In Anticipation OfAuthor:
1. To look forward to
2. To expect
3. To pre-empt
4. To foreshadowWarnings
A post "Yverdon-les-Bains" sequel to Gunpowder Treason and Plot
and Adding Insult to Injury
In two parts for length or at AO3 here(back to part 1)
Part 2Douglas still hasn’t said anything but when the steaming cups are placed on the bar and Herc stands up to get them he does speak.
Herc turns back to look at him, waits.
“Bring the drinks.” Douglas is up and walking towards the lifts. Herc follows, a mug in each hand. The bitter aroma is heady and for a moment he feels faint; he should have eaten more.
Douglas unlocks the door to his room. It’s quiet up here. Herc wonders how thick the walls are. He caught a glimpse of the room plan at reception; the room next to this one is empty, and the one across the way. That will have to do. It’s not like Douglas is going to be pulling his fingernails out, after all. Certainly not.
“You can put them down there.” Douglas gestures at the side table. Herc puts one down, starts to take a gulp from the other.
“No. Put it down. What have you brought with you?”
“You planned this from before we left. I presume you came supplied. So what toys have you brought me to play with, Hercules?”
He wishes the man wouldn’t call him that. “I’ll fetch my flight bag.”
“Don’t get independently minded on me.” Douglas has settled into the single armchair, is kicking off his shoes. “Just tell me.”
Bastard. Herc wants that coffee and he suspects he’s not going to get it. Pretend he’s not cringing in embarrassment. Pretend he’s merely amused. “Silk rope. Handcuffs wouldn’t go through security, obviously.”
“Not without some interesting conversations with the Pakistani military, I imagine. What else?”
Douglas smiled. “You’re far nicer to yourself than I have any intention of being. And?”
“That’s it.” It wasn’t.
“Really? How disappointingly unadventurous. Shall we take a look?” He holds out his hand. “Your key.”
He returns from next door with the bag, dumps the contents on the floor and begins to sort through. Herc wonders if he’s noticed that the coffee’s gone down by an inch or so in his absence.
“Rope, check. Blindfold, check. Toothbrush. Flannel. Earplugs. Assortment of creams and painkillers. Shaver. Clean underwear- I trust it’s clean? Paperwork for tomorrow’s pick up. Camera? Is that for my benefit?”
Herc shakes his head. “I always carry one. I don’t think photographic evidence tonight is a good idea, do you?”
“Let me put it on one side. One never knows. Book. A new tube of lubricant. Two boxes of condoms. Interesting.” He holds them up for Herc’s reluctant inspection. “Extra sensitive, battered box and half empty. That’s clear enough. Extra strong, brand new and unopened. What exactly did you think you were going to do with these?”
Herc shrugs, languidly. “I didn’t want to risk cramping your style with their absence.”
“My style? Remarkable. I think you’re going to be sadly disappointed. And is this really what I think it is?”
It was inevitable that Douglas would find it, and would mock. Herc looks at the stubby black ribbed rubber. “You’ve never seen one before? That’s
“Why on earth would I have done? It’s not exactly the gateway to lighthearted heterosexual fun, is it?”
Herc brindles slightly. “Plenty of straight men use them.”
“Since I don’t go to bed with straight men, I wouldn’t know. What exactly is it doing in your flight bag with the purchase label still attached, Herc?”
It seemed like a good idea at the time? It really didn’t now. “I thought maybe I’d broaden your horizons a bit, Douglas.”
“I can assure you that you’re not broadening anything of mine with that! And you neglected to mention it five minutes ago because?”
“Because I though the words “butt plug” might be too much for your sensitive vanilla ears.” It’s the best he can do right now.
“Of course.” Douglas puts the plug aside with the ropes, lubricant, condoms and camera. “You can put the rest back.” He picks up his coffee and returns to the armchair.
“Thank you,” Herc says politely, with just a hint of sarcasm. “May I have my coffee now?”
“No,” Douglas drains his. “It will still be drinkable for another five minutes or so. If you manage not to lie again or otherwise annoy me in that time you can have it.”
Lukewarm coffee. It still sounds good to Herc. He nods, determined on compliance, scoops the rest of his belongings back where they belong.
“Good. We’ll try again. Why didn’t you tell me what was in your bag?” Douglas is watching Herc intently now.
“The sex stuff seemed a bit presumptuous at this point.”
“Presumptuous is right.” Douglas is sharp. “I’m not your boyfriend. Certainly not your lover.
“You’re not a one night stand either,” Herc points out. “And certainly not- what’s that horrible modern phrase?”
“Fuckbuddy?” Douglas suggests.
“No! Friends with benefits, that’s the one. I don’t know where you pick these terms up, Douglas.”
“So now we’ve covered what I’m not, do you want to tell me what you think I am?”
“You’re the man who enjoys taking me down when I wind you up enough.” Herc shrugged.” That’s pretty much the long and short of it.”
“And what does that make you?”
“The man who enjoys finding out what happens when I wind you up enough.”
“And the condoms?” Douglas isn’t easing up an inch.
Herc looks straight back at him.” When one anticipates a certain level of enjoyment, it’s good to be prepared.”
Douglas is silent for a while, thinking. Herc’s mind drifts to the rapidly cooling mug. He is about to remind Douglas about it when the other man speaks.
“So. Do you want to know what I brought in my
That gets Herc’s full attention, and damn but he knows that he’s let it show. “Very much so, “ he confesses.
“Maybe later. For now I suggest you drink that coffee and use the bathroom if you need to. When one has been provided with such exceptionally pretty restraints it seems impolite not to do at least a little restraining.”
The knots seem to be particularly elaborate. Herc asks if Douglas had been studying, but the man is tuning him out for now, his focus purely on the task in hand. It makes Herc feel like nothing but a thing, humiliated and simultaneously a little aroused. The latter he has little chance of hiding, given that all his clothes are strewn over the wooden floor.
The air conditioner labours and outside the city traffic still growls intermittently, stop and start again, but there are few other sounds to mask the breathing of either man. Herc tries to slow his over rapid gasps consciously, finds that he's matching Douglas's now, in and out, breath for breath.
This is ridiculous. He needs to pull himself together now or he'll go to pieces under Douglas's hands and the man will do nothing but laugh at him. He focuses on himself, his precise situation, what his options are.
Limited. He's sitting up against the iron head of the bed, arms outstretched and tied at shoulders and wrists to the bedstead. A rope tight round his hips keeps him from sliding down the bed. Douglas is currently doing something intricate to the loops round his ankles that fasten to the bed's foot. He hasn't been left a great deal of wriggle room. He suspects there's a reason for that, but he can't guess what will happens next. Not, he would bet a substantial amount, anything sexual. Not yet.
Douglas finishes, steps back to admire, or assess. He's still in short sleeved shirt, tucked into a pair of large dark blue cotton trousers. He looks like Douglas always looks, a man carrying a fair bit of extra weight and rather less hair than he used to but carrying it off with enough self confidence that no-one ever comes away thinking “I've just met an overweight middle aged man.” It's a neat trick and one that Herc flatters himself that he doesn't need. He's in a lot better shape than his captain, but then he never had the alcoholic years.
Their eyes meet and Douglas nods acknowledgment of his presence again. “I need something out of your bag.”
“Go ahead.” Herc looks at the electric shaver that Douglas retrieves with some concern, but he keeps quiet, at least until it is clear what Douglas intends to do with it.
“Hang on! That's going to be a bit difficult to explain.”
Douglas shrugs. “Either tell her the truth or lie about it. Your relationship, as you recall, is absolutely none of my concern.” He's already shaving a long stripe down Herc's chest.
It's too late now, so Herc stops protesting. Explanations are going to be tomorrow's problem. He endures the tugs and twinges silently as Douglas shaves his entire chest, going as low as his belly button. It feels a little raw in places and very odd and he's going to have to change the blades before he can use the device again.
“Do tell me it's at least prettier.” he suggests.
“Not really, I'm afraid. Puts me rather in mind of plucked fowl.” Douglas walks over to his overnight bag and Herc cranes his neck to see what is coming out.
The packet lands on the bed between his outstretched thighs. He blinks at it. Marker pens. He can't read the labelling.
“Those are washable,” he says without much hope.
Douglas picks them up, takes a closer look. “They say permanent. I don't think they mean it though. Not on skin. That would be rather to much to hope for in a ten quid packet of three.”
“They look new.” Herc is probing.
“They might look it, but I've been carrying these around for months. Useful for labelling freight boxes.”
The two parallel broken lines inscribed on his upper stomach look a little too much like incision guides for Herc's liking. Not that Douglas could be carrying any sharp objects; he saw that bag go through the x-ray machine just hours ago. He waits.
“Pick a letter.” Douglas commands.
“ Why? “
“You'll see. Letter, please.”
“C”. It feels like a safe one, for some reason.
“No,” Douglas says cheerfully and draws an unbroken line above the broken ones. Herc stares down at his own flat stomach, wondering. There's a familiar feel about this but he can't quite place it. He knows that he's not thinking as clearly as usual.
Try the other end of the alphabet. “X”
“No again.” Douglas draws a long line straight down to meet the first one and it clicks for Herc. They are, of course, playing a game. “E”, he says, resigned.
“And no again.” The cross piece.
“ Yes.” There's a row of seven, still blank, then underneath a six, fifth letter A, and a four.
“Is that all the As?” Herc enquires, cautiously.
“One letter per guess. Anything else is too easy.”
“ I think you're probably cheating.”
“And what do you intend to do about it? “
He's tied up and helpless. “Nothing, of course.” He goes back to studying the upside down text. “Try another A then.”
Fifth letter, first word.”T”
“No.” Douglas cheerfully draws a noose. It tickles.”O”
There is an O. It now read
_ O _ _ _ A_
_ _ _ A _ _ _ _ _ _
R gets him a head in the noose. I is a hit and so is S. He tries S again and gets
_ O _ _ _ A S
_ _ _ A _ _ _ I _ S
Inspiration hits and he sighs disbelief. “You are the most dreadful egotist. D, U, G and L.”
Douglas fills them in. “Next”.
He can't make anything of the remaining words yet. His back and shoulders are starting to ache and he has Douglas's name written thickly in indelible ink on his newly shaved body. This isn't quite how he imagined the night would go, obviously, but he's not ready to concede defeat yet.
What might Douglas be declaring that he does? Dominate has got to many letters. Scheme has E's. Plan?
“No”. There's a body on the gallows. Herc tries D again and it gets arms.
“One at a time is traditional,” he objects.
“My game, my rules.”
What hasn't he tried. “N”
_ _ _ A _ _ _INS
A mental dash through the alphabet gives him W and Douglas finishes the third word.
“Going to have to hurry you up , Hercules. Next letter.”
“You're only rushing me because you know you're about to lose” There can only be a limited number of words that will fit. Enjoys wins? Displays wins? Plays wins? Likes wins?
“Ten seconds or you lose by default. Ten, nine...”
Douglas doesn't play fair, Herc mutters to himself. He always has to win at any cost.
“It's “always”. And a gross exaggeration. I've just won this one for a start.”
“Did you really? Well done!” He's going over the letters carefully, inking then in. There are probably half a dozen ways to clean then off, Herc tells himself, but for now the words are staying there. He is not at all surprised when Douglas reaches for the camera.
“More colourful than the ones you took.”
“I did erase those,” Herc points out. The camera keeps clicking.
“That,” Douglas says, “is because you, Shipwright, are, in a very real sense, my bitch. The relationship is not and has never been reversible.”
Herc thinks that's possibly close to the truth. He's not too worried about the photos - he can't imagine any use Douglas could make of them that wouldn't expose far more than the man would wish.
“Interesting, isn't it? All those protestations of heterosexuality and yet you're the one taking the nude photos. Where do you intend to keep them?”
“There’s a little space left in my trophy cabinet,” Douglas shoots back.
“Really? That's an odd place for them, given that they will show quite indisputably that I won the game.”
Douglas puts down the camera and considers his captive, head slightly to one side. “For a man in your position you see to be remarkably chirpy.”
Herc tries a shrug against the silk bonds. “This position? The one I've been angling for all day? I'm winning more than the word game, Douglas.”
He sees the flicker of response across Douglas's face but he can't read the emotion. Annoyance? It doesn't look like annoyance.
“I think it's probably time to disabuse you of a couple of serious misconceptions.” Douglas crosses the room to his overnight bag, kneels down heavily next to it. “The first is that you somehow manipulated me into this against my better judgement.”
He undoes the catch. “And the second is that you have caught me unprepared. Your own preparations, incidentally, were not smart. What were you going to do when they asked you to open your bag with me standing right behind you?”
“The odds were reasonable that they wouldn't.” What the hell else was in Douglas's bag?
“Relying on luck is sloppy. It's not surprising that you're in trouble.”
“Am I? “
“Oh yes.” He stands up. “Duck tape. For those wobbly bits of Gertie's controls, obviously. But it should also keep you quiet for a while.” He is watching Herc carefully. “Or I could untie you and we could forget the whole thing.”
Herc shakes his head. “I'm not ready to throw in the towel quite yet.”
Douglas nods. “I intend to win,” he says, lightly, “that's all. There will always be an out. When you take it, I win.”
Herc's read up enough on 'this sort of thing' (he's too old to be comfortable claiming kinship with new acronyms) in the last few months to know that that's not how it's supposed to work at all. Douglas either hasn't read the rules or has decided to discard then in favour of his own variant. He does that a lot.
He catches a glimpse of Douglas’s watch. Not yet ten pm, UK time. He'd rather not fly tomorrow on under seven hours sleep, which means tucked up in bed by midnight. That choice may be out of his hands.
Douglas is waiting for an acknowledgement of his terms.
“Yes,” Herc says, directly and without elaboration. The smile he gets in return is not entirely friendly. Douglas picks at the end of the roll of tape, yanks a strip free and applies it across Herc's mouth. He feels a brief moment of asphyxiation panic, then his breathing settles through his nose and he's OK. Mostly OK.
“Shoulders getting sore?” Douglas asks, unexpectedly. Herc nods.
“I think we can move things around a bit, then.” Douglas tugs on each rope end and they slide free smoothly. Show off. Herc rolls his shoulders, stretches his arms, bends his knees. Much better.
“Move down.” Herc follows the gesture down the bed and Douglas slides onto it behind him. “Hands”. The tape wraps tightly around his wrists, but there's no real discomfort. It's very odd not to be able to comment on any of these things. Two hours ago he was prodding an apparently reluctant and avowedly straight man into this. Now there are marker pens and duck tape, and Herc's not yet sure what that means. Maybe Douglas always carries all sorts of useful junk around. Maybe he doesn’t.
Douglas comes back to the end of the bed. “Some things, of course, travel inconspicuously.” He unbuckles his belt, pulls it free of the loopholes and hitches his sagging trousers up with the other hand.
Herc eyes the belt, wondering if he's going to get hit with it. But no, Douglas loops it round his neck and pulls tight. Herc had a moment of panic as his windpipe gets compressed, then it loosens slightly.
“Extra hole.” The belt is buckled around his neck, close enough to press all the way round, not enough to constrict. “You wouldn't have noticed that in a month of looking.”
Herc's trying not to shiver. It's not the collar, disconcerting though that is. It's that extra buckle hole, the proof that he's been played for a damn fool all sodding day, that Douglas has intended this from the moment he stepped on the plane. Worse, it means that this is running to Douglas's agenda; silk ropes and condoms have just been rejected in favour of tape and leather and whatever else he's brought with him.
For the first time Herc stops vaguely fantasising about what he'd like to happen (mainly sex) and starts thinking seriously about what Douglas might instead choose to do (mainly pain). Douglas doesn't like him much. Douglas got off, last time, on cruelty. Douglas has made a deliberate fuss about getting consent. It all adds up to the expectation of a rough ride.
Douglas is back at the bag, rummaging deep. “I've found that dear old Gertie needs all sorts of bits and pieces for emergencies. Here's another.” He tosses a three pack of black stockings onto the bed. “For the filter system. Naturally.”
Herc watches him open the packet, stretch the sheer silk.
“I'm guessing that you mail ordered that custom-made blindfold, together with all the rest. Expensive, conspicuous and the act of a complete novice. Watch and learn.”
The soft material tickles against his skin, knotted tight enough that it isn't going to shift. Blind and speechless, he waits, trying not to think, to worry, to panic. Douglas's conversational tone doesn't change.
“It's been amusing, watching you today. So desperate to persuade me to play. I thought that two-timing heart of yours would break out of sheer disappointment once or twice. But all's well that ends well. Here you are, just where you wanted to be.”
The collar jerks forward hard and Herc falls over onto his face. He lies there for a few seconds but when nothing happens he struggles up awkwardly onto his knees again. He abruptly wants the use of his hands again, and his sight, and to breathe through his mouth. What he gets is another vicious yank on the collar that has the back of his neck screaming raw and him face down on the bed again. This time he stays down, twisting his head to one side so that he can breathe more easily.
He wonders how Douglas will be able to tell if (when) he can't take any more. Oddly enough, he's confident about that, if about nothing else. Douglas will know, will stop, will untie him and then will crow.
Hands under his shoulder and hip roll him heavily over onto his back. He's lying on his tied hands now, uncomfortably. A patch on his shaved chest itches. The annoying sensations are drowned by sudden agony and he writhes panting against the tape over his mouth. What the fuck? Douglas's voice is close to his ear.
“Plastic clothes pegs. All sorts of uses for a frequent traveller, though I have to admit this is my favourite so far.” A second spike of pain shoots through the other nipple.
God that hurts! Knowing it isn't actual damage helps; Herc steadies his breathing, feels the pain ease off a little. For a second he imagines how he must look to Douglas, gagged, blindfolded, collared and nipple clamped. Warmth spreads up his groin; he's getting hard despite the pain. How... humiliating. His mouth twitches at that. Seems Douglas is right; he's getting what he wants, after all.
Footsteps recede. The door opens, clicks shut. He thinks he's alone. His legs are unbound; he rolls over awkwardly, dislodges the clothes pegs. Rubbing his face against the sheets does nothing to shift the blindfold or the gag and he gives up after a couple of minutes. Wriggling sideways, he manages to sit upright on the side of the bed just as the door opens again.
“Hello? Going somewhere?” Douglas sounds amused.” No, I thought not. Sit tight for a couple of minutes. I need to disable the smoke alarm.”
Herc can't think of any way in which that is good. He listens to Douglas climbing onto a chair and a noise which can only be described as something plastic breaking.
“Better test it.” The repeated scraping of a cigarette lighter. “Perfect. My, aren't you excited? Not bad for 56. Where did I put that camera?”
Herc tips his head back, resigned, waiting for the artificial shutter noise to stop. He is achingly aroused and also sickeningly apprehensive. Douglas must be bluffing with the cigarette lighter. (Except that Douglas hasn't bluffed about anything, yet.)
“I seem to be doing all the work here. Shall we have a chat about what you might be contributing?” Fingers curl around the tape and yank it hard away from his mouth. He takes a deep breath, then another. Douglas is untying the stocking from around his eyes.
Douglas ought to look different, Herc thinks. Not exactly like Douglas always looks, except slightly dishevelled, with sagging beltless trousers, a barely discernable film of sweat across his face and ink on his fingers. He brings over a glass of water, offers it to Herc who gulps from it gratefully.
A cheap green cigarette lighter is sitting on the table. The smoke alarm is hanging by its wiring from the ceiling. Douglas follows the direction of his gaze without comment. When the glass is empty he returns it to the table next to an open Coke can, moves the desk chair around and sits down opposite Herc.
“You look like hell,” he says, conversationally
Herc shrugs. “Been worse.” About 5 minutes ago, for instance. He feels something like human again, now that he can see and speak, even though Douglas has made no move towards untying his hands.
“It’s about time I offered you a chance to win something. You won’t win, of course, but you’ll have had a chance.”
Herc’s not feeling chatty. He waits.
“How many men have you had sex with?”
He shakes his head. “I don’t keep score.”
“Approximately? Five, fifteen, fifty, five hundred?”
It’s not easy to calculate. Forty years, give or take, and they varied a lot. There were the college years, when he did a bit of experimenting, then the honeymoon years, when he truly thought he could be monogamous with the right woman, all four of them. There were the breakup years, when he chased anything he could get and the single years, when he found a little more self respect and still got a fair amount of company in bed. He’d got pretty good at being alone and liking it in his fifties, and then Carolyn had come along. And Douglas.
“Closer to fifty than fifteen, I would imagine. Why?”
“That’s a reasonable amount of experience. Would you say you were competent at fellatio?”
Is this where this is going? That cheers him up.”A great deal better than competent, I’d say.”
“With a degree of control and, let’s say, anticipation?”
“Would you like me to demonstrate?” He’s got no objection to that at all.
“Here’s the game.” Douglas shifts slightly, tugs the crotch of his trousers up again.” You give me a time. I give you two minutes either way. You manage to produce a satisfactory conclusion within that time span, you win. Otherwise I do.
“You win, I reciprocate.”
Fuck, that was worth playing for! “And if I lose?”
“Take it from me, you really don’t want to lose.”
Herc thinks about it. He’s suspicious as hell, and so tempted. “You take your clothes off before I give you a time.”
“Agreed.” Douglas starts to undress, which is not helping Herc’s concentration.
“You don’t interfere.”
“I will sit here perfectly still. I won’t touch either of us.”
“Do I get my hands back?”
Douglas will have something up his sleeve. Herc tries to figure out what it might be. The man’s unbuttoning his shirt now and it’s not easy. What could affect the time it takes to get him off?
“Have you come already today? Or taken anything?”
“No and no. Unless you count two Cokes.”
Douglas isn’t as irresponsible as he likes to pretend. He wouldn’t take drugs while flying.
Herc watches him finish undressing. He’s certainly hard enough. Douglas is so definitely not just straight, it’s laughable that he still pretends. Last time, in the bath tub, it took maybe 3 minutes. This might be a bit less intense. Would Douglas go for faster or slower than Herc’s estimate?
Slower is easier for the recipient to control. Herc reckons four minutes but he’s going to call five. He’s not worried about ending up under 3. He’s got some tricks up his own sleeve to deal with premature ejaculation.
“Very good.” Douglas picks up his phone, does something. “Alarm in 3 and another in 7.” He’s sitting back on the chair, legs loosely spread.
Herc’s going to love doing this, even if he loses and he can’t see how he can lose. He shifts off the bed onto his knees. “Ready?”
“Go.” Douglas presses a key on the phone, shows the stopwatch to him, drops it onto the desk. Herc bends forward, tongue out, licks upwards and pulls away abruptly.
“God!” The bitter taste is absolutely horrible. He turns his head to lick at his shoulder, trying to get rid of it any way he can. “What the fuck have you done?”
Douglas is laughing at him.”Perfectly innocent item to have in a flight bag number 4. Or are we on 5 yet? I’ve lost count. Anyway, nail biting solution from Boots.”
“You put that…? Ugh, Douglas!”
“That was the general idea, yes.” He glances at the phone. “Time’s passing.”
“No. Certainly not. You’ll just have to do whatever you were going to do if I failed.” It couldn’t be worse, surely.
Douglas shakes his head. “Not good enough. That’s what happens if you try and fail. If you just refuse to play then we’re done and I’ll see you in the morning. One minute, by the way.”
He hates the man right now. Just not enough to walk away.
It’s vile, and it stays vile as the minutes tick away. The acrid taste is everywhere now but it still manages to be worse when his mouth is touching the original source. He’s not getting very far and he knows it.
Douglas chips in every so often with helpful suggestions. “Five minutes and it’s still barely a tease. A little more depth, maybe? You do have a perfectly serviceable throat; I remember that vividly.”
The stuff’s bad enough in his mouth. He really can’t bring himself to expose the back of his throat to it directly. Aversion therapy, that’s what the liquid’s intended for. It’s working; he’s never going to give anyone a blow job ever again. He hears the seven minute alarm with far more relief than disappointment, pulls away. “You win. I need a bloody drink right now.”
There’s another can of Coke. It doesn’t help as much as he’d hoped. Douglas takes it away, comes back with the stockings and the duck tape. Herc looks at them with something approaching despair. “What are you going to do?”
“Something that I need you to be quiet about. It’s way too late for screaming to be socially acceptable.” He ties the stocking around Herc’s eyes first so that he can’t see to avoid the tape. Blind and silenced again, Herc can do nothing but listen.
“Up.” A pull on the collar. He’s still kneeling on the floor; he stands and turns when told to, kneels again, this time facing the bed. “Bend down.” He bends over and something is pushed through the collar. It must be tied to the far end of the bed because he can’t go up or backwards. Rope around each knee stretches them apart. Herc’s in the classically vulnerable position now and he knows it; his cock twitches against the bedspread, anticipating Douglas’s next move.
“Straight, remember.” Douglas’s amused voice behind him. “So you can stop that hopeful wriggling.”
Bastard. He holds himself still, waiting. The cigarette lighter scrapes alight and he forces himself not to flinch.
“I suggest that you keep very still.” He can feel the heat low down on his thigh. There is a tiny smell of burning hair. Douglas is moving the flame back and forth. There is no pain at first, then a hot sensation and he flinches. “Whoops.” Douglas sounds unconcerned. The scorch stings as he continues, slowly upwards. The second burn he doesn’t even acknowledge. The third lasts a second longer and Herc throws his head back, hissing as well as he can. The man is burning him deliberately. This isn’t anyone’s idea of fun, it‘s torture.
Douglas is working his way upwards towards the thicker hair and every time he lets the flame linger long enough to burn the skin Herc is imagining it against his most sensitive parts. He’s sweating now, close to panic.
The next time Douglas speaks he’s a couple of inches from his target and his voice is cold. “You may think this is worse than you deserve. I don’t care. When you next get a chance to flaunt spirits in front of an alcoholic you might remember that the consequences are never pretty.” The fierce pain of a long burn shoots through Herc’s thigh and he breaks.
He bucks away, struggling against all of his bindings, shaking his head frantically.
“Had enough?” Douglas still sounds brutally unconcerned.
He nods. He’s going to floor the bastard as soon as he’s released. He didn’t sign up for this sort of damage. The guy burned him.
“So I win?”
He nods again.
“Just checking.” Douglas says cheerfully. He takes off the blindfold, released the rope attached to the collar. Herc collapses down on the floor, his legs still tied out in front of him and his hands behind his back. His eyes go straight to the burns. They don’t look like much- slight redness- but he felt the pain. They must be deep.
Douglas removes the tape from his mouth and Herc is already swearing at him.”…You bastard! You’ve got no fucking responsibility! How can you possibly put a fucking lighter to my skin?”
“Extremely carefully.” Douglas says, calmly.
“Fuck that! You burnt me!”
“No, I didn’t.” Douglas bends down, runs his hand over the marks on Herc’s thigh. He flinches automatically, then stops. There’s no pain.
“I felt it.” Herc says, bemusedly.
“You felt something.” Douglas reaches around behind him, brings out his familiar thermos flask. “Innocent item to carry in flight bag number whatever we’re up to now.” He tips a little of the contents into his hand, holds it out for Herc’s inspection. “I got the ice from the bar along with the lighter when I went out earlier.”
It’s a trick that Herc has read about, but tied up and panicking, he’d not had a chance of remembering it. “I thought you’d actually do it,” he says flatly. He’s not quite sure how he could have believed that.
“That’s why it worked.” Douglas seems unconcerned at being believed a sadist, possibly because he is one.
When Herc’s hands are untapped he unstraps the collar and unties himself from the bed. DOUGLAS ALWAYS WINS is still inscribed on his stomach. He looks down and smiles, ruefully. “You did most of it by cheating.”
“What would you have preferred? Whips and chains? Way too much physical exertion. Out-playing you suits me better.”
“What would you have done if the ice hadn’t worked?”
Douglas grins at him. “I keep my secrets till I need them.”
Herc’s mouth still tastes like hell, various joints are protesting at being tied in unnatural positions for too long and he’s shaky from the adrenaline. Also he’s been thinking about sex with Douglas pretty much ever since first thing this morning and by now he’s got more of an ache than an erection but he reckons that could change. Douglas has at least had half a clumsy and reluctant attempt at being fellated and looks as if he might be up for something more satisfactory if approached the right way.
The right way is probably to annoy him. “If you hadn’t sabotaged your chances, you could have had the rest of that blow job now. But your aversion therapy has left me rather averse to the idea, and I imagine the stuff doesn’t wash off easily anyway.”
“No.” Does Douglas sound slightly disappointed?
“Shouldn’t think you’ll want your hands near that either. Could be an uncomfortable night.” Herc shrugs. “But then even you don’t win them all.” He picks up his clothes. “See you in the morning.”
Douglas snorts.”Subtlety isn’t your strong point, Hercules. I don’t know why you bother trying. Out with it. What are you proposing this time? I’m warning you that if it involves any buggery you can sod right off.”
Herc actually doesn’t know what he’s proposing yet but he’s damn well going to think of something. He puts his clothes down, catches sight of his bag.
“Since I’m going to have that taste in my mouth for days anyway, I’m willing to risk a little more. For appropriate compensation.” He recovers the condoms, takes out one from the half used pack. “I don’t like leaving a job half done.”
Douglas considers him, then nods. “All right. You’re on.”
“Bed,” Herc says firmly. “Both of us.” He’s spent far too long in uncomfortable positions tonight. He wants a little comfort with his sex.
Douglas sprawls on the bed, waiting. There are puffy bags around his eyes- it’s getting close to midnight UK time and the Pakistan dawn is starting to lighten the windows- but the half smile says that Herc’s onto something, He wonders how much he can get away with. There’ll be no kissing for a start, not with the state of his mouth.
He settles halfway down the bed and applies himself to a careful rolling on of the condom. The flesh underneath it is pleasingly responsive but he’s mostly concerned with not getting the nail biting liquid anywhere where he intends his tongue to go. He suspects it’s already got as far as balls and arse, which limits his options somewhat. Never mind.
He takes hold of the edge of the condom with one hand to keep it unrolled, spreads the fingers of the other in a light caress over Douglas’s soft and definitely ample stomach, and bends over,
Douglas’s idea of appropriate compensation doesn’t stretch to a full-on sixty nine arrangement which is a pity. When Herc slides down the bed so that his groin is suggestively close to Douglas’s mouth the man wriggles an arms-length sideways to keep it out of his face.
Herc doesn’t push it; the man’s got nimble hands and a mean sense of timing and he’ll settle for that. He ends up lying on his side with Douglas’s deft fingers tugging at his cock and his mouth round the thin rubber encasing Douglas. It’s a long way better than nothing at all. The condom’s pretty good at keeping the taste away and he puts some effort into making sure that Douglas has a good time. ‘Next time’ already hovers at the back of his thoughts.
For once Douglas has nothing to say. Herc’s got his mouth full. The room is quieter than it’s been for several hours. When he gets the first gasp out of his opponent Herc redoubles his efforts, slides a finger gently under the man’s balls and then, even more gently, further back to rub against his opening. The gasps become faster, hips arch and Herc abruptly remembers that Douglas can’t be trusted. He closes his hand around the base of the condom and lifts his head away.
“Just waiting for you to catch up.”
Douglas mutters something indecipherable.
“What was that, sorry?”
“I won, remember. Don’t get too cocky.”
Those hands are still moving and they’re good. Herc’s not in a mood to squabble with their owner. Their bickering tends to escalate into gamesmanship fast and that’s really not what he wants right now. So he murmurs, “Yes, you won. Just do that for a bit longer.”
“This?” Douglas squeezes and Herc’s breath catches. “God, yes.”
“Slut.” Herc imagines Douglas’s voice is almost fond. He’s got his eyes closed now so he doesn’t see the movement; the warm wetness catches him by surprise. His eyes flick open. Bloody hell, that really is Douglas fucking Richardson giving him head! He’s catching up fast but he’s too dizzied and desperate to care about his side of the bargain right now. He doesn’t even manage the common politeness of a warning before coming hard. Straight down the man’s throat, he thinks, and his doubtless audible groan of utter delight is entirely involuntary.
“Right.” Douglas, to his credit, doesn’t sound particularly taken aback. “That’s one for the bucket list, I suppose. Your turn.”
It is, and he’s happy enough to oblige once his blood pressure has stabilised, despite the fact that the bitter taste seems to have taken a layer off the inside of his mouth. He doesn’t quite manage to reduce Douglas to the utterly abandoned state that he’s slightly embarrassed to have just demonstrated but he gets to finger the guy’s arse a bit more and Douglas’s consequent orgasm seems entirely satisfactory.
He drags himself up the bed to collapse on the pillow next to Douglas. The Karachi dawn is rosy, he notices, vaguely. He’d expected something greyer. His watch is still where Douglas put it when he first tied Herc to the bed, but the time doesn’t really matter now.
It’s technically Douglas’s room, and Douglas’s bed, but Herc’s not moving unless he has to. He’s way too tired for that. He manages to manoeuvre the sheet over them both. Douglas seems to be out already. It’s going to be a slightly awkward awakening, he thinks, and falls asleep,
The alarm shrills and Herc reaches out without fully waking to hit the snooze. There’s a bedside table and his phone’s not on it.
It shrills again and he gropes in the other direction, without much thought. There’s just an empty bed. Again it rings and he reluctantly opens his eyes, pushes himself up to start looking. His mouth feels like an ashtray even though he gave up smoking decades ago.
The hotel room looks like a thousand others. His phone is on the desk next to the pile of his clothes, his jacket hangs over the back of the chair. He swings out of the bed to head towards the source of the noise and minor pains shoot through his legs and shoulders. The mirror reflects his naked body. His naked, decorated body- and everything comes back to him.
His erstwhile tormentor and bedmate is nowhere to be seen. Douglas’s bag, however, is closed and locked and by the desk. Last night’s chaos of ropes and tape and god knows what else has been tidied away. The only evidence left seems to be Herc himself.
He takes a shower. They have two hours before they need to be at the airport to supervise loading. There’s time for a shower. After a good twenty minutes with limited cleansing supplies however he has to concede that there isn’t time to make much of a dent in the thick layers of ink across his torso. All he’s done is scrub the skin near raw.
Herc gives up, comes out of the shower wrapped in a white bath towel.
“Morning!” Douglas is dressed in his captain’s uniform, hat under his arm, and sounds ridiculously perky. “Coffee’s on the table, getting cold.”
“Um.” He grabs the coffee and downs it. It’s going to take more than that to redeem his taste buds but it does help. He dresses, ignoring Douglas’s smug but silent admiration of his own handiwork.
“Have you had breakfast?”
Douglas shakes his head. “I thought I’d wait until I had company. Ready?”
“Certainly.” It’s a civil invite and he’s hungry.
Before they go down he takes a quick look inside his bag, finds his camera there, shoves it in his pocket. When he checks surreptitiously ten minutes later there are no photos from yesterday on the card. They might have been copied, of course, but that would have required access to a computer. He decides not to think too hard about what else Douglas might have been doing while getting coffee. Assume that Douglas has, civilly, erased them.
Civil seems to be the order of the day.
Civil lasts throughout breakfast (lunch as far as Karachi is concerned), getting to the airport and getting the machine parts loaded with a minimum of fuss. It lasts through take off. It lasts, in fact, until the phone rings.
Carolyn’s mainly interested in the state of the cargo and the airport fees, but once she’s satisfied on those she changes tack.
“Did you have an exciting evening?”
“In Karachi?” Herc snorts. “Have you ever been there? I believe they have laws against almost every kind of fun imaginable, except possibly badger baiting. And I understand that they don’t have any badgers.”
She’s going to need a bit more than that. “We did have a rather fine meal, as it happens, but time zones were against us. They’d closed up before we could order coffee.”
“How disappointing for you.” She’s not much interested. He hasn’t said anything interesting. He glances over to the pilot’s seat and decides that sooner might be better than later.
“I did lose a wager with Douglas.”
“Oh Herc! You really ought to have more sense! Did he take all your money?”
“No. It was …um… Well it involved a razor. And some marker pens. And I won’t be sunbathing topless for a while, even in balmy Fitton. I’d better let Douglas tell you all about it. He’ll want to gloat.”
“Certainly not! I hear quite enough of Douglas gloating already and I most definitely don’t want to know. What my pilots do to each other in their spare time is, thankfully, nothing to do with me, provided that they can still fly in the morning. The freight’s going into F2 overnight but I’ll be on hand to supervise that, so don’t worry your kinky little heads about it. And don’t dawdle back. You know what happens if Arthur stays up past his bedtime.”
“And here was I planning to stop off in Austria for some strudel and a coffee. We’ll come straight back. See you in a few hours.” He’s smiling. He’s glad to be going back.
The click is the phone hanging up. Herc looks at the blue sky ahead, waiting.
Sure enough a slow hand clap comes from beside him. “Impressive. I thought I was the Prince of Machiavellian manipulation in this cockpit but I shall have to concede the coronet. Congratulations. You must be very proud.”
He’s still not proud about whatever he does with Douglas Richardson, of what it says about himself. But there are other emotions involved, stronger than self respect, stronger than caution, and he knows he’s not going to let it go. He laughs. “I very much doubt that you’ll let me keep the accolade for long, Douglas. Don’t you have a game to suggest?”
“I do, as it happens. And another small wager. I’ve got these to put up, if you’re interested.”
Herc looks at the objects placed on the dashboard, and laughs again. He wants them, badly. It’s a ten hour flight and the coffee isn’t making things better nearly fast enough. “Now that’s Machiavellian. Where did you get those?”
“From my flight bag. Where else? So, Hercules. If I win you make the coffee all the way back. If you win, which isn’t going to happen, you can have these. What’s left of them.”
Douglas unwraps the first of the two packets and pops the mint in his mouth. “Oooh! They really are very strong!” he says. “Are we on?”
Herc shakes his head. “You’re going to eat those all the way home otherwise, aren’t you? Go on then. Tell me the rules.”
He wins the mints on the second attempt, although he has a slight suspicion that Douglas threw the game so that he didn’t have to eat any more of them. They are, thankfully, extremely strong and by the time the second packet is finished the bitterness is just a memory. The flight’s easy compared to yesterday; there’s no tension between them today beyond their usual rivalry. They are flying back to normality, or as normal as MJN Air gets. There’s nothing they have to talk about right now.
When the wheels touch ground it’s dark and raining hard. Carolyn is waiting at the side of the runway as they taxi in, looking tiny and cold under a large umbrella. Herc flicks the engine off. “Finish the checks,” he says to Douglas, ignoring protocol entirely, and he’s down the steps and running across the puddled tarmac to take her arm and escort her firmly towards shelter. He doesn’t need to look back. Rain, darkness, grumpy ground crew on overtime; Douglas can always manage.
Herc thinks briefly of the clean snows and blue skies of Switzerland as he pushes through the driving rain towards the office with a protesting Carolyn clutching his elbow and for the first time he doesn’t even feel a pang of regret. This is home now, among people he can trust, albeit in certain cases only for some extraordinary meanings of the word “trust. Objectively, he has to admit that he might have got himself into a bit of a mess, what with having no job, and MJN collapsing and everything that has to do with Douglas Richardson not being entirely compatible with everything that has to do with Carolyn Knapp-Shappey. Still, he thinks he might make it work out, at least for a while, and that’s enough to make the Alps seem positively dull in comparison.
He wrestles the office door open, turns and lifts Carolyn over the threshold, silences her indignation with a kiss. “Trust me,” he says. “I’ll sort everything out. It will be fine.” As far as unpacking the freight in the appalling weather is concerned he’s utterly confident that he can deliver. Everything else… he doesn’t know yet if it’s possible. But there are two things he wants now, and he’s greedy. He’s going to give it the best go that he can.