“I wanted my playroom to be functional but comfortable,” Payne said, taking a seat in one of the comfy chairs, which was currently grouped near the loveseat. “I know people who go for a more literal dungeon look, but that’s not really my style.”
“Hm.” The sound Hunter made could have meant anything, but he didn’t run for the door and he didn’t seem uncomfortable. If anything he seemed neutral, as though reserving judgment for the time being. “I did some research online. From what I can tell, there’s no rulebook for this, right? Just whatever you and I agree to?”
“Pretty much,” Payne said. “Everyone likes different things, so it’s up to the people involved to negotiate what they want and what they don’t want. Since this is new to you, I thought this trial run would be a good time for you to start learning what you like and where your limits are.”
“All right.” Hunter continued to prowl around as though restless. Then he turned toward Payne. “I want to know something first before we start. Have you ever done this for someone like me before? I mean, someone you aren’t interested in having sex with.”
Payne stalled for time by giving Hunter a wide-eyed look as he tried to figure out how to answer that question without embarrassing himself. “I don’t recall saying I’m not interested in having sex with you,” he said at last, taking refuge in plausible deniability.
Hunter waved a hand dismissively. “I’ll rephrase the question. Have you done this with someone purely as therapy before? I’m serious. I’m trusting you with my well-being, right? I want to know that you know what you’re doing. Since you can’t exactly produce references I’m going to have to take your word for it, but I’d like to know the truth.”
“Have I done this purely as therapy? No.” Payne spread his hands and shrugged. “But I’ve been an active part of the BDSM community for over ten years. For the most part, I’m a Dom, but I’ve subbed too because I think experiencing that side of things is part of being a good Dom. I’ve also seen the effect this can have on people -- the release and relief it gives them. The body stores emotion, you know? That’s why some people start crying in the middle of a relaxing massage. But I don’t think a good massage will cut it for you.”
“If only,” Hunter replied, his tone dry. He looked at Payne intently for a long moment, then drew in a deep breath. “Okay, then. After everything I read, I think I understand the way this is supposed to work. Maybe it’ll work for me, maybe it won’t, but I’m willing to give it a try.”
“Then have a seat, and we can discuss the specifics,” Payne said, beckoning for Hunter to join him. “What did you think about what you read? Did anything in particular appeal to you?”
Hunter perched on the edge of one of the chairs. “I tried to keep my reading to the more clinical type studies,” he said. “I understand about endorphins and the link between pain and pleasure, but if you’re asking me if I’d rather that you hit me with a cane or a paddle, I don’t really know. I do know what doesn’t appeal at all, though.”
“That’s what the trial run is for, at least in part,” Payne said, nodding to encourage Hunter. “We’ll test out different toys and equipment to find out what you respond to best. What is it that doesn’t appeal to you? If there’s anything that’s a hard no, I need to know what it is so we can avoid it.”
“All right.” Hunter paused for a moment, watching Payne’s expression. “I don’t want to be degraded or humiliated - it wouldn’t help me, it would just make me angry. I understand about the sub thing, and giving you control, but I’m not compromising my self-respect.”
Payne smiled wryly at Hunter’s blunt assessment. He knew people who loved humiliation play, and he’d done it himself a few times as a Dom, but it didn’t interest him as a sub either.
“That won’t be a problem,” he said. “Humiliation isn’t all that high on my kink list either, although yes, I will be in control, and I will tell you what to do when we’re in the scene. If you don’t obey me, then there will be consequences that you won’t like. That’s how it works. If you can handle that level of bossing around, we’ll be fine.”
Hunter nodded, but then he frowned. “What if I get angry?” he asked. “What if you piss me off so much I try to slug you? I’ve been in the military, and God knows there were times when I was a plebe at the Point that I wanted to crush some asshole’s head, and his rank didn’t matter.” His tone became rough. “After freezing the way I did, I realize I’m not fully in control of my actions anymore. I can’t guarantee that if you poke too hard I might not go after you.”
“Hunter, I’ve got thick leather cuffs secured with chains that say you can get as mad as you want with me, but you won’t be able to do a damned thing about it,” Payne said, matching Hunter’s bluntness. “This is why I think BDSM will help, maybe even more than either of us realize. You aren’t in control right now. Your fear, your anger, and your guilt are. But when you’re in this room, I’ll be in control, and you’ll have a safe space where you can feel whatever you need to feel without worrying whether you’re going to hurt me or yourself.” He leaned forward, meeting Hunter’s gaze intently. “Understand? You are safe in here, and whatever happens stays between you and me.”
Again Hunter was silent, as though weighing Payne’s words. “All right, I’ll trust you about that. And trust you that if I use my safe word, you’ll stop. I had to think about that a lot, you know. Trust isn’t easy for me, and I haven’t known you for long, so I’m taking as much of a chance on you as I’ve ever taken on anyone.”
Payne felt a little flutter in his stomach, both pleased by and apprehensive about the level of trust Hunter was placing in him, and he hoped he could live up to it. He intended to try because he felt more than ever like Hunter needed him.
“I appreciate that, and I don’t take your trust lightly, believe me,” Payne said. “I want to help you, Hunter. If I can do something to help ease your pain, I will.”
“Thanks,” Hunter said simply. “I guess the other things I’m not really interested in are broken bones or stitches. I’m scarred enough already, I don’t think more will improve my looks any.”
Payne grinned, pleased that Hunter had relaxed enough to make a little joke. “Well, you’re going to have bruises and possibly welts, especially if we use the canes,” he said, gesturing to his collection, which contained several canes of varying lengths made from different materials from acrylic to rattan. “Those bitches will leave a mark, and you won’t sit comfortably for a few days. But I don’t get off on open wounds anyway, so that won’t be a problem.”
“Then I guess that’s it.” Hunter shrugged slightly. “Anything else I guess will get sorted out during the process, right? And if it doesn’t work for me, no hard feelings.”
“Actually, there are a couple of other things I want to mention,” Payne said, sitting back in his seat again. “First, I want you to have a true understanding of the dynamic that’s going to be at work here. I’m going to be in control, yes, but you’ve got the power. We start, slow down, or even stop at your say-so. Everything I do will be your choice for your benefit. So if you don’t like being caned? We won’t do that. I’m not going to force anything on you that you don’t want -- and that includes myself.”
Hunter frowned, obviously not understanding. “Yourself? What do you mean by that?”
Payne felt his face growing hot, but he forged ahead. “I mean BDSM is a pretty big part of my sexy fun times, so you shouldn’t be surprised if I get turned on. You shouldn’t be surprised or embarrassed if you do either, for that matter. But just because I get turned on doesn’t mean I’ll do anything about it. This is about healing, not sex, and I don’t want you to worry I’ll conflate the two.”
“Yes, you already made that clear,” Hunter replied, his tone a trifle impatient. “I get it, okay? You aren’t attracted to me, this isn’t about sex, it’s about healing. If you get turned on, I won’t take it personally, since it’s not about me.”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Payne held up both hands, startled by Hunter’s response. “You’re making a lot of assumptions, big guy. I believe we established earlier that I never said I’m not interested in having sex with you. But if I need to spell it out, badass hunks with broad shoulders and biceps bigger than my head are my type, okay? And God help me, you’re stomping all over my white knight hot buttons too. So let’s dispel the notion that I’m not interested because believe me, when you’re naked and tied up right in front of me, and your ass is turning red as Santa’s suit with every whack of my paddle, I’m going to be very fucking interested.”
For the first time, Payne got to see Hunter in total and complete shock. Hunter went very still, eyes wide, as he stared at Payne in complete disbelief.