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Vax had been restless lately.

Actually, he’d been a prick lately. Standoffish with Keyleth, snappy with Vex, downright violent with Grog. Little moments of assholery to break up the brooding. Nothing over the line, nothing that had yet earned him more than a clip round the ear, but it was constant.

And, quite frankly, it was annoying. At least, it was annoying Percy, which was the important thing. He’d woken that morning to find a very detailed cock and balls drawn in blackpowder on his bedroom door, which suggested that a) Vax knew where he kept his blackpowder, which was concerning, and b) Vax deemed him in need of instruction on certain aspects of anatomy, which was downright insulting.

Percy sighed and dragged a hand through his hair, already mussed and streaked with oil. The solution, he thought, was so simple, so eminently feasible, and yet there was nothing that could be done to bring it about until the bastard asked for it. At least, there was nothing he could do. Pike could – she had a way of dealing with him before he even knew he needed it – but Percy trying that would result in Vax scoffing, walking away, and another week of awkwardness before the tension finally snapped.

So here he was, up to his elbows in machinery in the basement, so at least once Vax realised what he needed everything would be ready.

It wasn’t, of course, like he resented it. He didn’t, truthfully – he thoroughly enjoyed their sessions when they happened, perhaps a little more than he should. Vox Machina’s regular dalliances with each other, in whatever combination, were always wanted, but Vax, when he got like this…Vax needed.

What he needed depended, though on what Percy couldn’t say. Sometimes it was Grog’s strength, to be held down and open by those vast hands, whelmed beyond thought. Sometimes it was the soft words and terrible kindness of Pike, her light seeing through him, unwavering and inescapable. Sometimes it was Scanlan, with his irreverent depravity, an endless list of distractions and amusements at his clever fingertips.

And sometimes it was Percy.

And Percy liked being needed.

---

In the end it took another two days for Vax to extract his head from his ass.

The first Percy heard of it was a knock on the workshop door, a sudden staccato burst as if its inception had taken some effort. Percy, for his part, was working on something entirely unrelated – a minor adjustment to Vex’s broom saddle, trying to compensate for the way her weight shifted at full draw. He waited just long enough so as not to seem too eager before striding over to the door, one hand behind his neck in an attempt to work out the knot there from being bent over his workbench for hours at a stretch.

Vax stood awkwardly, the light from the workshop diffusing gently off the sharp angles of his features. His gaze shifted from his own bare feet to Percy’s heavy leather apron to the impermeable door he was propping open, never once raising high enough to meet Percy’s eyes. There was a long pause.

Percy decided, unusually, to be merciful. “Something you need, Vax?”

Vax cleared his throat. “Good evening, Percival. Can I, um. Can I come in?”

Percy stepped aside, motioning like a particularly well-bred maître d’. “Of course.”

Vax walked through the doorway, peering curiously at what was laid out on the workbench. If he was disappointed that nothing there seemed immediately relevant to his purposes, he didn’t let on. Neither did he turn to face Percy, who had quietly shucked his apron and latched the door behind him.

“What are you, uh,” he began, trying for casual and missing by a country mile, “working on?”

“Oh, nothing much,” Percy said. “A few ideas that might turn into something interesting.”

Vax eyed the sturdy iron frame that Percy had set up in the corner, looming promisingly over the room. It was new since his last visit. A muscle twitched, minutely, in his jaw.

“Yeah? Well, you’ve always been a fan of interesting.”

“As have you.” Percy countered. “What are you after, Vax?”

Vax froze, what wind there was taken entirely out of his sails. He wasn’t good at straightforward.

“I, uh. I was wondering, that is, I thought maybe you might, since in the past—not that you have to, I mean, but if you wanted—

Percy eyed the hunch of his shoulders.

“Vax, do you want me to hurt you?”

Finally, Vax turned to face him.

“Would you?” His eyes were full of terrible hope.

Percy smiled.

He backed Vax up, step by step, until he was standing under the frame. Looked him straight in the eye, appraising.

“Strip.”

Vax’s throat moved as if he was going to say something impertinent, but by some miracle he thought better of it and started disrobing without another word. Percy allowed himself one glance at the pull of muscles in his stomach as he lifted his shirt over his head before stepping over to a wall cabinet and making a few selections.

When he turned back Vax was naked, visibly choosing nonchalance over embarrassment. His clothes were in a mostly-neat pile to one side, a gesture that almost moved Percy to mercy.

Vax’s eyes widened when he saw the armful of goods Percy was placing on the workbench nearby.

“Prepared, were we?”

Percy snorted inelegantly. “You’re very predictable. Now hush.”

Not a command Vax was likely to obey, but the matter was settled easily enough by grasping his jaw and slotting a gag between his teeth. It was long, like a horse’s bit, strong enough that it couldn’t be dislodged but with enough give that he wouldn’t break any teeth on it. Percy had chosen quite carefully.

As he fastened the buckle at the base of Vax’s skull – just over the occipital lobe, his adolescent education helpfully reminded him, all that vulnerability under a thin shield of bone – Vax’s eyes slid closed and he let out a long breath through his nose, a little of the tension under his skin bleeding away with it.

His eyes stayed closed as Percy stepped around him, but snapped open as Percy ran both hands through his long hair, gathering it into a loose tail. The gag turned whatever he was about to say into a confused mumble, and his brow was furrowed as he turned his head to stare at Percy, who tutted.

“None of that while I’m working, please.”

It was the kind of please that wasn’t a request. He took Vax’s jaw in his free hand and straightened the set of his head, then pulled a length of leather from his pocket.

“Now hold still,” he said, and set the end of the leather between his teeth.

With both hands free he could work Vax’s hair into a long braid, weaving in the leather until it was bound firm in the shining black, its only tell a duller lustre. A spare bit of rawhide tied off the braid, leaving perhaps a foot of the leather trailing from the end. He stepped back around to Vax’s front.

“You know, I learned how to do that from my sister? I think she’d have a conniption if she knew this was how I was using her gifts.”

Vax huffed a breath in a way that said, Tell me about it.

Percy permitted himself a small smile, which was the last thing Vax saw before Percy slipped the blindfold over his eyes. Another breath out, another tiny release of tension.

Now was the time for the real work. Over a process of minutes, Percy secured Vax to the frame – arms first, sturdy leather around his wrists and biceps, tethered to the iron bar overhead. Then bands around his thighs, shins, ankles, every point of contact both a reassurance and an omen.

This was the tricky bit. Percy threaded chain – elegant but strong, if one wanted things done properly one really did have to do them oneself – through each of the bands on Vax’s left leg, fed it through a hook on the frame, then set a hand on Vax’s flank.

“Weight on your right leg. Don’t struggle.”

Vax gave a jerky nod, and Percy pulled slowly on the chains.

To his credit, he didn’t struggle. He grunted in surprise as his leg was pulled upwards, but by the time it was at waist-height he’d balanced on the other one, toes pressed into the flagstone floor for purchase. Percy took a moment to make sure he wasn’t in any immediate danger of eating shit, and then chained his remaining earth-bound leg.

“Here we go,” he said, the ends of the chains trailing across his palm. He didn’t say I’ve got you, but perhaps Vax heard it anyway.

He pulled.

Vax let out a low groan as the chains took his weight – he was even lighter than he looked, a featherweight almost in the literal sense – and his legs rose under him, leaving him at the mercy of Percy’s handiwork.

One last touch. Percy walked around the frame until he was behind Vax, and took the leather still leading from the end of his braid. It took standing on his toes, but with that small effort he managed to get the leather tied around the topmost bar.

He stepped back to view his work and nodded in satisfaction. Vax was flying – held securely in the embrace of Percy’s leather and chain cradle. He was tilted forwards, arms above his head as if in exultation, legs bent beneath him as if knelt in prayer. The pull on his hair kept his head upright, chin lifted away from his narrow chest, rising and falling with his deliberately measured breaths. All the tension had left him; he floated, drifted, flew by the grace of Percy’s artifice. It was, all told, a very enjoyable sight.

But he wasn’t going to just look at Vax all evening. No, he’d been working on something a little more interesting. But interesting required its own precautions, and so:

“Vax’ildan, listen to me. I’m going to put a bell in your right hand. If you should need me to stop, for any reason, drop it and I will. Do you understand?”

It took a moment for his words to sink in, but Vax nodded his assent and mumbled something from behind the gag that might have been “Yes, Percival.” Or possibly, “Yes, asshole”, but Percy decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. He pressed the little bell into Vax’s hand, looping its cord over a finger such that he only needed to curl it inwards to make the bell tumble to the floor.

Now he could get to what he’d spent all that time and effort working on. Oh, the frame had taken a couple of hours, but it was hardly the main event. That was sitting inconspicuously on the workbench, nothing more than a confection of copper wire and a single, familiar glove.

That had been the fiddly bit: getting the whole idea to work with Diplomacy. In truth, this particular kind of application had been on his mind since he’d developed his own little shocking grasp, but a couple of abortive first attempts had left him frustrated enough to leave it until he was sufficiently motivated. And this was certainly sufficient motivation.

He pulled Diplomacy onto his left hand, flexing his fingers and feeling the bone-deep hum of its stored current. He’d worked the copper into something almost like jewellery, delicate loops that wrapped around his fingers until they became two leads an arm’s length or longer, ending in little leather pads, butter soft around the contact at their centre.

Vax had probably been waiting long enough. Percy grabbed a little pot of spirit glue – pilfered from Vax’s own disguise kit, as it happened – and set to work, applying the leather pads to Vax’s inner thighs and holding them there until they stayed of their own accord. Vax let out a little questioning sound at the unfamiliar sensation. From this angle Percy was very close indeed to Vax’s cock, half-hard and starting to take more interest now Percy was actually touching him. Tempting as it was, he ignored it and stepped back. All in good time.

He crooked his finger, and Vax jerked as the current surged through him.

Not too much, not yet. A low voltage, just a gentle curl of his index finger for a second or so, and Diplomacy responded beautifully. Almost as beautifully as Vax, who was breathing hard, the air forcing itself past the gag. Percy cast his eyes to Vax’s hand, just in case – bell still there, held firmly in slightly-shaking fingers. Good.

He crooked his finger again and felt a tendril of pleasure curl through him as Vax jumped, tendons standing out in his neck. With the current flowing, Vax’s muscles strained, every part of him rigid with sensation. With the current off, he sagged, lax in his bonds. Tension, release. It was fascinating to watch.

It was also one of the hottest things Percy had ever seen.

He started curling his fingers further, letting more tamed lightning flow into Vax’s squirming body, giving him shorter and shorter times to recover. He was panting, moaning, toes clenching, the muscles on his stomach standing out like rocks under his skin. He was so hard it looked like it hurt.

It was probably a little cruel to toy with someone when they were at your mercy, but Percy had never been accused of being overly kind. He made his movements less rhythmic, an almost random pattern such that Vax could never anticipate the next shock. By the time he was running out of ideas Vax was nearly sobbing, his chest heaving, spit and desperate noises slipping out past the gag.

Time, Percy thought, for the grand finale.

He waited a few breaths, just long enough for Vax to quiet a little, then tugged Diplomacy off and leaned in close enough to lay his bare hand on Vax’s cheek.

“How are you feeling, Vax? Are you ready for more?”

Vax let out a deep groan, rattling out of his throat like it had been entirely unintentional. Percy checked on the bell: still there, clutched tightly.

“I need an answer, Vax’ildan. Nod or shake.”

With a curtailed shake of his shoulders Vax visibly struggled back into his own head long enough to nod, almost frantically, as if Percy stopping was the worst thing he could imagine happening to him. Percy felt a reasonable measure of satisfaction, fuelled in no small part by the warmth pooling in his stomach.

“Thank you. You’ll probably want to hold still for this bit.”

Was that an impudent little huff, well-hidden behind the gag? Was Vax rolling his eyes under the blindfold? Percy had quite exhausted the benefit of the doubt he was willing to distribute, so he gave no warning before ripping the leather pads off Vax’s thighs, getting a muffled squeak of outrage for his efforts. He dug a blunt fingernail into the little reddened squares on Vax’s skin just to hear his noisy intake of breath, and was duly rewarded.

A little more spirit glue, and Vax choked out something that might have been “oh, fuck” as Percy applied the contacts to his cock, standing stuff and flushed against his stomach. As he pulled away he swiped his thumb over the head and felt Vax shiver under his hand. He licked the wetness off his thumb. It tasted of salt and triumph.

Percy pulled Diplomacy back on his hand and crooked a finger with infinite care, the barest twitch of muscle and tendon. It was enough to make Vax howl, drops of precome slipping down his cock as he shook. Sweat was beading on his brow, even in the chill of the subterranean workshop, and his teeth were sunk deep into the leather of the gag.

His fingers flexed around the bell…and held it even tighter.

Percy twitched his fingers again, pulling another yell from Vax, another, another, the chains clinking against each other as he writhed, his voice breaking as Percy’s fingers curled more, and more, and then Percy’s hand was almost a fist and—

Vax let out a ragged sob as he came, spilling over his stomach as he quaked. In a moment Percy was by him, Diplomacy cast onto the workbench as he pulled himself out of his breeches, needing a bare couple of strokes before his come joined the mess on Vax’s abdomen.

His ears were ringing a little and he swayed on his feet, reaching out a hand to prop himself up on the scaffold. For a moment – just a moment – he let himself rest his forehead on Vax’s shoulder, tasting clean sweat under his tongue, feeling the skinny shoulders heave under him.

He pulled himself together with a terrible effort and set to unbinding Vax: contacts first, easing them off with much more care than he had the first time, drawing out only a long sigh from above him. Then his hair, loosing the rawhide and running his fingers through the black mass before it hung glossy and free, leather strip forgotten on the floor. Next his legs, briskly rubbing the calves to get the blood moving (femoral, popliteal, tibeal, his memories recited, should one of these vessels fail--) until Vax was steady on his feet, more or less. Eventually Percy took down his arms, thumbs digging into the meat of his trapezius to work out the inevitable ache. By the time he was done Vax had undone the gag one-handedly and was working his jaw, grimacing as it clicked.

Percy reached for the blindfold, but Vax’s hand on his wrist stopped him.

“Could—could you leave it on, for a bit? Just for a minute.”

It seemed like a small thing to ask, all things considered. Percy nodded, then realised what he was doing, and said,

“All right. Sit down, though, I won’t be responsible for you getting a concussion if you fall over.”

“Yes, mother.”

This time it was Percy who rolled his eyes as he slung an arm under Vax’s, guiding him to sit against the nearest wall and letting himself thud down beside him. He rested his head against the stone, his half-focused eyes settling on the mottled grey of the ceiling. He could feel Vax’s side pressed against his, the furnace of his body suffusing him with warmth.

They sat there for a time, not talking – they were good at that, when it came to each other – but breathing together, in for out, heartbeats slowing in sync. Eventually the chill of the flagstones started to make itself known to Percy’s legs, and as he looked over he saw the gooseflesh on Vax’s arms as he removed his blindfold, blinking in the low light. He heaved himself upright, pulling Vax up after him, hands clasped around each other’s wrists. Vax drifted wraithlike over to his clothes, pulling on his breeches and shirt with only a moderate amount of wincing. Percy tucked himself away, tugged his shirt straight, scrubbed the palms of his hands on his breeches.

Vax, wearing all the clothes and none of the weight he’d carried an hour ago, turned to him. His eyes darted from the floor to the workbench to Percy’s hand to, at last, his face.

“Percival—Percy. Thanks.”

Percy inclined his head.

“It was entirely my pleasure.”

Vax nodded. He made to walk towards the door, paused for a breath, then set his shoulders and strode, a little wobbly, to the exit.

“Vax?”

He paused, hand on the latch.

“You will go—”

“To Pike? Yes, Freddie, don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”

That would have to be enough. Percy let him go. The thud of the heavy door closing sounded very loud in the workshop.

Percy stretched his arms above his head, working out the kinks in his spine. Ideas were starting to congregate in his head again, filling the corners of his mind with possibilities. Some of them promised to be quite interesting indeed.

He picked up a piece of charcoal, spinning it idly between his fingers.

There was work to do.