“Do you drink anything besides PBR?” Karl asked, grabbing a bottle of water from Chris’ fridge. He cracked it open and lent against the counter, watching as Chris wolfed down a couple of slices of pizza and his own water.
He shrugged. “I like it, it’s what I buy. Why is it a thing everybody finds so amusing?”
“Nothing, frat boy,” Karl murmured, grinning. “So, how was shooting in Bakersfield?”
“Eh, another round of hotels and driving and shooting in weird locations. Like last time, only this time I had to be up at like two in the morning for a five am call time.” He made an adorable yucky face that would have rivaled Karl’s boys. “Though it was cool to be able to film outside again, I haven’t done that in a long time. Bakersfield is pretty in the dawn light, and I got to imagine being Kirk out on the lonely road pondering my future,” he said, pretending to rev a motorcycle and making throaty noises.
“Sounds like a good time. Shooting went well?”
“Yeah, everything went pretty smoothly. I managed to find someone to Dom me the third night out, so I had pretty good focus and energy the whole time.”
Karl paused with his water bottle halfway to his mouth. “Oh? Who was that?”
“A chick I met at dinner the night before. She was real chill, kinda like you. We didn’t do anything too crazy, but she had a good vibe so I was able to go down pretty well.” He grinned over at Karl. “You’re right, you know. I do better when I’m more consistent with finding a partner.”
Karl took a swallow of water to cover his sudden irritation. It should make him happy to hear that Chris was looking out for his needs better since he’d lectured him on it enough, but strangely it didn’t. Instead, he suddenly had a knot between his shoulder blades that didn’t ease out when he rolled his shoulders. “I’m glad you were able to keep focused on filming like you needed to,” he said, which was true enough.
“She did this thing with her tongue-“ he cut off and waggled his eyebrows.
Karl had to force his hand to relax so he didn’t crush his bottle. He set it carefully to the side, nodding as if he cared about this chick that had apparently done things to Chris he never had.
“Anyway, a good time was had by all, and J. J. hasn’t bitched at me in weeks about keeping focused so I’m happy. It was a good trip.”
“That’s good,” Karl said inanely when he couldn’t find anything else to say. “Eat your pizza.”
Chris rolled his eyes, but finished up the rest. He looked relaxed and eager, full of positive energy from the road trip but not this side of manic like he got if he’d gone weeks without being taken down. Karl had no reason to get his hackles raised over another Dom being with Chris; their agreement was specifically not exclusive. The thing was, Chris had been coming to him more and more over the last few weeks since they shot in Fairfield. Lately they saw each other every weekend and usually once in the middle of the week, and for the most part Karl was pretty sure Chris didn’t have time to see anyone else in between. At some point he’d started thinking he was the only Dom in Chris’ life and he’d really liked it; hearing otherwise was like a slap in the face, even though it was never an assumption he’d had a right to make.
He headed over to Chris’ living room so he could get some space. He took a few deep breaths and shook his hands out to release the tension, and when he was ready he looked over Chris’ set-up. The brown and black leather floggers were out again, along a blindfold, and the blue hemp rope. Chris had asked for Shibari bondage several times since that first evening. He really did seem to enjoy it once he got over his initial anxiety with it.
Chris finished tidying up the kitchen and followed Karl in, pulling his shirt up over his head and dropping it on the couch.
“Blindfold is new,” Karl commented.
Chris nodded. “I haven’t done that in a long time, bondage with a blindfold. I used to like it, the way not being able to see heightened the anticipation so much, made it so much better. I wanted to try it with you, see if I still felt that way. Since I know I can trust you.”
Karl blinked. It never failed to amaze him when Chris said stuff like that. He never quite knew how to respond. “Sure, we can try it,” he said, smiling.
Chris smiled back, the genuine, eye-crinkling smile that so rarely came out in public but which made Karl’s stomach dip every time Chris directed it at him. Right about then he’d do anything Chris asked for.
Chris stripped out of the rest of his clothes – he’d long since lost any shyness he may have had about being naked in front of Karl, even though they didn’t always strip completely for everything – and knelt on the pillow by the couch.
“Start with the bondage?” Karl asked, holding up the rope. When Chris nodded Karl brought it and the blindfold over and sat on the couch so they were closer to eye level. “How do you want to do it?”
“In back so you can bend me over the couch and whip me, Sir,” Chris said.
Karl had to use all his control not to get hard at the request. He cleared his throat. “Blindfold now or later?”
“Now please, Sir.”
Karl leaned forward and slipped it over Chris’ head, running his thumbs along the bottom edge and the elastic to make sure it was positioned correctly, trying not to linger on Chris’ face. “Comfortable? Do you feel okay?”
“Yes, Sir, I’m fine.”
“Tell me right away if it’s too much, I’ll take it off.”
Chris smiled an amused half smile. “I know you will, that’s why I’m doing it with you and not someone else. Despite popular opinion I’m not a complete dumbass in this arena.”
“Don’t get cocky now. We don’t have to do anything at all tonight.”
Chris wiped the smile off his face and said quickly, “No, Sir.”
“Very good,” Karl murmured. If Chris were his he’d punish him for his smart mouth by gagging him, but he wasn’t. It was hard lately to hold back on the impulse to go that extra step and truly claim Chris in the ways he wanted to, especially when he said things like that that implied more trust than Karl thought he really meant.
Karl moved around behind Chris and positioned his hands how he wanted them – bent at the elbow and each hand grasping the opposite forearm – and began the process of building a shoulder harness that would also hold his arms where Karl had placed them. As always, the rope and the feel of Chris’ skin calmed him, letting that satisfying feeling of control bloom in his mind and wind through his chest and body.
When he was satisfied it was secure he rested his palms on Chris’ shoulders. “Not too much? You doing ok with the blindfold?”
“I’m good, Sir,” Chris said, and his voice had that ever-so-slight slur that meant he was starting to go down. “It’s good, like I remember it. Just feeling the rope, feeling contained right here where you put me, how you want me.” He flexed against the rope, feeling it’s boundaries against his skin and body the way submissives did when they were enjoying their bondage and were trying to sharpen the feeling. “Makes me feel like I’m yours. Want to feel like this all the time.”
The words hit him like a punch to the gut and the desire to bite and mark Chris’ neck slammed into him. “Oh, damn,” Karl muttered, and lent forward so his forehead rested between Chris’ shoulder blades. The words echoed in his head - I’m yours, all the time. His hands flexed on Chris’ shoulders and he wanted to push Chris down and make him beg Karl to claim him. His hands shook with the effort of keeping himself from that.
He wanted that, he wanted it more than anything right now, more than he’d even really let himself know, and to hear Chris say it right there where Karl could act on it and do anything he wanted to Chris made him feel like the bottom had just dropped out of his world. Did Chris really mean it? Was he just half-drunk on endorphins and saying whatever felt like the right thing to say to keep the scene going how he wanted it to? He didn’t know Chris’ motives and couldn’t trust himself to act correctly without all the information he needed, not with his own need to dominate surging within him.
“Baseball,” Karl said, the word coming out shaky. He started untying the knots he’d just finished, his movements turning a little frantic when he couldn’t get them undone fast enough.
Chris turned his head a little, though he couldn’t see, and said in a confused voice, “What?”
“Baseball,” Karl said. “I have to stop.” He pulled the last knot free and pulled the blindfold off Chris and slid back away across the floor a few feet. He got his phone out of his pocket and dialed Zoe’s number.
“What’s wrong,” Chris said, face full of concern as he turned around and crawled across the floor to Karl, reaching out to touch his knee.
“Don’t,” Karl said, a little sharper than he’d intended. He put his hand out to stop Chris from touching him just as Zoe picked up.
“Hey, Karl, how’s it going?”
“Are you available to come to Chris’ house right now? It’s urgent.”
“Yeah, Zach and I are actually at dinner not too far away,” Zoe said, her voice turning serious. “We can be there in fifteen.”
“What the hell’s going on? What’s wrong,” Chris asked, his expression half way to panicked.
“Come right now,” Karl said and thumbed the call off. “I’m fine, Chris. I’m not hurt, it’s fine.”
“Like hell it is. I tell you I’m having a good time and you suddenly lose it? What the fuck, man?”
“Is that all you meant, that you were having a good time?”
“What?” Confusion washed across his face.
“You heard me. Answer the question.”
“Of course I was having a good time. You’re the one who safeworded, not me.”
Karl lent forward and grabbed Chris by the back of the head and caught Chris’ gaze in a hard stare. “You said it made you want to be mine all the time. Did you mean it? Tell me the truth, Chris, or I swear to God-“ he cut himself off and loosened his hand where it had tightened too hard on Chris’ head.
A look of comprehension dawned on Chris’ face. “Is that what this is about? I tell you, finally, that I like the relationship we have and you wig out like this?”
The problem was they didn’t have a relationship. They were fuck buddies – without the fucking - and he had just realized he was in love with Chris, full on head over heels, and fuck buddies wasn’t good enough. Karl took a sharp, hard breath and then another, willing his hands to stop shaking. “Are you hurt at all? Are you okay mentally? I mean, not still in subspace or anything.”
“No, you knocked me out of that pretty good. I’m not in subspace, I’m not hurt, I just don’t understand what the fuck is going on with you.”
Karl let Chris go and stood up, pulling his shoes on by the front door. “I just need a minute. Come get me if you need anything. Seriously.” He saw Chris’ pack of cigarettes and lighter that were sitting on the front hall table and swiped them as he went outside.
He lit up and took a deep drag. He hadn’t smoked in years, but the calming nicotine rush hadn’t changed in all that time. He paced a tight circle by the door, then another, trying to get his breathing to slow and his stomach to stop feeling like it was on a roller coaster ride. It didn’t work. By the time he saw lights coming up the road he was on his second cigarette and was if anything feeling worse. He headed down the front walk to meet them in the driveway.
“Is someone hurt,” Zach asked, opening the door and getting out before Zoe even had the car fully in park.
“Chris is inside. He’s not hurt, he’s fine. Go check on him though.”
Zoe got out and came around the car to him. “Karl, what’s wrong? You look like shit, don’t tell me you’re fine.”
“I-“ Karl started, but then didn’t know what to say. ‘I’m in love with Chris and he doesn’t love me back’ seemed so incredibly stupid and he suddenly felt like a complete asshole for losing his shit so thoroughly. Instead, he just muttered, “Jesus,” and took another drag.
“I didn’t even know you smoked,” Zoe said. She plucked the cigarette from his fingers and dropped it on the grass, snubbing it out.
“I don’t,” Karl said helplessly. “Not anymore.”
“Honey, what’s wrong?” Her voice was soft and sympathetic, not judgmental, and he sort of broke.
“I think I fell in love with him, and I just realized it, and I can’t keep doing this halfway thing anymore when he doesn’t feel the same way.” He slumped back against the car, leaning his head back so he could stare at the unfeeling sky and not have to see her face.
“You just realized it?”
“He said I make him feel good and like he wants to be mine all the time and I want him, Zoe. I want my collar on his neck and I want him to be mine every second of every day, for real. None of this scene shit twice a week and then he just goes on his way like nothing happened. He said that and I realized I can’t do that anymore-“ He cut himself off. He was breathing too harshly and was mortified to find his eyes were stinging. He lent forward and put his hands on his knees and just breathed.
Moments later Zoe rubbed a firm hand over his shoulders. “I know how you feel, I feel the same about Zach. I wanted to tie him down for a week when I first realized I was in love with him. I want to throttle all the people who have to touch him for work. It’s hard sometimes, dealing with it.” She paused, then asked delicately, “Why do you think he doesn’t feel the same way?”
“Because he said he likes our relationship the way it is,” Karl said miserably.
“Oh.” Zoe rubbed his back for a while and Karl found himself relaxing by increments. “This isn’t really my place, but you really need to talk to him about this. I think you may be misunderstanding him.”
Karl laughed, but it was short and harsh. “Not much to misunderstand there.”
“You know trust is hard for him. Even if he hasn’t told you I know you’ve picked up on it, you’re too good a Dom not to have seen it. Just talk to him and give him some time to sort it out.”
Karl rubbed a hand over his face. “I know, I will. Just not tonight. I can’t deal with that right now.”
Zoe nodded. “Does Natalie know?”
Karl stuffed his hands into his pockets. “Yeah. She’s encouraged me to do what feels right, but this is more than just helping out a friend or having a summer fling. This could change everything and I don’t really know how to dump that on his lap without him freaking out.”
Zoe’s mouth twisted wryly. “He’s not the only one freaking out, to be fair.”
Karl huffed a laugh. “That’s true. God, I feel like such an idiot right now.”
“Don’t. You know scenes can be intense, and even more so when there are deep feelings involved. Why do you think we spend so much time negotiating and discussing safe words and limits and stuff? We talk about protecting the submissive a lot, but dominants need just as much care.” She bumped his shoulder lightly. “You know all that, you’re just overwhelmed.”
“Ain’t that the truth,” Karl muttered.
“Look, if you can’t deal with him tonight I’ll go get your stuff and bring it out - if you promise to talk to him at the party tomorrow. Can’t leave my boy hanging for too long.”
“I will,” Karl said, and he jabbed her lightly with his elbow. “And he’s not your boy.”
“Hmm, touche,” Zoe murmured, and walked off to the house.