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A Cage For Your Own Bird

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When they first started this- whatever this is (and Ben is still reluctant to put a name to it because it feels too good for him, too much like exactly what he wants and could never deserve), Jamie had been surprisingly responsible and made them all sit down and discuss what they wanted and didn’t want. What they were okay with, or not. Sexually speaking.

 

Barry had gone bright red and stammered out protests (“why can’t we just find out as we go!”) until Jamie had sensibly pointed out that unless they all knew, there was the potential for someone to get hurt or upset, and really, sorting this out now would save a lot of time and embarrassment further down the line and they might as well get it out of the way. Barry had conceded the point.

 

There had been drinks involved, of course, because the idea of having this talk sober really was too much for even Jamie.

 

James had refused to make eye contact with anything other than his whisky and gone pink right to the tips of his ears as he confessed, very quietly, that he liked to be in control. He liked being the person to take charge of making his partners feel good and give them what they needed, and leaving someone satisfied was the main thing to him.

 

Mike had said, perhaps a bit carelessly, that he was down to try most things at least once, but when pushed for specifics he would admit that he probably had a somewhat sadistic streak when in the right mood, but he also liked it when people took their time with him and seduced him into it, slow and sweet.

 

It took Barry at least two beers and most of a third in quick succession to confess that he actually really, really enjoyed being submissive, and took even more leading questions to coax out the fact that a little bit of pain combined with a lot of sweet talking and praise was what worked best for him.

 

Jamie told them with a rueful smile that he’d tried fingers and toys before and none of it had done anything but feel really fucking weird and very uncomfortable, and he just doesn’t think being on the receiving end does anything at all for him. To nobody’s shock, however, he tells them he can be pretty talkative, but he promises to try and be careful and not cross any lines, if they tell him where those lines are.

 

They still run into problems and make mistakes. When Mike has Barry on his knees with a blindfold on and threatens to leave him there until he learns to suck cock properly, Barry full on panics and tears the blindfold off, begging Mike not to go, please, he’ll do better please don’t leave me, please. It turns out that neither taking away his ability to see to see nor the threat of abandonment are any good at all for Barry’s anxiety.

 

“I’ll close my eyes, if you want me to,” he mumbles out later, once Mike has calmed him down with a lot of reassurance and a cuddle on the sofa.

“Just, maybe if you could keep touching me so I know you’re there if my eyes are closed? I don’t like not knowing what’s happening. And I- uh, I don’t think I like it when you say I’ve been bad.”

 

James discovers early on that being caused pain in a sexual context is absolutely not his thing when Barry, already keyed up from being fingered open so slowly he ended up begging for James’ cock, yanks on his hair and demands James fucks him harder. James reacts like he’s under attack and two seconds later Barry is on the floor. When he looks up, completely bewildered, James has both hands clapped over his mouth and he looks completely miserable.

 

“I’m sorry,” he moans, “I don’t know why- I just reacted.”

Barry doesn’t stop laughing for a good half hour, even as James fusses over him and tries to pick him up off the floor.

 

Jamie accidentally stumbles across Mike’s limits while he’s deep inside of him, kissing down his neck and stroking over his hips and stomach.

 

“You’re so fucking gorgeous,” he mutters. “So soft and gorgeous, fuck, your body is incredible, I look at your stomach and your thighs and I just want to bite” and Mike squeezes his eyes shut and says “stop. Jay, stop.”

 

Jamie pulls out and Mike is pulling his boxers on and out of the bedroom in under five seconds. He doesn’t return until ten minutes later, carrying a cup of tea as an apology while he explains that he thinks anything about the way his body looks is just a no go, even if it’s positive, he’s sorry, he didn’t know how he’d react to hearing that. The rest of the evening is spent playing Fifa.

 

And Ben-

 

Ben doesn’t say anything, while they’re talking.

The most he offers up is that he likes to make people feel good however they most want it, and he shrugs it off and ignores the pounding in his chest when James asks him is he really sure there isn’t anything specific he likes? Anything at all?

“Not in particular,” he tells them, lying through his teeth. “I’m just happy if you’re happy.”

 

And that bit isn’t a lie. It really isn’t.

 

His self-imposed culinary motto of ‘service before self’ follows him into the bedroom.

 

“Tell me what you want,” he always asks.

 

He spends half an hour on his knees licking at Barry’s hole until he’s wet and open before sliding inside of him, telling him the whole time how fantastic he is, pinching at his nipples when Barry grabs his hands and places them on his chest, and imagines Barry grabbing him by the hair and barking orders at him to get off.

 

He lets Mike leave red scratch marks down his back and purple love bites on his shoulders, chest to chest while Ben rides him until Mike can’t hold back anymore and comes inside of him, and wishes the marks lasted longer and the bites were more teeth than suction.

 

He says “whatever you want” to James, and is laid back on the bed while James takes care of him with his fingers and tongue and cock, and very carefully doesn’t tell James not to be so gentle with him while imagining James’ hand around his throat.

 

It’s Jamie who gets the closest to the mark, without even realising it. He likes getting head more than almost anything else, even fucking, and Jamie will tell him how fast, how slow, how wet, how hard to suck and when to flick his tongue over his frenulum. Jamie has no shame about telling Ben exactly what he wants, and even then, in between precise instructions, he manages to slip out something that comes so fucking close to what Ben wants.

 

“God, Ben, your fucking mouth,” he groans, while Ben works the shaft of his cock with a spit soaked hand and curls his tongue around the tip. “I just want to keep you like this all the time, on your knees with your mouth open and waiting for me like it’s your job. Wanna fuck your throat and make you choke on it while you look up at me with those pretty brown eyes. You look so good like this.”

 

Yes, Ben doesn’t say, please, please do that. Make me choke and gag and cry on it.

He speeds up and rubs his tongue across the sensitive glans until Jamie comes in his mouth and doesn’t say anything at all.

 

It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy what they do, because he does. He loves it.

 

The way Barry cuddles up next to him afterwards makes his heart pound. Mike leaning over to kiss him in the studio is everything he thought he would never have. Jamie will bring him cups of coffee when he’s researching something just because, and run an affectionate hand down his back and even that small gesture feels like so much. James is one of the most gorgeous men he’s ever laid eyes on, and he’s caring and considerate both in bed and out, and Ben knows-

 

He knows. They’re all of them so far fucking out of his league it’s not even funny. He’s not ashamed of what he wants, not exactly, but it just feels so selfish, and he’s not going to give the others any excuse at all to break it off with him.

 

He won’t.

Chapter Text

The problem with dating four people is that, eventually, at least one of them is going to be perceptive enough to notice something is off.


The problem with all four of those people dating each other, too, is that they’re probably going to compare notes.

 

In something between ambush and intervention, he arrives at James’ flat clutching a bottle of wine to find that Mike, Barry and Jamie are sitting in James’ living room.

 

“Oh!” Says Ben, slightly flustered, half way through taking his coat off now he’s inside. “Hello!”

He feels thrown, not having expected them there, but it’s not a bad thing, of course. Except when sits down next to Jamie on the sofa, opposite Mike and Barry, they both look on edge. Barry has a tense slant to his mouth and his shoulders are hiked up around his ears, even as Mike has an arm around his shoulder.

 

“Here you go.” James slides a glass of wine onto the coffee table in front of him, along with the bottle Ben gave him at the door, now two thirds full. The others already have a glass, most of them half empty, and James is clutching his own so tightly that the stem might shatter. Nobody says anything.

 

“Guys?” he starts, and even to his own ears it sounds a little high pitched. “What’s wrong?”

There’s a few beats of silence, and those are enough to give him time to panic, because what could possibly be so bad that they can’t just say it?

He tries so hard not to jump to the worst possible conclusion, but he can’t stop the small voice in the back of his head saying that this is just what he’s known all along. They’re too good for him, or rather, he’s not good enough for them. He’s not good at relationships and he should be the one to walk away, rather than let himself be dumped by the people he values more than anything else. He should get this over with and get out before they see him cry. End this with some dignity.

“If you’re breaking up with me” he manages to choke out, “it’s okay, I-“

 

“God, Ben, no. That’s not what this is.” Mike sounds upset. Jamie reaches out for Ben’s hand and squeezes. The gesture is so small, but so insanely comforting. Jamie still wants to touch him. They’re not breaking up with him. A lump rises in his throat, overwhelmed by relief.

 

“Maybe we should reset the conversation,” Barry placates. “Start over. Ben, we aren’t breaking up with you, promise. Okay? That’s not what this is. There’s just something we want to talk about, and we need you to be honest with us.”

 

“I- okay? Is it Sorted because I don’t-“

“It’s about sex.” Mike blurts out.

 

Oh.

 

Ben looks blankly down at the glass of wine James has brought out for him. He reaches out for it and takes a large mouthful. Then another. Then another, until the glass is empty. He reaches out to the bottle on the table and pours until the glass is full again.

 

“Ben.” Barry sounds alarmed.

 

“If I’m crap in bed,” he begins dully, “If there’s something I’m not doing right-“

 

“Jesus, Ebbers, can you stop jumping to the worst possible conclusion?” Mike sounds pissed off, and it puts him even more on edge.

 

“That’s not it at all,” James interjects. “Ben, just- can you just let us speak for a minute first? I promise you, it’s not that bad. Just hear us out first.” He seems satisfied when Ben nods, and takes a sip of his own drink.

 

“Thank you. Jamie?”

Oh God. They’ve obviously planned this, and decided who’s going to broach the topic, because they’re all looking between him and Jamie now, expectantly. Jamie, for his part, seems to be choosing his words very carefully.

 

“Do you remember,” he starts, slowly, “ when we started being- intimate- with each other, and we all talked about what we wanted and needed from each other? So that everybody would have a good time and we’d all enjoy ourselves. And you said that there wasn’t anything you needed from us. Nothing that you especially wanted other than making sure we were all getting what we needed. And we took that at face value, but…“ Jamie breaks off. He seems to be struggling to put something in to words.

 

“But sometimes,” Barry continues, “we’ve all noticed that it’s like maybe you aren’t completely there? You pour all this energy and effort into making sure that we have a great time and get off and feel incredible and you always ask us what we want from you, but then when it comes to getting you off, it’s like you go off in your head somewhere.”

 

“And you can’t say there isn’t anything you’re missing, because we’ve all seen it sometimes,” Mike jumps in. “It’s like- you’re right on the brink of asking for something but you bite it back down and never say it, and when we ask you, you just say ‘whatever you want’. But there has to be more to it than that.”

 

“We want to make you as happy as you make us,” James finishes quietly. “Because we all love you so much, Ben, and you deserve that. Whatever it is you need to make this good for you, that’s okay, we don’t care if it’s a little bit out there. Please, just tell us.”

 

There’s quiet in the room. They’re all looking at him.

 

And, the thing is, Ben is totally unashamed of the topic of sex. He can say the word masturbation and talk about erections and bodily functions on podcasts and make innuendos without so much as blushing, but when it comes to his own desires. What he wants. That’s much harder. He takes another swig of wine and says absolutely nothing.

 

“Let’s start simple, all you have to do is answer the question and be honest. Can you do that for us?” Jamie’s voice is coaxing, and Ben has never been able to truly say no to any of them.

“I- yes. Okay. I can do that.”

“Thank you.” Jamie sounds genuinely appreciative, which does something strange to Ben’s stomach.

 

“Do you prefer it when you’re on top or bottom?”

“Bottom,” he croaks out. He doesn’t look at any of them.

“And do you prefer being in control or being submissive?”

“Submissive.”

His mouth feels dry and his heart is pounding, but Jamie squeezes his hand and says “That’s very good, Ben, thank you.”

 

The praise cuts right through him, loosening the knot in his stomach. He can do this, he thinks, if Jamie keeps talking to him like this. Like he’s proud of him.

 

“How do you like it best?” Mike asks, and even through his miasma of shame, it’s hard to miss the fact that he sounds eager.

 

“I don’t-“ The reflexive denial is right on the tip of his tongue. The familiar refrain of “whatever you want”. He swallows it, and washes it down with another gulp of wine. Even thinking about asking for what he wants most makes him feel selfish.

James kneels down in front of him, and takes the hand Jamie isn’t holding. He’s wedged himself between the tiny gap of the sofa and the coffee table and if Ben weren’t on the brink of a meltdown, it would probably be comical.

 

“Ben,” he says softly. “Please, just tell us what you need. I promise, nothing you say is going to make us think any less of you.” To the side, Jamie runs his thumb over Ben’s knuckles. Maybe it’s the wine, or maybe it’s that, but he feels like just maybe, he might be brave enough to do this.

 

He takes a deep breath.

 

“It feels like I’m so in control, all of the time, and I never stop thinking, and sometimes I feel like I need the opposite of that.”

 

James makes a thoughtful noise. “So you want us to get you to a place where you don’t have to think or be in control. Do you know what works for you?”

 

And yes, he knows, because he hasn’t stopped thinking about it. He opens his mouth but the words get stuck in the back of his throat and all that comes out is a strangled noise.

 

“Hey,” Jamie says, “I know this is hard and I know we’re pushing you, but you’re doing really well. You can tell us.”

 

“I like it rough.” The words come tumbling out of his mouth, and all of a sudden it’s like he can’t stop. “It’s not all of the time but sometimes I can’t just give in and let myself enjoy it or get out of my own head so I need to be pushed to a point where I have no choice but to just take it and accept what’s happening and that can be pain or words or keeping me restricted or all of it at once but even then I have this compulsion to make it perfect so I need the choice taken away and to be pushed past that until I have to just give in to whatever’s happening and I hate that I’m like this because it’s so selfish and asking for so much I’m sorry.”

He’s breathing heavily, and he’s horrified to hear the crack in his voice. His eyes sting, but he blinks the tears away.

 

“Don’t apologise.” Mike says fiercely. “God, Ben. You do so much for us. You aren’t allowed to apologise for what you want or need. Especially when we want to give it to you.”

 

We want to give it to you. The words take a second to register, but when they do he can hardly believe them.

“You do?” He asks, disbelieving and hopeful, still entirely unable to look up.

 

Mike snorts. “Ebbers, do you have any idea how much I’ve been holding back because I had no idea if you’d be into it?”

 

“Yeah,” Barry exclaims, “I’ve been wanting to try my hand at domming for at least a month now, but none of these three are willing to let me have a go at them.”

 

“Ben,” Jamie says, sounding eminently reasonable. “Our entire friendship is established on us bullying you and pushing you around and giving you shit. Why would you think we’d have an issue with this? We’re going to need to talk more when you haven’t just chugged two thirds of a wine bottle but, Ben, sweetheart… none of this is a problem. I promise.”

 

It sounds so easy, when Jamie says it like that. He doesn’t know what to say but he feels overwhelmed with relief. He nods, because it’s all he can think to do. The only words he can think of, thank you, sound so inadequate even in his own head for what they’ve just given him. All of a sudden he feels exhausted.

 

“Come on.” James picks himself up off the floor with a small smile, and holds his hand out for Ben to take. “Come through to the kitchen and bring your wine. I had a feeling this might be hard for you so I made mushroom and pancetta risotto as a reward. We can discuss the rest of it later.”

Chapter Text

‘The rest of it’ comes in pieces over the next few days. They throw questions and ideas at him out of the blue, catching him off guard and giving him no chance to be anything but honest.

 

Jamie slides an envelope onto his desk along with a cup of coffee on Wednesday afternoon, with red capitals saying “TO BE RETURNED BY END OF DAY”. He flips it over to open it and on the back are two small words, underlined. “Be honest.”

There’s a checklist inside, something that might have been printed off the internet, with various actions and space to rank them from one to five, with one being not enjoyed and five being the most wanted. It’s a mortifying exercise, but at the same time, the distance of it is a relief. He flushes bright pink as he checks fives next to humiliation, degradation, slapping and breath play along with praise and acts of service. When he puts it back on Jamie’s desk at 5.30pm, the look he gets is so warm and proud that it makes the earlier torment worth it.

 

Barry leans in to him while Ed is setting up the camera for the next shot and murmurs into his ear “I want to hit you and hurt you. Maybe until you cry. Is that okay?” And Ben is so startled by it that he makes an involuntary noise in the back of his throat and gasps out “please” loudly enough that Ed, standing nearby, shoots him a strange look. Barry cackles.

 

James corners him as going into the bathroom and locks the door behind them. He crowds Ben up against the wall, looming over him and taking up all available space in the exact way that he’s usually so careful not to do. He reaches out and grabs Ben by the jaw. He doesn’t squeeze, just gently applies pressure to tilt Ben’s head from one side to the other, like he’s examining him, manipulating his body in such a purposeful way. It makes Ben feel powerless and vulnerable and exposed and he’s so fucking hard. James doesn’t say anything, just studies his face intently for a few seconds, before giving him a wry half smile and leaving without so much as a word.

 

It takes Ben a good five minutes to calm down enough to leave the bathroom.

 

Mike drags him into the alleyway outside the pub on Thursday night and kisses him up against the brick wall, holding his wrists firm when Ben is three pints deep, all tongue and teeth, until Ben is gasping. Mike bites at his neck and pushes a thigh between his legs.

“Tell me something you want,” he murmurs, hot and filthy in Ben’s ear. “Something you’ve always been scared to ask for.”

“I want you to fuck me,” he pleads, pushing down against Mike’s thigh. “Want you to use me and choke me and hurt me until I’m begging you to stop and I want you to keep going.”

Mike laughs against his neck. “Slut,” he says, affectionately. “One more. Tell me something true. Something you haven’t told anybody else.”

Ben squeezes his eyes shut against the humiliation of what he’s about to say, and opens his mouth.

“Before,” he gasps. “Before we all got together, when you guys used to push me around and bully me on camera. I had to focus on something else so I didn’t get hard.”

Mike hums against his throat, squeezes his wrists-

And goes back inside. Ben wants to scream.

 

By the time the weekend comes, Ben thinks he’s actually going to go insane. He wants it so much

 

He’s rewarded by Jamie on Saturday night, when he’s invited over to his flat. Jamie ties his hands behind his back and manhandles him until Ben is sitting between his thighs on the bed, his back pressed up against Jamie’s chest.

 

“Don’t move,” Jamie orders him, before wanking him off with a fistful of slick at a torturously slow pace, keeping up a steady stream of complete filth the whole time.

 

“You know,” Jamie murmurs against his neck, his free hand coming up to twist and one of Ben’s nipples - Ben cries out and doesn’t move - “Sometimes I’ll watch you deliver your lines to camera, hold up something you’ve just made, and all I want to do is smash your face in it? You stand there, all buttoned up and pink cheeked and pristine and my hands twitch because all I can think about is ripping your jacket off and bending you over the counter and fucking you with a knife pressed against your throat so you’re too scared to even squirm back against my cock.”

 

Ben can’t help it. He arches up against Jamie’s hand because he just needs it so fucking much.

 

“Oh Ben,” Jamie sighs, voice thick with disappointment. “Didn’t I tell you not to move?”

 

Jamie bites. Hard. Down on the shell of his ear.

 

It’s agonising, and he screams. He tries to twist away, every part of him telling him move, but Jamie’s arm is over his chest, keeping him pinned in place, even as he continues stroking Ben’s cock.

 

“Aw, baby, too much?” He asks, carelessly mocking. “I thought this was what you wanted?”

 

Ben comes. His cock jerks up against his stomach and he squirms, making small breathless noises. Jamie strokes him through it, holding him still, until he can’t do it anymore and he’s oversensitive and it hurts, only stopping when Ben makes a noise like a high pitched sob. He feels wrung out and raw, like an exposed nerve.

 

He doesn’t realise he’s shaking and still gasping until Jamie smoothes a hand down his arm and says very gently, “Come on, slow deep breaths.”

Ben tries to breathe properly. All of a sudden, he feels cold and shivery all over.

“Here- I’m going to untie your hands.” He lets Jamie manoeuvre him forward unbind him. He doesn’t lean back in to his chest, even though he wants to. He’s at a loose end, unspooled, entirely unsure of how to move his body or what to do.

“Are you okay?” Jamie sounds worried. Ben makes a vague noise in the back of his throat. You wanted this, he reminds himself.

 

“Was that true? What you said about when I’m in the kitchen.”

 

Jamie sighs.

“Yeah. I’m good, but I can’t come up with material like that on the spot. Does that bother you? If it was too much I can take it down a notch. I don’t actually have to say everything that comes into my head.”

 

“No, it was good.” He can’t help the crack of his voice halfway through.

 

“Hey, it’s alright, just-“ he lets himself be moved so he’s lying back, propped up against the pillow with Jamie at his side. He feels a little as though he might cry. He puts his arm over his face. He asked for this, and he’s not going to make Jamie feel bad, especially when he liked it so much.

 

But Jamie is tugging his arm away from his face and leaning down to stroke his cheek.

“Oh, sweetheart,” he says, studying Ben’s face. “It’s okay. I promise. This is normal. You’re good. You were so good.”

 

“Normal?” He gets out. He doesn’t understand why he’s feeling this way when it felt so good before. When it was exactly what he wanted.

 

“Yeah, it- something about coming down from the endorphins. Your body goes into fight or flight and when that’s over...” He looks frustrated. “Mike could probably explain this better than I can. I’ll get him to do a voice over.” Ben can’t help it, he laughs, and even though it sounds shaky it makes Jamie beam.

 

“There you go. Come on, come cuddle me. You were so gorgeous, Ben. So gorgeous and so good for me.” The words are reassuring, and some of the tightness in Ben’s stomach loosens. He tucks his head into Jamie’s chest and lets Jamie pull the blanket up around them, stroking down his back with his free hand.

 

“All of that was okay? Anything you didn’t enjoy?”

 

“No, it was good. Really good. You can-“ his cheeks go hot, and he’s thankful that his face is hidden. “You can take it up, actually. Make it worse. If you want?”

 

“Okay. I’ll keep that in mind. And I definitely can but- is there anything I should stay away from? Be honest.”

 

Ben thinks. He thinks about his insecurities. People thinking he’s boring. Not being good enough. The weight he’s gained. Not being liked. He imagines Jamie throwing those things at him, using them as weapons. A sickly thrill shoots through him, even as it makes him queasy.

 

“No, whatever you want. Just- maybe afterwards, if you say something that’s actually- could you tell me you didn’t mean it?” It comes out as a question at the end although he didn’t intend it to.

 

“Of course I would, sweetheart. But Ben- I don’t want to do this if it’s going to fuck you up afterwards.”

 

“It won’t!” He rushes to protest. “Jay. It won’t. I want it.”

 

“Okay, as long as you’re sure. Because honestly? That was the hardest I’ve ever seen you come. If it gets me that reaction every time, I can definitely push you a bit harder. It was really fucking hot, to be honest.” Ben flushes right down his chest.

 

Chapter Text

When Ben comes in to the studio on Monday, half an hour late due to signal failure, it’s very quickly evident that they’ve been comparing notes.

James is already in the kitchen when he gets in, humming something as he refills jars of spices. He smiles at Ben, who’s still pulling off his scarf, and leans down to kiss him. Ben always has to strain upwards, and today is no exception. He pushes himself up on tiptoe and tilts his chin to reach James’ mouth. When James pulls away, it’s with a smile. He curls his palm, large and warm, around the back of Ben’s neck, thumb stroking over the base of his skull where the hair is soft and thin.

It’s so comforting, and Ben could happily stand here forever, warm after coming in from the cold and held by James. His eyes close and he leans his forehead against James’ shoulder. Just a moment, he tells himself. Just a moment before he has to go to his desk. He hears James laugh, soft and warm.

 

“You should speak to Jamie,” James says. Ben can feel the words vibrating in his chest. “He’s worried about you.” The words make him pull back with a frown.

 

“Worried? Why is he worried about me?”

James shrugs.

“To be fair, it does sound like he kind of did a number on you. How is your ear?” Ben flushes bright at the reminder, his hand instinctively flying up to cover it.

“Right, yes.” He stammers. “I’ll go speak to him.” James’ laughter follows him up the stairs to the office.

 

Jamie, as it turns out, is wrapping up a call at his desk. He waves Ben over, the phone held between his shoulder and ear while he makes non-committal humming noises and scribbles down line after line in a note pad. Ben stands next to him, and waits.

“Mmm, okay- yeah, that should be do-able, but I’ll need to put it to our team.” Jamie says, and he reaches out with his free hand to curl an arm around Ben’s waist, palm resting on the small of his back. Ben can feel the heat of his hand through his jumper.

“Yeah, of course, I’ll get back to you later today. I’ll put it in an email so you can read it all over. Yeah. Okay, great. Take care. Bye.”

He puts down the pen, fishes the phone out from between shoulder and ear and puts it down on the desk before turning his attention to Ben. It’s like having the sun turn to face him. Jamie’s whole face relaxes, and he gives Ben a smile so warm and inviting that his heart flips.

 

“Morning, love. Thank you for waiting.” Jamie’s gratitude does something strange to his stomach that he can’t quite put into words, so he just nods, a little awkwardly.

 

“James said you wanted to see me?” The words come out more formal than he intended. He feels oddly tongue tied. But if Jamie notices, he doesn’t say anything.

“Yeah, how are you feeling? Are you okay?”

“Yes? Why?” Jamie bites his bottom lip, and seems to be searching for the right words.

“I didn’t take it easy on you the other day. I know you said you were fine, but sometimes with Baz, if you push him, the next day he can feel a bit down. And it passes, but I wanted to check in with you.”

He’s looking up at Ben with such an earnest, open expression that Ben doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t know how to tell Jamie that yes, actually, he woke up yesterday feeling like his skin didn’t fit right. He’d felt out of sorts and irritated by his own presence all day, and forced himself into the kitchen. He’d stared blankly at his cupboards and not known what to do. He’d felt so relieved when he’d woken up feeling normal this morning.

 

“I’ve never seen that with Barry.” He says, instead. Jamie grins, wryly.

“Well, that’s not really how you two are together, are you? From what I’ve seen, he demands things of you, and you give them to him.” Which, actually, is a fairly accurate assessment of their dynamic. Ben feels his cheeks heat up, and Jamie smiles fondly.

 

“You really should speak to Mike about this. He’s done loads of research, for Baz. I wasn’t joking when I said he could do a voice over. Just, talk to him about it, okay? We all want to give you this, and I think getting a handle on what you need would help.” Ben nods, mutely. Jamie looks indulgent.

 

“Go on, get to work, then. I’ve got to call Kenwood’s team and work on a battle recipe with James.” He tilts his chin up, and Ben leans down to kiss him before moving off to settle down at his desk and flip his laptop open. He gathers up his courage and fires off a text to Mike (‘pub tonight? X’) and pulls up his latest research project on the use of synthetic proteins in food. His phone buzzes on the desk.

Sure :)’.

Okay. Good. He’s got this.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Ben does not have this.

 

From the moment he walks into the pub, he feels off kilter and tense. He orders a glass of sauvignon blanc, finishes it in ten minutes and goes to get another. When he gets back to the table, Mike is frowning down at his phone. He puts it away when Ben sits down, and the corner of his mouth quirks up.

“Jay just messaged me. Now I know why you finished that wine so fast.” He must look absolutely miserable, because Mike’s face softens. “Ben, it’s okay. Come on, sit next to me.” He slides round in the booth to press himself up against Mike, who throws an arm around his shoulder. He has a soft grey jumper on, and he’s reassuringly warm and solid next to Ben.

“I feel like maybe we all owe you an apology. Confronting you as a group, in retrospect, must have been intimidating. We should have made it easier for you, and I’m sorry.” It’s easier like this, next to Mike, not having to look him in the face. He shrugs.

“It’s okay. We got there.”

“Did we?” Mike asks, amused. “Ebbers, I still feel like I know practically nothing about what you want or need or how to give it to you. And more than that, if I’m being honest, I don’t know how you can be so frank and unashamed when it comes to talking about sex in the general, and yet when it comes to your own desires you just clam up on us. In the time we’ve all been together, you know you’ve never once asked any of us for anything in bed? You’ve never once said what you want, even if it’s just harder or slower. Why is that?”

 

“It’s selfish.” The words come out of his mouth before he can stop them or think about them, and it feels truer than he’d like.

 

“Okay,” Mike sounds thoughtful. “Not that I’m agreeing with that, but just to play devil’s advocate for a second- what’s so bad about that? If it is selfish, why is it so bad that you ask for what you need and get it?”

 

“Because…” He searches for the right words. “Because it’s more important that you get what you want. That matters more.” The words ‘service before self’ ring in the back of his mind, in the deep baritone of his favourite university lecturer who had drilled it into him.

 

“Wow, alright. So at the risk of becoming your therapist, there’s a lot to unpack there. But I think the main thing I need to say is that what you want is just as important as what we want. No,” he cuts Ben off when he opens his mouth to reply, “it is. And I’m not taking any arguments on that one. Your needs are just as important.” He says it slowly, placing emphasis on every word.

“And to be honest,” Mike continues, “I feel like we’ve dropped the ball with you a little. It was kind of obvious right off the bat that you weren’t completely satisfied, and we waited four fucking months to have a chat and try to rectify that, which I feel pretty shitty about.”

“But I was!” Ben rushes to reassure. The thought of Mike blaming himself makes him feel queasy. “I promise you, I enjoy everything we do together. And maybe it’s not- Even if it isn’t exactly what I’d fantasised about that doesn’t mean it wasn’t good for me.”

 

“But you deserve to have those things!” Mike implores. “You say it would feel selfish, getting what you need, but isn’t that what we’ve been doing? You’ve been letting us lead this whole time and take what we want from you, and you never say what you want, and…” He trails off, takes a deep breath and a swig of beer. He seems to be readying himself. Ben doesn’t interrupt.

 

“Look, what I’m trying to say is this: I’m fairly bloody certain that there’s things you want that overlap with what we want. I’ve been holding back with you, to a certain extent, because I had no idea if what I wanted to do would be good for you or if you would hate it, you know? Because you never brought it up. And I know for a fact that Jamie and Baz and James feel the same, because we’ve talked about it since you told us how you felt.” Ben’s heart beats a little bit faster in his chest.

 

“You have?”

Mike laughs, a little wildly.

“On Saturday night when you were with Jamie, I got Barry off while talking about you, and what he could do to you. I talked about how pretty you’d look on your knees getting hit, and how he could make you call him ‘sir’ if you wanted him to stop, and he came without me even touching his cock.”

 

Ben’s mouth goes completely dry, and his own cock twitches inside his slacks. The idea of that- fuck, the idea of Barry getting off to that. It’s so much but it’s so good.

 

“I didn’t know Baz was into that,” he mumbles, and reaches out to grab his glass.

“He’s into that with you,” Mike corrects, grinning. “He likes pushing you around and telling you what to do. We all do. We’ve been trying to do it for years, Ben. In pretty much every video we’ve ever done. And if we’d known you were getting off on it…” He trails off, and Ben feels his face heat up.

 

“Let’s talk details. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable here, but the more we know the better this is gonna be for you. And I have to know – Have you ever done this with anyone before?”

“Yes. There was- someone during my placement year. I shared a room with him in Ireland.”

 

He doesn’t like talking about Dan. It reminds him of how pathetic and desperate he’d been to be with someone back then. He prides himself on self-sufficiency, but he’d been far away from his family for the first time with all his friends back in England, and he’d been so lonely sometimes, even though he barely admitted it to himself.

 

“What did you do with him?” Mike asks, gently.

“He wasn’t gay,” Ben blurts out. It’s a complete non-sequitur, but it feels important to say. Dan had always reminded him of that fact.

“Okay?” Mike sounds confused. “I mean, neither am I, really. He was bi, then?”

“No, he-“ Ben shakes his head. He’s not explaining this properly. He takes a breath.

 

“He wasn’t interested in men. He’d always tell me that before we did anything and I had to work harder to impress him because of that. He’d tell me if I was failing or not doing something right, and he wasn’t always the nicest about it, but I liked that. Some of the things he said were quite- anyway, mostly I just went down on him, but sometimes if I begged enough, he’d fuck me.” He shrugs, and takes another sip of wine for something to do. It feels so pathetic when he puts it into words.

“He sounds like a cunt.” Mike says. It’s said with such frankness that Ben whips his head around to look at him. “I’m sorry, I don’t want to speak ill of someone you clearly cared about, but what an absolute prick. If he was completely straight, why would he even be with you in the first place? From what you just told me, I’m guessing he just liked feeling like he held all the cards and you had to work for it. And he definitely shouldn’t have gone about it like that.”

“Even if I liked it?” Ben asks. He’s half challenging, half tentative, and Mike smiles ruefully at him.

“Just a hunch here, but what did you feel like afterwards?”

“Usually pretty good, in the immediate aftermath. And then when he left I’d start feeling- I don’t know. Sad isn’t really the right word.” He doesn’t tell Mike that he’d cried about it, once or twice. Or that after Dan had been especially rough and demanding with him one night, he’d gone in to the kitchens only to be sent back to the staff dorms because he’d been so bleary and out of it and off kilter that he’d almost cut his own finger off and the head chef had thought he must be coming down with something.

 

Mike sighs. “I’m not an expert or anything. All I know is really what I’ve looked up and seen with Baz. But from what I understand it’s a two-fold thing. Part of it is physical, especially if it’s something where you experience pain or your adrenaline rises. Your body releases all these endorphins and you go into fight or flight, almost, and that keeps you going and it makes you feel really good, except when it finishes that’s all still there but there’s no perceived threat anymore and so you just- crash. It’s like running a marathon or getting injured and going into shock. You need to keep warm, have something to eat and drink in case your blood sugar dips and essentially have somewhere secure to come down from it. But really, if you’re not in the right frame of mind to make sure you do all of that, it’s the other person’s responsibility. Like with Jamie on Saturday, he said you started shivering after, and that it was like you weren’t sure what to do with your body. That sort of disconnect can happen, and you need somewhere comfortable to take the time to come down.”

 

“And the other side of it? You said it was only partly physiological.”

“Emotional, I suppose. I don’t know how to… okay, imagine this: You have someone you really care about coming over for dinner, and you really want to make it special for them, right? So you spend all day cooking for them and you try to get everything perfect, and then when you finally serve them, they either hate it or they just say ‘yeah thanks that was alright’ and they leave. You’re gonna feel pretty shitty about that, yeah? You’re going to wonder what wasn’t good enough and what you did wrong, because you wanted to do your best and make them happy. From what Baz has told me, it’s kind of the same thing. You pour all this emotional energy into pleasing someone else and making sure they’re happy with you, and doing exactly what they ask, and at the end of it you want to be reassured that you got it right and did a good job. And Ben? That’s not selfish or needy or unreasonable or anything else. It’s human nature, and the very least that you deserve.”

 

It’s a lot to take in. To know that there’s a reason he feels like he does, sometimes, to know that there’s science behind it and it’s not just that he can’t handle it… It’s as if Mike has just told him that this part of himself he doesn’t like is okay. Normal, even. He feels so relieved that it overwhelms him.

 

“So anyway,” Mike continues, cheerfully, squeezing Ben tight against his side. “That bit is non-negotiable. It’s gonna happen, no matter what, partly so we don’t feel like complete assholes, alright?” Ben snorts a laugh into his wine glass, and if it sounds slightly teary, Mike doesn’t say anything.

 

“Alright. Yes.”

“Good. Now onto the fun part,” he leers at Ben, “which is what you’re going to let us do to you.” The words send a spike of arousal shooting through him. What he’s going to let them do to him. He flexes his palm on his jeans, and clenches around the fabric. “Jamie showed us your list that he had you fill in, quite illuminating I must say.”

 

“He showed you?” Ben chokes out. It’s not that he thought Jamie wouldn’t, exactly, but the idea of them all gathered around, looking and discussing it, is more than he knows what to do with.

 

“Oh yes,” Mike says, casual, and that disinterest does something strange to him. “Gave us a fair few ideas, to be honest. Now, putting that together with what you said at James’s place last week, would I be right in saying that you want to be pushed past your normal limits?”


Ben’s tongue feels heavy in his mouth. The whole conversation has taken on a slightly surreal quality, and the world outside of him and Mike, cosy next to each other in the bar booth, feels muted.

 

“Not all of the time,” he manages. “Mostly I just like… I like feeling like I’ve done well, and made the other person happy. And it’s usually better if it’s something that I have to work for, because then I feel like I’ve earned it. Discomfort works well.” Mike makes a considering humming noise.

 

“So if I put you on your stomach and told you that you weren’t allowed to make noise, and I went right into stretching you open with three fingers so you had to fight to stay quiet because it’s too much at once? And if you manage that, you get fucked as a reward while I tell you how good you are?”

For just a second, Ben’s vision whites out with how much he wants it. He can feel his cock pressing against the zip of his jeans. He’s suddenly, achingly hard.

 

“Yes. Mike, yes, please.”

Mike laughs, not unkindly. “Alright then. I know the others have a few ideas as well, but I’ll let them surprise you. What about when you need a little bit more? Could you explain that to me? What is it you’re looking for there?”

 

Ben takes a sip of wine, and fishes around for the right words.

“You know the podcast we did about our best ever meals?” Mike frowns, flummoxed, but he rolls with it.

“Yeah, yours was the ramen in Japan, right?”

“Right. And when I got that ramen, I was exhausted and disoriented and in a strange country where I couldn’t speak the language and I felt completely overwhelmed and to be honest, kind of miserable. It’s the same thing, I think, or similar. You know what I’m like, sometimes, I can’t switch my brain off. And then it’s less about working towards something and earning the praise and more… I need it to just happen and be overwhelmed by it until I can’t think anymore because it’s too much. Until I give in. Does that make sense?”

 

“I think so. Do you need to be able to fight back, a bit?”

 

“No, I don’t – I’m not saying that’s something I’d never want but I feel like the problem I have is I’m such a perfectionist with myself, and I just keep trying. And I want to feel like I don’t need to. Or can’t even think about trying.”

 

“Like you’re helpless?” Mike is looking at him with a strange, focused expression, and it’s so intense that he has to look away. “Like it doesn’t matter whether you try or not, because it’s going to happen anyway. And all you can do it take it?”

 

“Yes, that.” He clenches his fists on his thighs, and relaxes them.

 

“Alright then!” Suddenly, Mike is all smiles again, and the strange spell that’s been enveloping Ben is broken. The rest of the pub comes rushing back around him, with all its sound and chatter and clinking of glasses.

 

“That’s fantastic, Ben, really. Thank you. How would you feel about us planning something out for you, maybe for this weekend?”

Ben opens his mouth to protest, but Mike gets there first.

“Please? Ben, I promise I wouldn’t be suggesting this if we didn’t want it as much as you. Trust me?”

As if Ben could do anything but. He nods, because words feel inadequate right now, and Mike beams at him, warm and bright like the sun.

“Come on then, drink up and we’ll make a move. I think I’ve put you through enough torment for one night.” He pulls Ben close and kisses him on the forehead.

Chapter Text

It’s Mike who opens the door when he gets to Jamie’s house on Saturday afternoon. He practically yanks Ben through the doorway, and holds him at arms length for a second, studying him.

“You look scared stiff.” He says it with characteristic frankness, the same way he might say ‘the grass is green’; with a truthful finality to it that can’t be argued. And then, more gently, “we don’t have to do this. We can just hang out and watch a movie or something. You can even cook for us. Nobody will be upset.”

It scares him, sometimes, how perceptive Mike can be. How tuned in to other people’s moods he is. Mike reads in the quirk of a mouth and the slightest change of intonation what takes most people a whole conversation. It’s impossible to hide what he’s feeling around Mike.

 

“No,” Ben says, confidently as he can, even as his voice trembles. “I want to.” And he does, he’s just fucking terrified. His heart has been racing since before he left home.

 

“Alright, then.” Mike lets go of his shoulders. A weird hush seems to settle around them. The smile that perpetually lingers at the corner of his eyes, ready to break out onto his lips at any second, is completely absent, and he’s drawn himself up to full height. He’s a good head taller than Ben like this, and he looks down at him.

 

“Rule one, and this is the only one tonight: you can tap out at any time. If it’s too much, or you aren’t enjoying it, or even just if you feel uncomfortable with something. You say the word and we stop. Got it?”

 

“Got it,” Ben echoes. His voice sounds far away and quiet.

 

“Good boy. Your safewords are the same as Barry’s, so everybody will already know what to expect. Can you tell me what they are?”

 

“Green means I’m okay to keep going, yellow means I need to pause for a moment and check in, red means stop completely. Tap multiple times if I can’t speak.”

 

“That’s right. We’re trusting you to use them if you need to. Can you do that?”

 

“I can do that.”

 

“Good. Now, think carefully, because this is the last time I’m going to ask you: are you sure you want this?” Mike’s face remains implacable, inscrutable. There’s nothing Ben can see to guide him on what Mike wants him to say. No hint as to whether Mike himself is looking for an out, as well as giving one to Ben.

 

Ben takes a deep breath. Exhales. Tries to psyche himself up and relax at the same time.

 

“I’m sure.”

 

Mike just looks at him, stony and impenetrable, and so unlike his normal self. It makes Ben feel off kilter.

 

“Into the living room.” He reaches out and shoves at Ben’s right shoulder, hard. Ben takes a stumbling step backwards. It doesn’t hurt, but the sudden swerve into physical aggression is startling, and he blinks up at Mike, uncomprehending. “Go on then.”

 

Oh. Mike’s going to make him do it himself. It’s so much worse than what he’d imagined, which was being grabbed and forced. Something which would allow him the illusion of not being quite so complicit. He almost appreciates the cleverness of it, except his feet feel frozen in place and his stomach is a tight knot of anxiety.

 

Mike raises an eyebrow. “You told me the other night that you weren’t going to fight back. Have you changed your mind? Or are you going to do as you’re told?” His tone is carelessly curious, as if the answer is completely irrelevant to him. As if he’d be happy to drag Ben and force him, if necessary. But the thought of disobeying, of wilfully disappointing, is anathema to Ben.

 

“No. I’ll do it.” The words come out as barely a whisper. He forces one foot in front of the other, and makes his way through the door to Jamie’s living room.

 

The coffee table has been moved out of the way, leaving empty space in the middle of the room with just the sofa close to the wall. Barry and James are sitting pressed together, tangled up in each other. One of James’ hands is cupped around the back of Barry’s head, a thumb stroking down the back of his neck as they kiss. They look so good, so gorgeous together, and the tenderness of it makes his heart ache. Both of them look like something he doesn’t deserve. Jamie is on Barry’s other side, curled around his back, mouthing against his shoulder and palming him through his jeans.

 

Some small, awful part of him feels jealous of the focus Barry gets sometimes. The way they fuss over him and look after him, like he’s valuable and fragile. Barry is emotional, and prone to anxiety, and he feels everything so deeply in a way that’s obvious to anybody who pays attention. Ben would never begrudge him that tenderness, but he just wishes that sometimes, he could have the same thing. Not that you’ve ever asked for it, says a voice in the back of his head.

 

There’s another harsh push on his back, and Ben stumbles into the centre of the room. Barry, James and Jamie break apart, and look at him.

 

Barry looks excited, borderline gleeful, the same way he gets during a battle when he’s about to do something especially underhanded and vicious. James is still stroking over the back of his neck, and he turns to whisper something in Barry’s ear with a small, amused smile. It’s too low for Ben to hear – James is quiet at the best of times – but whatever he said makes Barry throw his head back and cackle.

 

Jamie makes the first move, levering himself up off the sofa and coming to stand in front of Ben.

 

“He’s good to go, then?” He’s addressing Mike, talking over Ben’s head, like he’s a car that’s been in the garage. “Did you tell him what to expect?”

 

“Naaaaaah.” Mike stretches the word out, and now he’s chatting with Jamie, Ben can hear the normal playfulness back in his voice. “He’d only work himself up over it, wouldn’t he? You’re good to kick us off, though.”

 

Jamie grins at Mike. “Great,” he says, and turns his attention to Ben. He reaches out, and pulls off Ben’s glasses. Instantly, the space beyond Jamie becomes blurred. He can no longer make out the details of James and Barry’s faces, and Jamie himself becomes soft focus. He watches Jamie fold up the glasses, and place them in his own shirt pocket.

 

“I’ll hold on to these for the moment, I think.” His tone is light and pleasant, like keeping Ben’s ability to see properly and defend himself just out of reach is the most reasonable thing in the world. “Now, shoes and socks off, please.”

 

Ben toes off his loafers and kneels down to slide off his socks. He folds them up, and tucks them inside the left shoe. In the background, Barry snorts. He’s always found Ben’s obsessive neatness amusing. When they’d first slept together and Ben had insisted on folding his shirt and trousers, Barry had mocked him relentlessly.

 

When he’s standing straight again, barefoot on the wooden floor, Jamie inclines his head at Ben’s legs. “Jeans next. Then shirt.” He feels the familiar heat rising up his chest, onto his cheeks, and his heart beats faster in his chest, but he’s not going to fall at the first hurdle. He slides down his jeans, and folds them next to his shoes. Unbuttons his shirt and folds that, too, placing it on top in a neat pile, until he’s standing in front of them in just a pair of black boxer briefs.

 

“Aw, Ebbers has his best knickers on today.” Mike jeers from behind him. “What happened to the tighty whities? Did you make an effort for us?” James, blurred and out of focus, laughs.

 

It’s so much worse because it’s true. He had picked his nicest pair of underwear when getting dressed, hoping in some small way it would matter. He’d chosen black slim fit jeans, the ones Baz always said made his bum look great, and put on a shirt that Mike had said he liked once. Small compliments, stored away and treasured enough to make an impact on even Ben, who really doesn’t care that much about what he’s wearing.

How typical of Mike to be the one to notice, Ben thinks through the hot flush of shame. How unlike Mike to be the one to pull it apart and use it against him.

 

Jamie runs his hands down Ben’s shoulders, over his forearms, down his chest. His hands are warm as always, but the tenderness of it is setting him on edge. It’s not what he’d expected, especially from Jamie, who’s always been so physically demonstrative. He’d been expecting violence and aggression from Jamie in the same way that he hadn’t been expecting it from Mike.

 

“God,” Jamie sighs, smoothing a hand over the curve of Ben’s stomach, gentle right up until he digs his fingers in, grabbing flesh. “Remember what a pretty, skinny little thing you used to be? It’s a shame, isn’t it.”

 

It feels like being punched. All the air leaves his lungs, and he doesn’t see the way James claps a hand over his mouth, or the way that Mike flinches back. All he knows is that suddenly his breath is caught in his chest and tears are prickling in the corner of his eyes because what Jamie just said sounds so like ‘you aren’t good enough.’

 

“Aw, sweetheart,” Jamie coos, cajoling and faux-gentle. “Was that too much? Do you need to tap out already?”

 

Ben blinks, hard, until his eyes are no longer watery. He wants to suck his stomach in, but it would be so obvious. He’s not going to cry. Not yet.

 

“Green,” he says. Something flashes over Jamie’s features and for a fleeting second, he looks pleased.

And then it’s gone, and his features settle into the familiar smirk.

 

“Knew it,” he says, smugly, like he’s won something. He grabs suddenly at the front of Ben’s underwear. “You’ve been hard since Mike pushed you in front of us.” His hand massages where Ben’s cock is tenting the fabric, dampening it where the head of his cock is wet and sticky. Ben is suddenly, painfully aware of his own state of undress compared to the others, who are still fully clothed.

 

“You really do get off on this, don’t you?” Ben can’t look at him, so he turns his chin down and looks at the floor.

 

“Ben,” James says from the sofa, and his voice is full of soft amusement, “answer him.”

 

“Yes.” He murmurs. Jamie makes a show of cupping his hand up to his ear and leaning in, theatrical as ever.

 

“I’m sorry, didn’t quite catch that. What did you say? Complete sentences this time, please.”

 

“Yes, I get off on it.” His hands feel heavy by his side, his body useless and slow.

 

“You get off on being humiliated and hurt and used because you’re a weird little fuck. Say it.”

 

“I get off on- Jay, please.” He doesn’t know how to put what he’s trying to say into words that won’t be thrown back at him and used against him. ‘Please don’t make this so hard for me,’ he wants to say. ‘This isn’t fun.’ He stays silent instead. Jamie laughs.

 

“Please isn’t what you need to say to make this stop, Ben, and you know that. If you aren’t going to use your safeword, I don’t want to hear it. Now, I’m still waiting. ‘I get off on…’” He mimics Ben’s voice at the end, going softer, nasal and high pitched. Ben feels almost queasy with how much he hates this.

 

“I get off on being humiliated and hurt and used because I’m a weird little fuck.” He rushes through the end of the sentence, he can’t make himself not do that, but the other three still snicker in the background. Jamie looks triumphant.

 

“Fantastic. Only took you, what, thirty-plus years to say it aloud? Get on your fucking knees.”

 

It’s an overwhelming relief to know what to do with his body; to be given a simple order to follow. He’s suddenly, absurdly grateful as he clambers down onto his knees on the wooden floor.

 

“Thank you,” he says, because it feels crucial that he express that to Jamie – that Jamie know. “Thank you so much.” For a few long moments, nobody speaks. Jamie reaches out to rest his palm against Ben’s cheek, and he can’t resist leaning into it.

 

“Huh.” Jamie says into the quiet of the room. “Interesting.” He strokes his thumb over Ben’s cheekbone for one brief moment, and then he pulls away. “Alright, Baz. Your go.”

Chapter Text

Barry comes into focus in front of him, grinning and excited.

“You can take your pretty underwear off now,” he smirks. “Come on, off with them.” Ben makes to stand, but he’s stopped instantly by a sharp noise from Jamie. He freezes, half way off his knees.

 

“Barry,” Mike asks from behind him, “did you say Ebbers could get off his knees?” Instantly, Ben’s heart sinks in his chest. He’s fucked this up already. He sinks back down to kneeling, and looks at the floor.

 

Barry hums. “You know what, Mike? I don’t think I did.” He sounds gleeful. “I suppose I should punish him for that?”

 

“I would,” Jamie pipes in. “How else is he going to learn?”

 

“Right you are, Jay. And Ben, underwear off, but don’t you dare get off your knees or it’s going to be ten times worse.”

Ben shuffles to pull his briefs off while he stays kneeling, sliding them off one leg and then the other, ungainly and awkward. His whole body feels recalcitrant, slow and heavy. He places them neatly on top of the pile of his clothes. He’s so, so painfully aware of his nakedness in front of them while they’re all clothed, especially with Barry standing over him.

Barry has always been rail thin, delicate-looking with high cheekbones and sharp hipbones. He’s pretty in a way that Ben will never be. Next to him, he feels woefully inadequate.

 

“Right, let’s get these out of the way.” Barry kicks Ben’s pile of clothes clean across the room, sending them flying across the floor, as easily as he kicks his luggage when walking behind him. Ben watches numbly as one of his shoes rolls under the sofa. James, still on the sofa, snorts with amusement.

 

First his glasses, and now his clothes, Ben thinks. The layers that keep him secure and guarded, stripped away and pulled out of reach. He feels exposed and vulnerable in a way that he’s not used to.

 

Barry bends down in front of him, on one knee, still in a t-shirt and jeans. He grabs Ben by the chin.

“Look at me.” His voice is soft, but firm. Ben raises his eyes to look at him, and Barry grins.

“I’m going to hit you, and it’s going to hurt. Do you know why that’s going to happen?”

 

“Because I tried to stand up.” His voice feels far away.

 

It’s going to hurt. The words echo in his ears.

 

“That’s right. And do you know why that was wrong?” Barry’s talking to him the same way he would a toddler, slow and deliberate, like he’s stupid. He feels stupid right now, his brain slow and waterlogged. He wants to tell Barry what he wants to hear, but the answer is a guess.

 

“Because… You didn’t tell me to?” Barry raises an eyebrow.

 

“Is that a question?”

 

“I’m sorry. It was wrong because you didn’t tell me I could stand up.” He tries to sound firm, but it comes out imploring. Barry nods, satisfied, and stands.

 

“Don’t move.”

 

Smack. Barry backhands him across the face.

The pain is instant. He yelps, he can’t help it; he’s never been good at dealing with physical pain.

 

Smack. Barry hits him again, on the other side, and doesn’t let up. He keeps going, keeps hurting, until Ben feels his eyes start to sting. It’s humiliating and painful and the noise of Barry’s hand smacking off his face is the only noise in the room apart from his own, ragged breathing.

 

Smack smack smack. There’s no rhythm to it, no guessing when or where or how hard the next hit will land. Some of it is small, stinging slaps with the tips of his fingers that catch the corner of his eye or his lip, more shocking and humiliating than painful, but it’s contrasted with heavy handed, open-palmed smacks that land right on the fullest part of his cheek. It’s impossible to predict, and it’s keeping him on edge and off kilter.

 

“You know,” Barry says, and he backhands Ben again, over his cheekbone. Ben cries out. “Sometimes I want to punch you? I want to leave my rings on and punch you and give you a bloody mouth so you’ll stop being such a smart mouthed little bitch about everything because you can’t fucking talk.”

 

He raises his hand again and Ben can’t stop himself – he flinches back and pulls his arms up to cover his face. It’s less than a second before he realises what he’s done and he yanks his arms back down and clasps his hands behind his back.

 

“Please,” he begs, panicked, “I’m sorry, Barry, please, I didn’t mean to I promise I’ll be good I won’t do it again please-“ his breath catches in his throat because that was the only thing Barry said, don’t move and he’s fucked it up. Barry is looking at him with delighted fascination. In the background he hears Mike say “I think he’s going to cry.”

 

“Oh, Ebbers,” Barry says. He’s still grinning. “You really shouldn’t have done that. James? Can you make him regret that, please?”

 

James comes out of nowhere, and before Ben has time to react, James’ hand spans the width of Ben’s throat and strong fingers dig into the soft spots below his jawbone. Instantly, his ears fill with the rush of his own blood and his head throbs. His whole body fills with what feels like static. The fingers press in harder.

 

He’s held like that for maybe five seconds, maybe a few minutes, he doesn’t know, but when James lets go he feels cold and clammy all over and his stomach churns. His head is still pounding in time with his heartbeat. He feels like his body is listing over to one side and he has no idea how to make it obey him.

 

He sees Barry raise his hand again, telegraphing the movement even as Ben struggles to stay vertical, and he panics.

 

“Wait, no, please- Please, yellow.” Instantly, the hand drops, and James is kneeling down in front of him, studying his face.

 

“Too much?” He asks, quietly. There’s no judgement in his voice but Ben still recoils back from it. “Do you need to stop?”

 

He shakes his head, and tries to take deep breaths. His body still feels like it’s not his own. Someone’s hand, Barry’s, he thinks, is stroking his hair and he leans back into it. He breathes. Slowly, the roaring in his head quiets and the nausea fades.

 

“I’m good,” he says, and it comes out quiet and raspy. “I can keep going. Please.”

James scrutinises him for a few long moments, then nods and stands.

 

“He’s okay,” he says over Ben’s head, in the direction of Jamie and Mike.

 

“We’re going to give you a choice here,” says Jamie. Barry’s hand is still cupped around the back of his skull, reassuringly warm and solid.

“Do you want Baz to keep going? If you say yes, he won’t be gentle about it, but you’ll get a reward afterwards.”

 

“A reward?” His tongue feels numb in his mouth.

 

“Mmm. Something you’ve never had before, I think you’ll like it. I know how much you love trying new things.” Ben flushes.

 

“And if I say no?” He asks, hesitant.

 

Barry shrugs. “Then you can choose who you want to fuck you before we get you off.”

 

And that sounds wonderful, it does, but he can still think, and even with the background of white noise buzzing in his fingertips and the fading nausea – he wants. He wants to be good, and take everything they have planned for him. He wants to not be able to think.

 

“Hit me,” he says.

 

Barry grins, and tuts at him.

“My my, Ben, where are your manners? You can do better than that. Ask me properly.”

 

“Please, Barry-“ he remembers what Mike had said to him in the pub. “Please, sir, please hit me again.” The word feels strange on his tongue, but it’s worth it for the way Barry’s whole face changes. His jaw goes slack and his eyes turn dark.

 

“Oh, Ben. Good boy.” He strokes the side of Ben’s cheek with the backs of his knuckles, and Ben can already feel himself sliding back down into that place where everything feels muted except for Barry, in front of him, looking at him like he’s done something wonderful.

 

“Five more.” He hears James say in the background. “You can make them hard, but too much more and he’ll bruise.” Barry’s thumb traces over his cheekbone.

 

“I don’t know,” Barry says lightly, and Ben is hyper-focused on the feel of Barry’s thumbprint over his skin, “bruises would look pretty on him.”

 

“Five more.” James says again, voice firm. Barry pulls his hand away.

 

“You can make as much noise as you want, but keep your hands behind your back,” Barry tells him. Ben claps his wrists together. He’s not going to move. “You’re going to ask me for it one more time, and thank me after each one.”

 

“Please, sir, I want you to hit me.” He pleads.

 

Barry cracks him across the face. It’s hard enough that he cries out and his head snaps to the side. “Thank you,” he gasps.

 

Smack. Ben’s cheek stings and he rocks back. “Thank you, sir.”

 

Smack, Barry backhands him, and it’s like he’s choking again breath tight in his chest. “Please, sir, thank you-“

 

Smack. He can feel the familiar well of tears. “Thank you, thank you, please.”

 

Smack. It’s the hardest one yet, hard enough that he almost falls over, and all of a sudden he’s sobbing, the tears broken out of him with great gasping breaths. He opens his mouth to say thank you, to be good, but he can’t breathe properly, and all that comes out are small, wet sounds that catch in his throat.

 

He kneels, naked in front of them, and cries.

Chapter Text

 

It’s Mike who pulls him up off his knees, lifting him up from under the arms like it’s no effort at all and holding him close while Ben sobs into his jumper.

 

“You’re okay,” he says, gently. “You’re so good, Ben, that was brilliant.” Ben doesn’t say anything – he can’t. There’s a disconnect between his thoughts and his mouth, and moving his tongue to form syllables feels like an insurmountable effort. He just heaves ragged breaths into Mike’s shoulder. The tears don’t stop.

 

“You were so good, and now we get to give you your reward. You don’t need to do anything, just let us do the work. Come on, sweetheart, over to the couch.”

 

He lets himself be led over to Jamie’s brown leather sofa. He lets Mike manoeuvre him over the arm rest, face down on the seats. There’s a few quiet beats where nothing happens, and then Mike returns, and two fingers slick with cold lube are pushing inside of him.


Ben startles, jolts forward on the sofa at the burn and stretch of it, but a large, warm hand is stroking from his neck down to his hips. James, he thinks, from the callouses on the palm. He has the same tough skin from years of holding a chef’s knife.

 

“It’s okay, baby,” Mike tells him, and he scissors his fingers in a perfunctory stretch. He pushes a third finger in. “You don’t have to do anything. Just be good and take it. Baz? You first.”

 

Barry is stripping off, pulling off jeans and boxers as he lies down on the sofa and pulls Ben towards him. He goes willingly, lets himself be positioned above Barry’s cock and sinks down onto it.

 

The first slide in is always a shock. The sudden fullness and stretch. He’s breathing heavily as he reaches the base. He tries to rise up again, to ride Barry the way he knows he likes it, but he’s stopped by James grasping him around the chest, holding him still.

 

“Sweetheart,” he says gently, and Ben’s stomach flips, “we told you, you don’t have to do anything. Stop trying. Just relax and let it happen.” The words are so at odds with the vice grip over his shoulders and chest. He’s pushed down, back on to Barry’s cock.

 

There’s a few moments of nothing, just the feeling of being full, until he feels Mike’s fingers rubbing around his hole, rubbing where he’s stretched around Barry, fingers still slick with lube. He pushes inside.

 

Oh.

 

Realisation slams into him. Suddenly, all at once, he gets what Mike meant when he said “Barry first.”

 

It’s not more than he can take, not at the moment. Jamie is incredibly thick, enough so that Ben can’t touch finger to thumb when he wanks him off, and James is proportional to his height, but that’s still nowhere near as wide as Mike and Barry together.

 

“Mike,” his voice is shaking. “I don’t think I can-“ He’s cut off by another finger pushing inside of him, and he whines, high in the back of his throat. The stretch burns. The tip of a third finger forces inside of him, tugging him open even further.

 

“Mike, please-“ he sounds panicked, even to his own ears. He shifts forwards, away from the fingers probing and stretching. He hears Jamie huff out a sigh.

 

“And you were doing so well earlier,” he says, with exaggerated disappointment. Jamie cracks him across the face and grabs him by the jaw, dragging his head down and digging thick fingers into the hinge. It’s so sudden, so unexpected after the gentleness of the last few minutes. “Open your fucking mouth.”

 

Jamie’s cock pushes in past his lips. He fucks in, slowly. He’s so thick that Ben can’t do anything but try to keep his jaw open and tuck his teeth behind his lips to keep them out of the way.

 

“Baby,” Jamie says, and there’s nothing nice about the way he says it. It’s cold and mocking. “We were being nice to you, and you had to go and ruin that. Watch your fucking teeth.” James’ hand slides under his chest and twists a nipple in retribution. Ben stretches his jaw open further. It already aches. Jamie is so wide.

 

“Seriously,” Jamie continues, “all you had to do was stay quiet and let us do all the work, but apparently you can’t even do nothing properly. James, make sure he doesn’t move, please?”

 

James’ arms clamp around him, firm and immovable. He’s held, pinned in place, and there’s nowhere to go as he feels the head of Mike’s cock pressing against his rim.

 

It’s not going to fit, there’s no way it could, and yet Mike keeps pushing forwards.

 

He feels the head of Mike’s cock push past the entrance and pop inside. The stretch of it burns. Beneath him, Barry groans out “fuck, that’s-“

 

“Yeah,” Mike pants, out of breath already. “So fucking tight, Jesus.” He grinds his way in with slow, incremental thrusts, nudging his way inside.

 

Ben doesn’t realise that he’s crying again, or that he’s making an unconscious whining noise, muffled around Jamie’s cock, until Jamie makes a shushing noise.

 

“It’s okay, baby,” he strokes his palm over Ben’s cheek, presses tear-damp fingers down to feel his own cock stretching Ben’s mouth. “Just relax and let us have you. You don’t need to do anything. You don’t need to be anything except a warm mouth and a pretty, tight cunt.” He pushes forwards again, and Ben gags around his cock, but he doesn’t fight it. He can’t. Not when Mike is now fully seated inside of him and he’s stretched so wide that he could snap at any second and James has a hand resting on his throat, the other pinching his nipples.

 

It’s so much, all of it. There’s no room for him inside of his own body, it’s been forced out. Even the pain, the burning stretch, is muted somehow, like it’s happening behind a gauze screen.

 

Two of Barry’s fingers – thinner than Mike’s – circle around the rim of his hole where he’s stretched open so far already. He can’t even move away, held tight by James’s grip on his throat and Mike bruising fingerprints into his thighs.

 

Don’t, he wants to say. Please no, I can’t take any more than this, you’re going to rip me apart, but he can’t get enough air in his lungs and his mouth is stuffed full of Jamie’s cock. Barry presses a finger in, slowly, tugging him open where he’s already so taut. His vision goes white for a second. It’s so fucking much.

 

“Give. Up.” Jamie grinds out above him. James’ hand squeezes hard around his throat and Ben coughs weakly. He’s split open, too full to think and it burns and aches and hurts hurts hurts.

 

“Give up. Stop fucking thinking and trying and give. Up.”

 

Everything goes blurry around the edges. Time stops mattering.

He gives up.

Chapter Text

“There you go, you’re okay. You’re doing so well, love. You lean back- good boy, that’s brilliant.”

 

 

He comes back slowly. The lights are dimmed, and he’s on Jamie’s bed. There’s a blanket tucked around him. He feels dazed, like he’s underwater. Someone’s hand is stroking down his back and he leans into it.

 

“Wow, he’s really out of it.” That’s Mike’s voice, he thinks. Mike must be the one stroking his back. He leans sideways and tucks his head into Mike’s neck. The hand moves to cradle the back of his neck and he makes a contented noise.

 

“Ben, sweetheart. Can you look at me?” It’s Jamie, low and soothing, and of course he can. He can do anything Jamie asks of him. He looks up at Jamie and blinks slowly. Words are impossible, his tongue lies heavy in his mouth.

 

“Does anything hurt?” He thinks about the words, and tries to apply them to the way he’s feeling. His body feels distant and loose, and very remote from the way he feels right now. He thinks that maybe he might be sore, but that’s such a far away concern. He needs to answer the question, but words feel so inadequate.

 

“Good,” he settles on. His voice is hoarse. Mike laughs a little, kind and happy, and tucks an arm around Ben’s waist.

 

“Okay, love. That’s good.” Jamie reaches out to stroke his hair, down his neck and over his cheek. “God, you’re so gorgeous like this. So good. James and Barry will be here in a minute. You don’t need to do anything. Just stay here and rest, okay?”

 

“Okay,” he parrots. Mike pulls him in closer and presses a kiss to his forehead. He closes his eyes and focuses on the floating feeling. It’s so nice. Jamie settles in front of him on the bed, one hand on his covered thigh, stroking mindlessly.

 

Barry and James come through the door one after the other, both holding trays. James has an assortment of mugs and glasses, and Barry has two plates. Jamie plucks one of the glasses off James’ tray, full of water with ice, and moves it towards Ben.

 

He reaches out with clumsy hands to try and grasp it, but Jamie gently, firmly, pushes his arms back down. “Let me,” he says, and there’s enough of a command in it that Ben doesn’t feel foolish when Jamie cups the back of his head and lifts the glass to his mouth for him, tilting it just enough that Ben can sip.

 

The water is ice cold. It feels so good on his throat, but all of a sudden he realizes just how sore his throat actually is. His jaw aches, and there’s a swollen feeling just underneath, where the jut of his windpipe is. Sensation returns to his body like a wave crashing over him, and he props himself up further against the pillows, wincing. He’s still naked, and he’s sore. All over.

 

“Hey, hey.” Barry sets down his tray on the floor. “Take it easy, okay?” He looks worried, and it’s so at odds with the Barry of earlier, who gleefully backhanded him across the face and asked James to choke him for getting off his knees, but it’s the Baz he knows and loves. Barry climbs onto the bed, just in his boxer briefs, climbs onto Ben’s lap. He looks at Ben, right in the eye, and leans in to kiss him.

 

He kisses softly, almost reverent, and Ben doesn’t have the energy to do anything but let it happen, parting his lips and let Barry do the work. When he pulls back, Ben inexplicably feels like crying again. “Oh, Ebbers,” Barry says, sighing, and he pulls Ben’s forehead onto his chest and wraps his arms around him. “You were amazing,” he continues, in his low mumble that Ben has to focus on to understand, all the consonants blurring together. “You’re so fucking strong, seriously, you took so much and you were so good, I couldn’t have done half of that, you’re incredible.” He’s rambling, like he does often, but it’s soothing to listen to, especially with Mike still stroking his back and Jamie’s warm hand on his thigh. He was good. The word sticks in his head, and he feels better for it.

 

“You’re going to need to eat something,” Mike says, on his other side, “and have some more water, and once you can use your legs again-“ James snorts “you can have a good hot shower. In the meantime, is there anything else you need? Be honest, and take your time to think about it.”

 

He takes a moment. Takes stock. It pulls him back into his own body even more. He’s tender all over, with the soreness of a bruise and the ache of a pulled muscle, but he doesn’t want that to go, not yet. He feels exhausted, and filthy. A shower, like Mike said, sounds ideal, but his legs are still trembling, even sitting down. He looks around at the others, and when his eyes focus on James-

 

“Did you come?” Ben blurts out. James startles, still holding the tray, like he wasn’t expecting to be spoken to. The cups rattle. It feels weirdly important that he knows James was taken care of. He has the vague, blurred memory of Jamie spilling down his throat, of Mike and Barry shuddering against each other (inside of him, together, Jesus), but he can’t remember James.

 

“Er,” James begins, and his face is pink as he sets the tray down. “Yes. Baz took care of me. I’m fine.”

 

“Oh.” Ben’s throat catches. “Did you not want to-“

 

“No! Ben, that’s-“ James is across the floor and on the bed in two steps. He’s biting his lip, but he takes Ben’s hand. “I did, I did want to. I was going to, after Mike and Barry, but Jamie asked for your colour and you didn’t respond. So he asked again and you couldn’t even speak or focus on what was in front of you, so we stopped.”

 

“You could’ve-“

 

“Ben.” Mike’s voice is firm again. Not cold, but there’s the steel behind it from before. “No, we couldn’t have. We can’t keep going if you can’t consent.”

 

Ben falls silent, and looks at the duvet, at his hands. Mike’s right, of course, he knows that, but unease still gnaws at his stomach.

 

“Hey, I get it,” Barry says, tilting his chin up. “I know how it feels, alright? You wanted to give us absolutely everything. You just wanted to be good for us, isn’t that right?” Ben nods, minutely. “And you were,” Barry continues. “You were so fucking good, okay? I promise, you were perfect.”

 

The words make him flush, now that he’s cognizant enough to feel self conscious, but Jamie is leaning past Barry to kiss him, on his forehead, and cheek, and the corner of his mouth.

 

“Come on. Lets get some food in you, sweetheart. Food and shower, and then we can watch a movie or something and cuddle. How does that sound?”

 

It sounds good. It sounds perfect.