MWAH! xoxox