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We're Friends When You're On Your Knees

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The first time isn’t an accident. Lydia knows exactly what she’s doing. It just isn’t meant to grow as much as it eventually will.

“Allison,” Lydia finally snaps, as Allison’s pacing takes a twenty-third circuit of the dorm room. “Take your shirt off and lie down on the bed.”

Allison stops. “What?” she asks.

“I’m going to help you relax,” says Lydia. “Take your bra off, too.” At Allison’s raised eyebrow, Lydia tosses her hair behind one shoulder. “Please, if I were planning on hitting on you, I’d have done it back in high school when you were emotionally vulnerable and moping about Scott the first time. Get on your stomach.”

They’ve been living together for four and a half weeks, and Allison knows exactly where Lydia keeps everything in their tiny dorm room. It goes the other way, too; Lydia knows the location of every single hidden knife, cache of crossbow bolts, and length of garotting wire that Allison brought with her to college. Allison made sure of it.

One of the requirements, when Allison agreed to actually go away to college, was that she either roomed with Lydia or nobody at all. She can’t have a roommate she doesn’t trust, and she doesn’t know how to hide all of this from somebody she lives with. She’s head of the Argent family, now. She keeps her own silver bullet on a cord around her neck and under her shirt, in the same place Kate’s pendant used to hang, with her new code etched into the side. Most of the time, her father follows her orders.

Allison is quick, and smart, and good at this. She’s got great situational awareness, even in her own dorm room, which is why even as Allison gets on the bed as directed, she can tell that Lydia’s going into her scarf drawer.

"Lydia, what are you doing?"

"Do you trust me?" Lydia asks bluntly.

"Yes," Allison says immediately. "But what--"

"I'm going to work some of those enormous stress knots out of your back," Lydia says. "And you're going to lie there and not move while I do it."

"And you need to be fashionably attired to do it?" asks Allison, rolling over on her side to eye the scarf suspiciously.

"No, this is for your wrists," Lydia says. "Or can you promise me you won't forget that you're supposed to be lying there and relaxing and get up to do more ineffectual Hunter pacing halfway through?"

"You want to tie me up?" Allison asks. "Lydia..."

"Not tightly," says Lydia. "Just enough so you know it's there. You can break out any time you want, except that you’re not going to, because this will remind you not to."

"I don't know..." Allison bites her lip doubtfully.

"Allison," Lydia says. "Trust me."

Allison meets Lydia’s eyes and nods slowly. "Okay," she says. "Not too tight to slip out of."

"Face down," Lydia says. "Hands over your head."

Lydia’s gentle with the scarf, tugs Allison’s hands down until they’re just above her head, her elbows are bent and her shoulders are relaxed--or at least, as relaxed as they’ve been in the past few weeks. Her hands are warm, soft, familiar. Allison feels something unknot at the first gentling touch.

“You’ve been driving me crazy,” Lydia informs her.

“Sorry,” Allison says into her fluffy duvet, a little muffled.

“Nobody is trying to kill you tonight, and you’re not going to fail any of your classes,” says Lydia. “You’re going to calm down and relax, for once.”

Lydia’s hands hit a particularly bad knot, and Allison hisses. “Relax,” Lydia repeats. Her fingers go gentle, tender, soothing. “I’ve got you.”

“No, it’s good,” says Allison, and it is. It really is.

Allison sleeps better that night than she has in four and a half weeks. The next day, she buys Lydia a venti pumpkin spice latte with extra pumpkin spice, and a brownie that Lydia makes her share. That’s what friends are for.

The thing about college is, it’s hard.

College is hard even for normal kids their age. Even normal kids have problems leaving their friends and family. Allison and Lydia are at least half an hour away from the closest members of their pack, nearly an hour away from their alpha. Allison only has one person left who she considers blood family, and the last time she went more than two days without seeing her father, she was acting as a mole and possible hostage with an enemy pack of werewolves who were only a few words away from killing her the whole time. She doesn’t even always have time to speak to him every day now.

Normal kids their age have trouble adjusting to a new environment and making new friends. Allison’s good at new environments, or she used to be, but somewhere along the way she must have lost the knack for it. How do you try to get to know people when you can’t tell them even a tenth of what your life is really about? Frat parties are too loud and crowded for Allison to feel in control of her surroundings. There’s an archery club, and Lydia teamed up with Scott to encourage her into joining, but half the people there only just picked up a bow this year.

Allison doesn’t even have an excuse or a reason for having trouble with her classes. They’re just hard. She’s smart, and she’s always done well in school, even when she had to balance homework with tracking down a supernatural serial killer while people around her were dying. She’s not Lydia, but she’s good at math. But now there are hundred-person lecture courses where nobody will notice if Allison dozes off for five minutes, and she doesn’t have anybody to get notes from if she needs them. And she has no idea what her English Composition teacher wants out of her, but the paper Allison turned in last week would have gotten her a solid A- at BHHS, and it came back with a C.

And then, of course, when her dad does call, or Scott texts or IMs or gets on Skype, half the time it’s to talk shop over some other supernatural threat out there. Her dad does most of the work with the Argent family’s henchmen these days, but Allison’s expected to at least approve the orders, if not give them herself. Nothing really bad’s happened yet, but Isaac thinks there’s something living in the lake near his new campus, and Stiles swears that from the description, it’s probably a kelpie, and it’s only a matter of time. In their lives, it’s always just a matter of time.

It’s hard. It’s hard.

And Allison is good at this. She knows how to handle stress. Allison is smart, and she’ll adjust to her classes, and she is making casual friends with her dormmates and a few people from archery club. She trains when she has time, because she’s a good pack member and a good hunter. When her father asks what Allison wants the family to do, she usually has an answer, and most of the time it’s a pretty solid one. Allison knows how to be in control of herself, knows how to keep going. She can balance being Scott’s beta and his equal, being her father’s daughter and also his leader, and somehow managing to do both of those things at once. It works, once you know how to strike the balance. Allison’s life does work.

She’s not failing. She’s not about to snap in two. She’s making it happen, somehow, and she’s making it happen well. Nothing is about to collapse.

It’s just hard, that’s all. Sometimes, it’s really, really hard.

Lydia isn’t expecting the second time, but she thinks she should have been.

It’s a Tuesday night. Allison has a huge group presentation tomorrow that she couldn’t do any more for now if she tried, but she’s been bending over backwards all week trying to get it done. One of her group members (Vince Rafferty, which is a name that Lydia has heard enough this week that it’s permanently embedded in her mind in the same tone of voice as Steve Carlsburg, a reference Lydia blames Stiles for completely and only he would get) really, really ought to be thanking whatever elder god he prays to that the library has metal detectors and Allison has an extra second to talk herself out of extreme violence when she’s not carrying her knives.

Also, she spent almost an hour on the phone with Isaac right before dinner, which can’t possibly mean anything good. Allison hasn’t said anything about it yet, which means it’s more exes-trying-to-be-still-friends angst and not a problem with kelpies, but that’s plenty bad in its own way.

Allison’s gone through her presentation notecards three times when she stops, slaps the stack down on her desk, and turns around. “I can’t look at these any more,” she says.

“Go for a run,” Lydia suggests, carefully shading in the curve of a lily leaf in her sketchbook. College art classes don’t have to look like a complete waste of time to graduate admissions committees if you present them right, and Lydia enjoys them.

“I did six miles this morning,” says Allison. “If I go out again tonight, I’m going to pull something.”

“Mmm,” Lydia says. “Is there anything I can do?”

Allison hesitates. Lydia looks up.

“Actually,” she says. “That thing we did a couple of weeks ago, with the back rub? I could really use one of those again.”

“Sure. Give me five minutes to finish this up,” says Lydia. “Do you want to use the scarf again?”

Allison looks sheepish, but she ducks her head in a sort of nod. “Can we?” she says. “It helped. I didn’t feel as much like I had to force myself to keep still.”

“Of course,” says Lydia.

“Maybe a little tighter this time?” Allison suggests.

“Okay,” says Lydia. “But we’re using one of your scarves. I don’t want mine getting wrinkled.”

“Maybe a pair of tights?” says Allison. “Or I have a belt.”

“Tights are good.” Lydia smudges her leaf’s shadow one more time with a fingertip. “Pick some out.”

After the third time, it’s pretty clear that this isn’t just going to be a one-off thing.

Allison falls asleep splayed out across both dorm beds pushed together, each wrist lashed by a pair of colorful tights to the bed frame near her sides. Keeping her hands above her head kept changing the angle of her shoulderblades, and she didn’t object when Lydia suggested actually tying her down, which...means something. Maybe a lot of things.

Lydia finishes the massage, then unbinds Allison’s wrists, first right, then left. Allison twitches a little when Lydia rubs her thumbs into the red marks from the tights, but doesn’t wake up. Fine. Lydia has no intention of undoing any of her hard work, so after she washes her face and puts Allison’s clothes in the laundry hamper, she crawls into bed and cuddles up next to Allison for the night.

The next day is a Friday. Neither of them have class until almost noon.

“So,” says Allison, after breakfast, which Lydia eats in pointed, expectant silence. “We should probably talk about this.”

“I’m worried about you,” Lydia says. “At this rate, you’re going to have a nervous breakdown by junior year, and I’ve heard things about the student mental health services here. Frankly, you’d be better off trusting Morrell.”

“I’m not going to have a nervous breakdown!” Allison protests. “I’m just...a little stressed.” Lydia just looks at her. “Okay, maybe a lot stressed.” Lydia waits. “Okay, I need help.”

“You need to drop your French class,” Lydia says. “The level’s too easy for you anyway. The work load is ridiculous. It’s supposed to be your blowoff class. Nobody should have to put up with Vince Rafferty in their blowoff class.”

“I know, I know, but we’re already halfway through the semester, and if I drop it I won’t be full-time any more,” says Allison. “I don’t think I can.”

“Can you at least drop archery club?” Lydia asks.

“It lets me use the range, so I can stay in practice,” says Allison. “But I can probably resign my seat on Freshman house council.”

“Well, that’s an hour a week that you were only going to for the free brownies,” says Lydia.

“It’s not about time,” says Allison. “Not really. It’s just...being away from home.”

“You mean the family duties,” says Lydia. Allison shrugs helplessly.

“Lydia, it’s my life,” she says. “I don’t know how to stop being a hunter. I don’t know what else to do.”

“You need to take it easier on yourself,” Lydia tells her. “Call your dad more.”

“And Isaac less,” Allison sighs. Lydia watches her sympathetically.

“You and Scott managed to be friends eventually,” she says. “God, I’m still friends with Stiles.

There’s a beat before they both crack up laughing. “Oh, god,” Allison says. “It’s true, you are.”

“Most ill-advised month of my life,” says Lydia. “And that includes the time I dated Aiden.”

“You really know how to pick a guy, don’t you?” asks Allison. She sobers, still smiling. “Really, Lydia, thank you for everything.”

“That’s what best friends are for,” Lydia waves a hand dismissively. “We’re going to have to come up with some sort of schedule, though, if this is going to keep happening, or your bad days are going to start happening on nights when I actually have something better to do.”

“No, Lydia, I can’t--you don’t have to--”

“Please,” says Lydia. “You obviously need this. If I leave you alone, what kind of stress relief are you going to find?”

“I can’t just keep asking you for super-intense massages all the time,” says Allison.

“While tied up,” adds Lydia. “Don’t forget the tied up part. Don’t think I haven’t noticed how much that does it for you, too.”

Allison looks down at her lap.

“I hate being helpless,” she says. “I hate it.”

“But that’s why it’s nice not to have to be in charge of everything for a while, right?” says Lydia. “You know you can get control back if you absolutely need it, and otherwise, you trust me.”

“I can’t just put that on you, though,” Allison says. “I can’t just ask you to--”

“Allison,” says Lydia. “Why would you think you’re the only one getting anything out of it?”

Allison stops, and actually turns to peer at Lydia. “But you…”

“You’re not the only person here with control issues, you know,” Lydia says pointedly. “I don’t like being helpless any more than you do, only while some people were running around with their favorite ring daggers and a loaded crossbow in high school, some of us were getting repeatedly possessed by dead people.” Allison winces.

“I’m sorry,” she says, for maybe the ten millionth time. “We should have--”

“It doesn’t matter, Allison,” says Lydia. “Not everybody’s you. Not everybody can just go out there and battle werewolves and take control of everything. You have hunters, I have math. One of these things is a lot more pertinent in the day-to-day life of a werewolf pack, which can get a little frustrating sometimes, but I trust you.”

“Thanks,” says Allison, looking down again.

“There,” says Lydia. “See? I said I trust you, and you liked it.”

“You’ve lost me,” Allison admits.

“You keep giving me control,” says Lydia. “You let me tie you down. You’re letting me do whatever I want to you, and that makes me feel powerful. I like it, and I want to keep doing it.”

Allison pauses for a long moment. “Has this semester been sucking for you, too, and I haven’t even noticed?” she asks finally.

“It’s been fine,” says Lydia. “I promised myself a long time ago that if my only real supernatural power is my voice, then I’ll shriek just as loud as I have to when I need to be noticed. But we could all use the stress relief.”

“Okay,” says Allison. “How about Sunday nights?”


There are rules. Of course there are rules.

Lydia does her research, because she’s Lydia Martin, and she would never embark on something like this without doing research. Non-sexual bondage and dominance/submission play isn’t the world’s most recorded topic, but it’s certainly there after a few thorough google searches and a trip or two to that specialty bookstore in town.

On Sunday nights, they go to eat at the dining hall as early as they can, together, like friends and equals, and then go back to their dorm room. It’s only Sunday nights, them together. Girls’ night in. Allison makes sure that her dad knows not to call her, and Lydia handles the boys. Between 6 PM Sunday and 7 AM on Monday morning, they’re off-limits.

Allison always takes off her shirt, first, and carefully lays her bullet on its silver chain on top of her dresser for tomorrow morning, when she’s ready to be head of the Argent clan again. Sometimes Lydia tells Allison to take off more clothing, or change into something more comfortable, sometimes not, but Allison’s always topless from the start. Lydia likes to be able to touch skin, and it’s harder to take a shirt off once Allison’s wrists are tied.

It adds something to the situation, too, when Allison feels like she’s been stripped bare. It’s hard to feel in charge of something when you’re sitting around in your bra, or even less. She’s not supposed to be in charge here. Everything that reminds her of that helps.

Lydia likes to take Allison apart. There’s something mesmerizing about the line of Allison’s shoulders, the way Lydia can feel the tension under her fingertips, can actually see it release, bit by bit, over the course of a session. Allison doesn’t twitch away when Lydia hits a sore spot any more. If it’s early in the evening, she’ll push back into Lydia’s hands. If it’s later, if Allison’s shoulders have already gone loose and her little noises and hisses of breath have faded into incoherent murmurs, Lydia can find another knot and Allison will actually go more limp.

Lydia could do anything to her, and Allison would allow it. Lydia had been cautious at first, but every single time she’s pushed, Allison’s just yielded up more. It’s intoxicating. It’s humbling. That kind of unconditional surrender has weight to it, and Lydia’s going to live up to it.

So she does her research. She adds anatomy textbooks to her list of bondage websites. She learns every shiver that Allison makes, every little variation in the sound of Allison’s breath. Lydia is good at this, in her own right. Allison lays herself down, but Lydia’s the one who makes her melt.

Allison doesn’t like blindfolds, gags, sensory deprivation. She closes her eyes of her own free will, and keeps them that way when Lydia asks her to. As far as Lydia’s concerned, that’s just as good. Maybe better.

They broaden their repertoire, once they know this is going to be a weekly thing. Sometimes it’s the bed, Lydia’s hands over Allison’s back, shoulders, sides, and sometimes it’s a little different. One Sunday, Lydia wraps a wide, flat ribbon around Allison’s forearms, binding them wrist to elbow at the small of Allison’s back, just loose enough to keep circulation flowing. She makes Allison kneel down on a pillow at the foot of the bed, and sprawls out on her stomach on top of the mattress. They watch Disney movies while Lydia plays with Allison’s hair, running her fingers between every strand, trying out loose braids and then finger-combing them out again, while the line of Allison’s shoulders relaxes more and more and Allison’s eyelids droop.

The safeword, just in case, is ‘kanima’. It made Allison laugh, but neither of them are likely to forget it.

Allison’s the one who changes things. She doesn’t mean to. She’s not thinking at all, at the time.

It’s been a long, hard week. She’s tired. She spent most of the week frustrated and angry, but somewhere around Saturday afternoon the frustration gave way and just left her feeling tired and sad. She wants to feel safe for a little while, and loved, and Lydia always does that for her.

Lydia’s slow and gentle tonight. There’s music on, something wordless and classical and quiet, so Allison can’t even hear the noises of their neighbors in the hallway, and Lydia brought out the massage oils they’ve started investing in. The whole room smells like caramel and cinnamon.

Allison’s slipping down into that headspace she’s started to find on nights like this, where all the nerve endings in her skin are going slow and overwhelming, and everything in her brain quiets down for it.

They have the beds shoved together again, tied by their feet so they won’t slip apart, and Allison’s tied to the bedposts tonight by wrists and ankles. Somewhere, somewhen (she’s lost all sense of time) Lydia leans over her and loosens the rope bindings.

“We’re going to flip you over,” Lydia says, and Allison murmurs some wordless acknowledgement. “I want to get the front of your shoulders and your arms.

Allison follows the movement easily when Lydia rolls her over onto her back, leaves her eyes closed, matches her breath in time with the music. Sometimes, when she’s tied up like this, when she’s bound and safe and there’s nowhere she can go, it feels like perfect freefall. Perfect freefall, and Lydia right there to catch her.

Face-up, and she’s falling all over again. The room is warm. She’s completely bare on top, vulnerable, and Allison can’t remember what shame feels like right now. All she wants is Lydia’s hands on her--shoulders, arms, breasts, thighs, wherever Lydia wants to touch her. She trusts Lydia. Always, she trusts Lydia.

“Keep your hands up where they are, please,” says Lydia, and runs her palm down Allison’s calf, to her ankle. She lingers over re-tying Allison’s feet, first one and then the other, looping soft cotton rope carefully around Allison’s ankles like an anchor.

Lydia tugs the final knot into place and kneels up on the bed to refasten Allison’s wrists. They’re not touching, but Allison can feel the weight of her, the warmth, leaning across Allison’s body. She smells like jasmine.

Allison opens her eyes to the curve of Lydia’s stomach hovering over her, while Lydia loops coil after coil of rope around Allison’s last free wrist. She’s tugging Allison just a little bit tight, tonight, just enough so it feels like a stretch, and it’s perfect.

“Lydia,” says Allison, and her tongue feels heavy in her mouth.

“Yes?” Lydia’s hands go still.

“Will you kiss me?” Allison hadn’t quite known she was going to ask for that. She hadn’t known exactly what she wanted to ask for. She’d like it, though, if Lydia would.

Lydia is quiet, but she goes back to tying Allison’s hand. “Do you want that?” she asks eventually.

“Yes, please.” It doesn’t occur to Allison to soften it or complicate it any other way.

“Okay, then,” Lydia says. “I’m going to finish this first.”

Allison hums in acknowledgement, and lets her eyes fall shut again. Lydia always keeps her promises.

Eventually, there’s the light brush of a warm hand across Allison’s face, the stroke of a thumb just above her top lip. A moment later, Lydia’s mouth is pressed against hers: close-lipped, chaste, barely damp. Allison doesn’t know how much she’s allowed to kiss back--doesn’t think she is, somehow--but she receives it willingly.

“There,” says Lydia breathlessly. “That’s all we’re doing with that tonight. We’ll talk about it for next time.”

“Okay,” Allison agrees. “Thank you, Lydia.”

Lydia has a 10 AM class on Mondays, but usually that’s plenty of time to wake up slowly after a Sunday night, come back to grips with themselves, and get ready to face the world. She’s skipping it today.

“So,” she says. Allison pushed the beds back apart while Lydia dashed out to bring back bagels and coffee. They’re sitting almost directly opposite each other, across a five-foot divide.

“So,” Allison says, looking back down at her hands on her knees. “Last night.”

“Allison,” Lydia says, because if they don’t cut to the chase she’s going to have to miss her 2:00 combinatorics lecture, too. “Are you interested in me?”

“Honestly?” says Allison. “I have no idea.”

“Okay,” Lydia says. Deep breath. They can work with this. “Me, either.”

“I’ve never thought about girls one way or the other,” says Allison. “But now I don’t know if it’s because I wasn’t interested, or I just wasn’t thinking about it.”

“I’ve thought about it,” Lydia admits. “It didn’t seem relevant. Boys are generally more interesting and easier to manipulate.”

“I get pretty easy to manipulate, when I’m like that,” says Allison.

“It’s not the same thing,” says Lydia, but now she at least has an idea. “Do you want to kiss me?”

“Right now?” Allison asks, looking up.

“Right now,” agrees Lydia.

“I will if you want me to?” Allison says, like it’s a question.

“But it’s not something you’d actually ask for,” says Lydia. “But it was last night.”

“I don’t know why I wanted it, but I did,” says Allison. “I’m sorry.”

“I could have said no,” Lydia says simply.

They’re quiet for a minute.

They’re both terrible about asking for what they want, in their own ways. Lydia wanted plenty last night, nothing to do with kisses but everything to do with how she just knew she could make Allison come apart completely, if Lydia had left chaste, best-friend-appropriate touching behind. She’d wanted to drop Allison all the way down, right out of her own head. Lydia hadn’t even been turned on herself, but for a moment there she’d been struck by just what kind of beautiful, limp and yielding mess she could turn Allison into with a few orgasms.

It’s not exactly something you can just ask, is it? Even to your best friend. Even when you’ve seen each other bloody and battleworn, even when you’ve faced dead bodies and werewolves together a thousand times.

“Look, let’s just admit how far we want to push this,” Allison says. “We both know what we’re playing with here.”

“We do?” Lydia raises her eyebrows.

“I read the websites you linked me,” Allison says. “And I do know how to use Google.”

“So you know this can stay completely platonic,” says Lydia.

“I know how far there is to go,” says Allison.

Which is fair, really, thinks Lydia. What they’ve been doing so far is good. It feels fantastic. But Allison’s never been the kind of person to stop while she’s ahead.

For that matter, neither is Lydia.

“What if I don’t want to?” Lydia asks, testing the waters. The Allison looking back at her now has almost nothing in common with the Allison of last night. She’s straight-backed and alert, and she’s giving Lydia a sharp, evaluating look.

“You do,” Allison says. “You want this at least as much as I do. You want to see what it’s like. I know you, Lydia.”

“Maybe I do,” Lydia says. “What if I say no anyway?”

“Then we don’t have to,” says Allison. “I’m not going to make you do anything. But I don’t think you’re going to say no.”

Of course she’s right.

“Okay,” says Lydia. “We need checklists, then. And we’re going shopping.”

“Macy’s bonding trip?” Allison guesses.

“Well,” says Lydia, “if you insist. But that wasn’t exactly what I had in mind.”

What Lydia had in mind, apparently, was a day trip into San Francisco.

They compare answers to Lydia’s frighteningly thorough kink checklist in the car. There are a handful of shared hard yes answers, some of which take Allison a little bit by surprise--apparently they’re going to have to do something with hot wax and ice very soon--and a few strict no.

“It’s not on the list,” Allison says, glancing up from the sheaf of papers in her hands, “but I don’t want to be tied up in the water.”

“Okay,” says Lydia readily, and doesn’t ask any questions. Allison’s not afraid of drowning, because she can’t afford to be afraid of anything like that in her line of work, and she saw what happened to Matt. She just remembers what it felt like. She doesn’t want to be in the middle of a scene, remembering what it felt like to drown. “Can I hold your wrists in the shower?”

“We can try it?” says Allison. “It’ll probably be fine.”

“We’ll try it once,” says Lydia, and that’s that.

Most of their sheets are just huge chunks of I’ve never tried this, I have no idea how I’ll feel about this, if you really want to, and, people actually DO that? that boil down to a whole lot of ‘maybe’.

Allison didn’t expect them to stick on pain, of all things. It’s so basic. It’s been one of the only steady underpinnings of her life for years.

“I’m not making you bleed,” Lydia says tightly. “Hard limit.”

“Okay,” says Allison. “You don’t have to. But can we just try some other things?”

“Is this just a sex thing for you?” Lydia asks. “If it’s just a sex thing, fine, I understand that, but not while you’re completely at my mercy.”

“No,” says Allison. “No, Scott and Isaac were both always...really gentle.” Too gentle, sometimes, even when Allison wanted to let go. Neither of them ever minded when Allison was the one getting forceful. Isaac used to let her sink her teeth right into the soft join between his neck and shoulder, but he wouldn’t do the same back.

She can get off just fine without it. Allison just knows what the endorphin rush from a new wound feels like, and what all the people on the internet have said, and the look Isaac used to get, whenever she drew blood. And this isn’t really about getting off.

“Look, I don’t even know if it’ll work for me,” Allison says. “But it’s either going to be a complete failure or it’s going to put me under like nothing else, so I want to try.”

“It’s not that I don’t want to try things,” says Lydia. “I just don’t like hitting. And I’m not using knives in bed, no matter what you want.”

“We’ll work it out,” Allison promises. “No knives.”

There are plenty of other options, anyway. The store that Lydia found online--god only knows how--is enormous.

“Well,” Lydia says briskly, picking up an actual shopping basket at the front door while Allison tries not to gape. “Shall we?”

It’s a little weird to be shopping for sex toys with her best friend, and a lot weird when Allison spends too much time thinking about what they’re going to be used for. Lydia picks up a long, purple dildo consideringly, and Allison thinks--inside her. That’s supposed to go inside her, and Lydia’s going to be holding the base of it, working it in and out, probably while Allison can’t even move.

“Do you like it?” Lydia asks, holding it out for Allison’s perusal. Allison takes it automatically. “Or maybe something thicker?”

It’s hefty in her hand. Allison’s never been big on sex toys. There would’ve been no hiding something like that in the house while her mother was alive, and after that...even when she was in between boyfriends, it was just easier to use her own fingers. This one’s slender, curved like no penis Allison’s ever seen, and covered in ridges.

“I like it,” she decides. “What else?”

Lydia’s serious about this. It makes Allison feel a little better, watching Lydia carefully compare two different vibrators like she cares, like Allison’s not the only one. There are two coils of new rope and a set of padded cuffs in the basket, and looking at them too long makes Allison shiver. She probably shouldn’t want this as badly as she does.

Lydia finds a rack of spreader bars and runs covetous fingers over one, the same touch Allison’s seen her give to a new pair of heels at Macy’s. Allison’s definitely not the only one.

Allison toys cautiously with the tassels of some of the floggers on display, and Lydia wanders over to look at the books. Allison leaves her paging through a 200-page book on Japanese bondage, which is apparently different from the kind they’ve been doing, and drifts a little aimlessly towards the back of the store.

There’s a rack she’s been noticing out of the corner of her eye since they picked up the wrist restraints, propped up along the back wall next to a tall mirror. Allison lets herself look at the collars now, as much as she wants.

This isn’t her. This isn’t her life. She’s been online, she’s seen what other people do, and she’s not like that. She doesn’t walk around all day belonging to Lydia any more than she belongs to anyone else in her family or her pack. God, anyone who actually makes a lifestyle out of this kind of thing would probably call Allison a terrible sub. Trying to keep up actual obedience would drive her crazy. This is just a hobby she’s probably spending too much time and money on.

“Did you want one?” Lydia asks from her shoulder. Allison is a hunter with great situational awareness, so she doesn’t startle. Really.

“No, I was just thinking,” she says immediately. “I’m not...I mean, they’re not really meant for me, right?”

“Hmmm,” Lydia says thoughtfully. “They could be.”

“It’s one night a week,” says Allison. “You don’t own me.”

“I do for one night a week,” says Lydia. “You know, they say that when you’re trying to compartmentalize something, symbolism helps.”

“What do you mean?” Allison asks suspiciously. Lydia’s hand is roaming over the rack of collars now, looking for something in particular.

“I mean that six and a half days out of the week, you can wear that bullet around your neck and be Allison Argent, hunter princess, and on Sunday nights you come home and take it all off,” she says. “That’s what the ropes are for, right? To remind you who you’re not trying to be.” She finally pauses over one collar: wide, padded leather dyed a rich oxblood red, a single silver fastening on the front. “This would look good on you.”

Allison stands very, very still as Lydia reaches around from behind her to set the leather of the collar against her throat. She can see herself in the mirror. It does look good. It looks right.

“You put it on yourself when you’re ready to take off everything else and just do this,” Lydia says. “If you want it.”

Allison looks at herself in the mirror, and says, “I want it.”

Lydia takes her time checking the mail after dinner on Sunday night. By the time she gets up to the room, Allison has her shirt off and her new collar on.

She’s kneeling. God, she’d never think it anywhere but Sunday night, but Lydia loves the sight of Allison on her knees.

Lydia locks the deadbolt on the door and pulls the chain, slowly, methodically. Allison watches her, but she doesn’t move.

“I’m going to set some things up,” Lydia says. She moved some of her winter sweaters around, and they repurposed an old trunk for sex and bondage supplies. Unless they decide to move it, it’s going to live under Lydia’s bed, parallel to the trunk of weaponry under Allison’s. “Can you push the beds together and lay some towels down?”

Allison hasn’t gone under yet. She’s not the same as everyday, walking-around Allison, with her quiet and the way she’s watching Lydia for orders, but Lydia can tell. She’s waiting. That’s fine. They have all night.

Lydia kneels down on the floor while Allison shoves furniture around, opening the trunk to consider the contents. There are so many possibilities tonight. There’s a whole world for them to explore in here, week by week.

Of course, Lydia’s been thinking about tonight since their little shopping trip on Wednesday, and she knows exactly how she wants this to go. They’ll start simple. She pulls out the restraint cuffs and leaves the ropes for next time.

“Is there anything you want to try tonight, Allison?” They’re avoiding pet names for this. It feels too weird, too divorced from who they actually are. They’re stepping outside themselves for a night, but they don’t need to become different people. This only works because they are Lydia and Allison, and they already trust each other for things a lot bigger than a little sex.

“Can you kiss me first?” Allison asks. Lydia looks over. Allison’s laying towels over the bedspreads, and glances back over her shoulder. “Before you take me all the way down. I just want to see.”

“I can do that,” Lydia agrees. “Anything else?”

“The whole point is that I don’t have to be in charge of deciding that,” Allison says. “Anything you want.”

“Okay then.” Lydia straightens up, supplies in hand. “When you’re done with that, take your clothes off and get on the bed.” Allison hesitates, looks at her. Lydia nods. “All of your clothes. Even the underwear.”

Lydia commandeers the bedside table for her stash, and slips out of her shoes. She doesn’t want to get naked. This isn’t about her, not like that. This is about Allison, and all the ways Lydia wants to take control, physically, sexually, to make Allison fall apart. Lydia’s own sexuality doesn’t even really come into it. Lydia’s ability to feel powerful does--and she always feels more powerless when she’s naked. It’s why she’s always made Allison take off at least her shirt, ever since the beginning.

Still, Lydia’s not getting sweat and massage oil and god knows what else on her good blouse. So. Midnight blue cotton camisole, machine-washable, fluttery little soft knee-length skirt that Lydia can move around in perfectly well, and Lydia leaves her shoes near the door. She ties her hair back at the nape of her neck. She can work with this.

Allison’s done. It’s time to get moving.

“Come here, first.” Lydia steps up to the side of the bed, and Allison obediently crawls across the bed towards her. She’s all dark wild hair, dark eyes, the dark red of that collar vivid against miles of pale skin, all the way down to the untrimmed thatch of hair between her legs. She’s a work of art. God. The things Lydia is going to do to her.

But first, Lydia made a promise. She catches Allison’s cheek in her palm and leans up to press their lips together.

Allison kisses back this time, opens her lips before Lydia does, sweeps her tongue demandingly into Lydia’s mouth. Lydia allows it for a few moments before she slides her fingers back into Allison’s hair and tugs.

“Not tonight,” Lydia admonishes. “You’re not in charge tonight, remember? We do this my way.”

“I--” Lydia runs a soothing thumb over Allison’s eyebrow, tracing the lines of her features softly.

“Shh,” Lydia says. “I’ve got you, remember? It’s like this.”

This time, Lydia sweeps her lips across Allison’s mouth wet and deliberate, and Allison lets her. It’s a little like the kiss Lydia wanted to give last week, something slow and deep and claiming, only this time Lydia actually has prior consent for it. Lydia has prior consent for everything, tonight.

“There,” she says when she finally pulls away. Allison’s pupils are dilated. It’s a good time to move on to the next thing. “Now lie down on your side for me, and hold your ankles with your hands.”

“In front or behind?” Allison asks. She’s already moving to obey.

“Behind,” says Lydia, reaching for the restraints. “I’m going to chain you up, and I’m going to touch you everywhere, and I’m going to take you apart and make you come, and then I’m going to put you back together. Any questions?”

Allison takes a deep, shuddering breath. “Tell me you want this,” she says, and it’s phrased like an order but it sounds more like begging.

Lydia’s eyes trace over the curve of Allison’s back as it arches backwards, the fluttering of her pulse against the leather collar, the flush that’s already blooming in Allison’s cheeks. Lydia swallows. “I want this,” she says. “Now hold still.”

The cuff clicks tight around Allison’s wrist with a sound like something perfect locking into place.

The cuffs don’t dig into Allison’s wrists like all those times she practiced getting out of her father’s handcuffs. They’re padded and lined with something soft, something that won’t chafe against her skin. They’re two and a half inches wide and completely solid, attached to the matching shackles around her ankles with four inches of thick chain. Allison isn’t going anywhere without Lydia’s say-so, tonight.

Her shoulders will ache if she’s left like this for too long, and her hips are just starting to get sore from the way her legs are being pulled backwards, but for now she’s stretched just taut enough without having to strain to hold position. When she relaxes her muscles, the shackles tug her limbs back into place for her.

“This is a simple hog tie,” Lydia says. Her fingers trace patterns against Allison’s scalp, tugging through Allison’s hair. “Traditionally you’d be flat on your stomach, but I wanted to be able to see your face at first.” Allison can only imagine what her face looks like right now. “I can see you thinking, you know,” Lydia adds. “It’s okay. Let go.”

“It’s a little hard tonight,” Allison mutters. She keeps remembering just how naked she is. She knows what’s supposed to happen later. She saw everything Lydia put down on the night stand.

“Allison.” Lydia leaves one hand in Allison’s hair, and runs the other down Allison’s side, over the curve of her hip and her very bare ass, and along Allison’s thigh. She does it again, and then again, calm even touches like she’s gentling a horse. Allison feels a little like a nervous animal right now.

“You trust me,” Lydia says. “I know you do. Remember that I have this under control. I have a plan. I know every step of the plan. It’s all going to work out. You don’t need to worry about what comes next.” Lydia runs her fingernails along Allison’s scalp to the very nape of her neck, then takes a gentle hold of the back of Allison’s collar and tugs. It’s not enough to choke off Allison’s breathing, but it’s enough to remind her of exactly what’s clasped around her throat right now. Allison put it there herself. “Your job is to only worry about what’s going on right now, and to trust completely that I’ll take good care of you tonight. I know you can do that.”

“I can do that.” Allison can’t just let go of the reins, but she can hand them to Lydia.

“There is a plan,” Lydia says soothingly. “I promise. I won’t surprise you with anything. And right now, the plan says that you remember I’m right here to anchor you down, and you let yourself fall.”

Subspace, Lydia’s books and websites call it. Allison still isn’t completely sure she’s got it right. She can’t get there all at once, not even with the shackles on and Lydia’s hand in her hair, but she remembers the sensation of freefall.

“Pay attention to your breathing,” Lydia says. “That’s all you need to worry about right now. I’ve got everything else.”

Allison breathes and focuses on the tug in her shoulders, and Lydia’s hands stroke over her, again and again, until Allison can’t remember how long she’s been lying here or even what time means at all.

“Good,” Lydia says at some point, “very good, Allison. That’s my good girl. I’m going to kiss you again now.”

Allison parts her lips automatically to let Lydia’s tongue in, to let Lydia take whatever she pleases from Allison’s mouth. Lydia kisses her like she wants, like she covets something about Allison for her very own--if not Allison herself, then her body’s limp submission. Lydia wants to see Allison surrender. She wants Allison at her very most vulnerable. And Allison knew, but with all the hunger in that kiss, she can feel it for the very first. Lydia wants her. Every bit of Lydia’s attention, her desire, is focused on Allison. Allison shudders, lets her mouth fall open wider, yielding. Lydia cups the back of Allison’s head in one hand, and takes.

“There we go.” Lydia’s voice is so steady that Allison actually blinks her eyes open to look. There’s a pink flush in Lydia’s cheeks, and her lips are damp and red. “You’re beautiful like this.” She tucks a strand of hair behind Allison’s ear.

“So are you,” Allison says honestly. Lydia nods, like she already knows--she must, of course she does.

“Do you want me to touch you somewhere new?” Lydia asks. She glides her hand over the joint of Allison’s shoulder, then back between Allison’s shoulderblades, where all the muscles are starting to ache, fingers working harder into the tissue.

“Yes, please,” says Allison.

“Where?” And Lydia’s touching her throat, now, tracing a finger along Allison’s collarbones and down along the valley of her breastbone towards her stomach. Allison closes her eyes with a sigh.

“Anywhere,” she says. “Everywhere.”

“Here?” Lydia asks. Her fingers tickle along the bottom edge of Allison’s ribs. “Or here?” A hand, caressing over Allison’s hip, finding the crease between body and thigh with one fingertip and sliding it all the way down to the place where Allison’s thighs pressed together. “Hmmm.” Lydia’s fingers slip between Allison’s thighs without too much effort, her palm lying flat, the whole hand feeling like it could only be a hairsbreadth away from brushing up against Allison’s labia. “Should I touch you here?”

“If you want to.” Allison’s not really wet, yet. Maybe she’s supposed to be. But Lydia hasn’t gotten mad at her for anything so far, and there was a bottle of lubricant on the table, and it’s not Allison’s job to worry about what they might do next tonight. If Lydia wants to touch her there, with her hand, her fingers, with one of the brand new sex toys, then it will be good. Lydia’s ideas have all been good so far.

“Not yet,” says Lydia. Her hand slides out from between Allison’s thighs, fingers tickling against the skin as they go. “Later, I promise, but not until you want it enough to beg for it.”

“Then what next?” Allison squirms a little, and Lydia lays a calming hand on her shoulder.

“Everything else,” Lydia says. She moves her hand slowly, telegraphing her destination, but the flick of her thumb over Allison’s nipple is still startling. “Everything else.”

It takes less than ten minutes for Allison to start to writhe. Less than ten minutes of Lydia fondling her breasts and listening for the little hitch in Allison’s breath every time Lydia tweaks a nipple, of dipping her fingers down the crack of Allison’s ass, just a little deeper and slower each time, and watching how all her muscles clench. Allison’s ass is going to have to be a thing in the future, probably. Lydia knows her girl. If she doesn’t keep finding ways to make Allison feel challenged, Sunday bondage nights are going to run out of steam within the month.

It’s less than ten minutes of Lydia bending in close to take Allison’s mouth, to claim with kiss after kiss what Allison always cedes so willingly. Lydia knew it would be satisfying, but she hadn’t expected to feel this turned on. She can only imagine how Allison’s feeling.

Well. Judging by the way Allison’s breathing has been getting more and more ragged, Lydia already knows, doesn’t she?

“Allison,” Lydia says. “I’m going to turn you over onto your stomach. You don’t need to help, just trust me.”

“Yes, Lydia.” It’s not begging yet, but Allison’s voice is strained and she’s clearly starting to ache for something. Lydia can help with that.

She takes Allison by the shoulder and the knee and tugs gently. If Allison were resisting, this would be harder, but Allison is limp, dead weight, and Lydia overbalances her onto her front easily. Allison’s face is half buried in the pillow now, hard to see and touch and kiss, but Lydia can hear her breathing and watch the line of her back and shoulders for tension, and she knows those parts of Allison’s body well enough by now to catch the slightest hint.

“I want you to spread your knees,” Lydia says. “I want you as open as you can get without your thighs hurting.”

“Yes, Lydia.” It’s an awkward position for moving, but Allison does her best. Lydia sits on the bed just below Allison’s knees and rests a hand on Allison’s shackled ankles while she tries.

“Hmmm,” Lydia says. Allison’s thighs make a narrow V against the bed, wide enough to get a hand between them, but probably not as wide as they can go. “I think you can hold it a little bit wider, don’t you?”

“Yes, Lydia,” Allison agrees, and Lydia pets her hair for it.

“I’m going to help you,” she says. “I want you to tell me to stop if you think I’m going to pull or strain something, understand?”

“Yes, Lydia,” Allison says yet again, the perfect obedient chorus telling Lydia just how zoned out she is already. Lydia places one hand on the inside of each thigh, close enough that Allison can probably feel the air current move past her pussy, and tugs. Allison’s legs spread a couple of inches, then a little more before Lydia hits resistance and stops. The idea isn’t to strain Allison’s muscles, it’s just to leave her as wide and wanting as Lydia can possibly get.

“There we go,” Lydia says. She lets up pressure, but leaves her hands where they are. “That’s my good girl. Can you hold that for me?”

“Yes, Lydia. Thank you.” Good.

“So,” Lydia says. She traces little circles along the insides of Allison’s thighs, up and down, just close enough to brush across wiry strands of hair and back down again, spiralling bigger and bigger. “Do you think it’s time for me to touch you here?” She runs the tip of one finger, so light it’s almost like Lydia’s not making contact at all, against the very edge of Allison’s labia, then immediately goes back to abstract patterns on the inner thigh.

Allison’s breath catches in her throat. “If you think so, Lydia,” she says, which shows good retention of the rules but definitely isn’t begging, yet. Lydia wants to hear begging.

“I don’t think it’s time yet,” Lydia says. “I don’t think it’s going to be time until you can’t stand it any more. I think I’m just going to get closer and closer and closer until you’re dripping for me. I think I’m going to make you need it.”

Allison’s definitely damp now, Lydia can feel the warm moisture between her legs. Lydia runs her fingers through the wiry pubic hair along the crease of Allison’s thigh, closer, but still not quite there. With Allison pulled open like this, Lydia can look right down where her hips meet the bed, at the dark pink folds just waiting for a little stimulation--or Lydia can look up, where Allison’s shoulders are starting to shake.

“Yes please,” Allison says. Lydia gives the inside of her thigh a sharp flick with a fingertip.

“Yes please what?” she says. It’s a good sign if Allison’s forgetting the script, but that’s no reason not to enforce it.

“Yes please, Lydia,” Allison says. Lydia rewards her by dragging a single finger from the tip of Allison’s tailbone, down the crack of her ass to slip between the folds of her labia, stopping just short of Allison’s hole.

“Let’s see what we can do,” Lydia says. Allison’s thighs tremble.

Lydia’s never touched another woman before, so that’s reason enough to be thorough. All it takes is a little basic anatomical knowledge to avoid actually brushing up against Allison’s clitoris while she runs her fingers around and around, feeling out the edges of Allison’s pussy without ever dipping too far in. Labia majora, and Lydia tugs on the little strands of hair that grow so thick on Allison, like she’s never waxed or even shaved above mid-thigh in her life. Mons pubis, up and under, Lydia’s hand pressed between the towel on the bed and the soft curve of Allison’s mound against the heel of her palm. Labia minora, Lydia pinches the thin skin and rolls it between her fingers, examining how much it feels like her own, how Allison’s whole body twitches under Lydia’s touch. There’s too much slack in the hogtie, if Allison can move her legs that much. Lydia puts her left hand over Allison’s ankles and pushes down, one inch, two. It’s easy to cinch the chain tighter. Just a little bit more tension.

“Good?” Lydia asks. Labia minora to the clitoral hood, that little flap of skin, and Lydia runs her fingernails over it so very carefully, just barely skirting around the little swelling bud of the clitoris. She’s going to torture that later. She’s going to torture Allison with every pleasure she can find, and a few she might invent right on the spot.

“Please, Lydia,” Allison gasps, and Lydia smiles.

“Good girl,” she says. “Let’s hear some more.”

Allison is dying.

She’s floating, lost, held safe and in place by the shackles around her wrists and ankles, by Lydia’s hand, so hot between her legs. If Lydia doesn’t actually touch Allison’s clit soon, Allison is going to black out and die of wanting. If she does, Allison might explode.

Please, Lydia,” she begs. Inside, inside would be good too, if Lydia would just thrust her fingers up and in and Allison could feel solid and full and whole around them.

Instead, Allison gets the gentle scrape of fingernails circling around the places where she needs them so badly. It’s a need, it is, and Lydia promised she’d take care of Allison, she promised.

“Please, Lydia, I need it,” Allison gasps. Everything between her legs feels hot and wet and sticky, and empty, and desperate. “Please.”

“Hmmm,” Lydia says. Her fingers don’t stop moving, and they don’t come any closer to the places where Allison wants them most. “You need it, or you need me? Tell me what you want, Allison. Tell me exactly what you want.”

“Touch me,” Allison says. “Lydia, please.”

“Touch you where?” Lydia asks. Her finger skims just over the top of Allison’s clit and disappears again, and Allison moans into the pillow. “Here?” And then a moment later, there’s a finger dipping right into Allison’s cunt, pushing, pressing against her walls, and pulling right back out like it was never there. “Or here?”

Yes,” gasps Allison. “Please.”

“You just want me to touch you,” Lydia says. “You don’t want to come?”

“I…” Allison’s brain can’t handle the question right now, not with Lydia still rubbing and pinching and teasing down there, not with the way she’s throbbing right now. “Please,” she says again, and hopes it’ll be enough.

“Hmm,” says Lydia. “You know, I’m going to give you a choice.”

And then her fingers are gone.

Allison gasps against the sudden loss of sensation. Her hips keep trying to thrust against the bed, against anything, but her legs are tied so tight and her knees are spread so wide that she barely has the leverage to move. She’s caught, and Lydia’s moving away, not touching anything at all, and Allison wants.

“Shh, here we go,” Lydia says. There’s her hand again, on the inside of Allison’s thigh. Just one thigh, and just short of Allison’s pussy all over again, but it’s an anchor. It’s better than nothing. “You’re getting a choice, Allison, so pay attention.”

“Yes, Lydia.” Whatever will get some pressure on her, in her, wherever Allison needs it, that’s what she chooses. Lydia’s fingers rub little circles on the skin of her thigh.

“You can have my fingers,” says Lydia. “Just like we’ve been doing. And I can tease you as long as it takes for you to come, just from that. And maybe if you’re very very good I’ll touch you where you want me and maybe I won’t, but you can come whenever you want to. As many times as you want to, for me. Do you understand, Allison?”

Torture. It sounds like torture. “Yes, Lydia,” Allison confirms, and something hard and cold presses against the inside of her other thigh.

“Or,” says Lydia, “I can use this.” There’s a click, and the thing starts buzzing, vibrating up against Allison’s thigh, shooting bolts of sensation right through to her core.

“Yes,” Allison gasps. The vibrations are already getting to her. Maybe this way she can get some relief.

“Oh,” says Lydia, “You haven’t heard my conditions yet.” The vibrator traces little circles, just like Lydia’s hand on Allison’s other thigh, so close to where it needs to go.

“I can put this exactly where you want it,” Lydia says. “I can put this right over your clit and keep it there, but you’re not allowed to come until I say you can. What do you think? Do you think you can do it?”

Allison is nothing but quaking flesh and desperate need, ready to fly apart in a thousand directions, held together by Lydia’s shackles and Lydia’s hands. “I don’t know, Lydia.” She can barely hold herself together, that’s what Lydia’s for, and Allison needs but she doesn’t know…

“Hey, shh, shh,” Lydia soothes, and the vibrator falls away entirely. Lydia rubs the small of Allison’s back, firm and comforting.

“I won’t ask too much,” she promises. “I don’t want to hurt you, and I don’t want you to fail. But I know you can try to do this for me. I know you can hold on for me, just for a little while. Do you believe me?”

Do you believe me is like do you trust me, it only has one answer. “Yes, Lydia,” Allison says.

“Good,” Lydia says. “That’s my good girl. We’re going to do this, I’m going to give you the vibrator right where you want it most, and you’re going to hold on for just a little while, and then we’re going to do it all over again.”

Something clicks open, and Lydia’s rubbing slows, like she’s distracted for a minute. “All over again?” The words catch in Allison’s throat. She feels like she’s drowning. She wants to drown.

“Oh, we’re going to keep going just as long as I say we are,” Lydia says. “You’re going to come for me again, and again, and again.” Another click, and Allison can hear the vibrator buzzing, but it’s not touching her skin yet. “Now. Remember I’ve got you, and hold on for me.”

Lydia grabs one of Allison’s ankles and holds her steady, and then the vibrator touches down right over Allison’s clit. Allison gasps and all her muscles try to spasm, to jerk away, to jerk towards, but Lydia’s holding her too tight. All Allison can do is lie there and pant while the ripples of sensation tear through her.

It’s pure relief for the first second, perfect, pressure and the buzzing of the vibrator so exactly where Allison’s needed them. “Yes,” Allison breathes. “Yes, god, thank you, Lydia.”

“Anything for you.” The vibrator slides back and forth, unexpectedly slick, not quite enough friction just yet. Lydia’s tracing figure eights over Allison’s clit, slow and then fast, letting up pressure and then pushing down hard, no pattern, enough to make Allison try automatically to push into it, needing more, wanting more. Lydia just pushes down on Allison’s ankle until she can’t move her hips at all, draws the vibrator away entirely for one split second of desperation, and then presses it in, sudden and hard enough to make Allison whimper.

She could come now. She could come right now, it’s heating up her toes, tingling her muscles and her spine. She could, she could, but Lydia doesn’t want her to, Lydia wants Allison to be good, so Allison holds her breath and shakes.

“Are you holding it?” Lydia asks. “Do you want to come right now, are you holding it off for me?”

“Yes, Lydia,” Allison gasps. She has to breathe, has to answer, has to be--has to hold strong, has to keep--

“There’s my girl.” Allison can’t think, can’t feel anything but the boiling, rising need to come, how easy it would be to go off right now, but Lydia’s voice is a calm, steady ribbon in the darkness. “That’s my girl, you’re going to take this for me. You’re holding on, and you’re going to keep holding on, and you’re not going to come.” The vibrator slips little circles around Allison’s clit, never in any one place long enough for her to get used to it, to try and block some of it out. It’s a constant, relentless assault, and Allison is ready, she’s so ready, and she can’t even breathe, all she can do is hold on.

Everything in the world is hazy and distant and black. “You can do this,” Lydia says. Allison can do this. “Just hold out a little longer. Let yourself feel it, Allison, I want you to feel it.” The vibrator twists in a little harder, and Allison almost trips and falls over the edge, only just barely hangs on, somehow, it’s wave after wave of sensation and she’s caught in the current, riding pulse after pulse, everything hot and tingling and distant and invisible and the world is completely gone and the whole world is right here, hard plastic and Lydia’s palm on her skin, and it doesn’t make any sense but nothing in Allison’s head makes sense. Lydia tweaks her just a little harder again with the vibrator, and Allison sobs.

“There’s my good girl,” Lydia says. “Can you beg me for it? Can you beg me to come?” Allison doesn’t know what words are any more. “Can you even speak?”

There’s a wail, a moan, something low and shuddering that might be in Allison’s ears or deep in her chest, she doesn’t know, sensations and sounds are all caught together right now. “Okay,” says Lydia. “Okay, that’s enough. That’s good, Allison. You can come for me now.”

She almost doesn’t understand the words at first. She almost doesn’t know how to stop holding out, holding on, riding the impossible current, and then everything shifts, and Allison falls.

She can barely even feel the orgasm as pleasure; it’s an earthquake tearing through her, almost painful, shuddering her down to the bones. Allison lays there and doesn’t fight it, none of the aftershocks as Lydia keeps the vibrator held right there against her, right where Allison’s too sensitive and it’s all much too much, and spasm after spasm wrecks her, over and over again.

She can’t pull away. She can’t even move. All Allison can do is lie there and sob into the pillow and let it all happen.

It feels like the purest surrender she’s ever known.

Lydia’s brought the dead back to life, but she’s never, not once in her life, ever felt this powerful.

Allison, Lydia’s best friend, heir to the Argent hunter throne, deadly, beautiful, independent Allison, is nothing more than a wreck right now. She’s down to panting and mewling, tiny, broken kitten noises beyond pain or pleasure, just barely conscious enough for a “Yes, Lydia” that Lydia’s not sure Allison even hears herself say. Her muscles are so limp, except when Lydia twists the vibrator and parts of Allison still tense and shudder, even now. Lydia’s running it like an experiment. How many orgasms can she force Allison’s body through before it’s physiologically impossible to stay conscious? It’s been somewhere between two and four so far, depending on where you draw the lines between one orgasm and the next, and Allison’s not coherent enough to weigh in. Allison’s not coherent enough to remember her own name.

She remembers Lydia’s name.

Even if Allison has no idea what’s going on beyond her own headspace right now, her body still responds to Lydia’s touch. And Lydia did this, did it all on her own, did it so well, and she managed to do it all because Allison let her.

Allison trusts her so much, to let Lydia hold her like this, touch her like this, see her like this, and it feels like something enormous welling up inside Lydia: heavy in a way that makes Lydia feel so very grounded, so solid. Allison is letting Lydia carry her, and Lydia can.

“You’re so good,” Lydia soothes. “You’re so good, Allison.”

“Sssssto…” Allison hisses something out that might be ‘stop’ or nonsense noise, and it’s not remotely like their safeword, but Lydia pulls the vibrator away instantly. Allison cries out, something high-pitched and desperate.

“Do you want me to stop?” Lydia asks. She rubs along Allison’s shin, ankle to knee, where she’s been holding it, something firm and steady and soothing.

“No, no, no.” Allison is mumbling, half-coherent. Lydia frowns.

“Allison,” she says firmly. “Allison, can you hear my voice?”

“Yes, Lydia.” That’s clearer, better. Lydia squeezes Allison’s calf.

“Red, yellow, green, Allison?”

For a few moments, the only sounds are the vibrator, still buzzing in Lydia’s hand, and Allison’s labored panting. Allison gulps, gasps some more, and Lydia holds her steady and waits.

“Not red,” Allison says, which is a good answer but not quite the one Lydia’s looking for. Lydia thumbs the ‘off’ switch on the vibrator.

“Tell me how you feel, Allison,” Lydia orders. She shifts position so she can reach around Allison’s leg, rub a hand over her back. “What do you feel right now?”

“Um,” says Allison distantly. “I don’t…”

She sounds almost distressed, so Lydia shushes her when it’s obvious there’s no more answer coming. “Shh, shh, it’s okay,” she promises. “I’ve got you.”

Several times in the portion of BDSM literature that Lydia considered respectable enough to take into account, various authors had talked about subs getting incoherent or non-responsive, as a part of subspace. It’s fine, apparently it’s to be expected, but if Allison can’t even tell good from something nearing her danger zone then that’s enough for tonight.

“Please,” Allison says, although Lydia’s pretty sure even Allison’s not sure what she’s begging for any more. “Please, just…”

“Okay,” says Lydia. “It’s okay.”

She runs her hands over the parts of Allison that are in easy reach, firm touches and long, steady sweeps of her hand, everything slow and calm. Allison whimpers when Lydia reaches back between her legs. The whole area is sticky with drying lube and Allison’s own juices, probably impossibly oversensitized, and Lydia presses her hand firm against Allison’s whole pussy.

“I’ve got you here,” Lydia says, and doesn’t rub or stroke anything that’s probably much too tender, just gives Allison something solid after more than half an hour of buzzing. Allison pants, and Lydia rubs at her legs, the probably-aching muscles in her thighs. “I’m very happy with you, Allison. You’ve done well. You’re a good girl.”

Nonsense words and comforting hands, and Lydia eventually ends up all the way back at Allison’s head, stroking her hair with Allison’s head in Lydia’s lap. It’s warm, comfortable, a little bit perfect. Lydia loves Allison so much right now, for everything she is, for the fact that she’s willing to share it.

“How are you feeling?” Lydia asks again, and Allison takes a deep, shuddering breath.

“Good,” she says, which is an answer even if it’s not very descriptive, which probably means she’s starting to come back. Lydia runs a hand down Allison’s shoulder towards her elbow. It’s probably about time.

“Okay, Allison,” Lydia says. “I’m going to unchain your hands from your feet. I’m going to leave your hands together and your feet together, but you’re going to be able to lie flat on your stomach, do you understand?”

Another deep breath. “Yes, Lydia.” Lydia reaches over to the nightstand for the key.

She has to help Allison stretch her legs out, to unbend her knees and her hips and rest all her weight easy on the bed. Allison moans in the closest thing to pain Lydia’s heard from her all night, and Lydia winces. Hopefully they didn’t overdo it completely.

“Let’s try to rub some of those kinks out,” Lydia says. This, she’s been doing for weeks. This, she knows.

She massages down Allison’s shoulders, back, the backside of her thighs, and works her way back up. “Are you ready to have your hands free, Allison?” Lydia asks.

“Just my hands?” Allison asks.

Lydia holds one of Allison’s hands in hers, entwines their fingers, and squeezes. “For now, just your hands,” she says. “I want to roll you on your back.”

“Okay,” Allison says slowly. “I can...yes, Lydia.”

Allison’s coming back little bit by little bit, and she was so perfect in those moments of surrender that it’s almost tragic to watch, but this is the flip side of things. Anybody can break somebody. Lydia gets to help guide every shattered part of Allison back into place until she’s made solid again. And Lydia never, ever calls things finished until the job is done.

Lydia leaves the cuffs on Allison’s wrist, but unbinds the chain connecting them. Allison is a dead weight to roll onto her back.

The first thing Lydia does is bend over Allison’s face, looking it over so carefully for the first time since what seems like another century. Her eyes and nose are red, everything sloppy with tear tracks and what looks like it might have been snot or drool. She’s smiling. She’s beautiful.

“Hey,” Lydia says, and Allison looks right at her and smiles.

“Hi,” she says. Lydia brushes some of her hair out of her eyes.

“Can I kiss you right now?” Lydia asks.

“Please,” says Allison.

It’s different from before, slower, more tender. Allison kisses back this time--not much, but she seems more tired than willfully submissive. Lydia knows the feeling. Now that she’s starting to step back, to pay attention to her own body as well as Allison’s, Lydia’s starting to realize that she’s only a few steps away from shaking with exhaustion.

They break apart. Lydia strokes her thumb across Allison’s cheekbone, brushing away some of the still-damp tears. Allison looks younger than Lydia’s ever known her. For that alone, this was worth it.

“There she is,” Lydia says quietly. “That’s my girl.”

Everything feels so very still. Allison’s core, wherever it is that she keeps her self, feels still.

Maybe it’s just that she’s worn out, but Allison’s never felt tired like this. Everything is so calm, so peaceful. She can’t stop smiling.

Lydia rubs feeling back into her aching hips from the front, and down Allison’s quads to her knees, while Allison stares at the ceiling and wonders why she’s crying. She’s not sad. She’s not angry. She’s not feeling anything, exactly, or maybe she’s feeling everything. The tears are trickling out from the corners of her eyes and sliding down the sides of her face, getting caught in her hair, and she can’t stop smiling.

Allison’s never had sex that made her feel like this. She’s never had sex that made her feel anything like that in the moment, either, but this is more than that. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe Allison’s thoughts barely make sense to her any more.

What she knows is that the halo of darkness she’s been living with for more than two years seems farther away right now than it ever has before, and she can’t stop smiling.

Lydia unbinds Allison’s feet somewhere along the way, and leaves the cuffs around her wrists for almost-last. She has to help Allison sit up, and it makes Allison actually laugh, how completely free she feels, almost like she’s ready to float away.

“Here,” Lydia says, presenting Allison with an enormous glass of water out of god-knows-where. “Drink all of it.”

Allison sips at it, and grins at Lydia over the rim of the glass. “You know, you don’t have to tell me what to do any more,” she says.

“Then take off that collar,” says Lydia, and Allison goes still.

It hasn’t been that long, maybe a couple of hours at most, but she’d completely forgotten that the subtle weight against her throat hadn’t always been there. Lydia holds her water glass while Allison fumbles for the clasp on the collar. It takes two tries to get it off.

The room is warm, even though Allison is naked, and humid, but the air against her throat feels cold. When she looks at the leather, it’s stained dark with sweat.

“That doesn’t look very good for it,” Allison comments, running her thumb over a damp patch.

“Honestly, Allison, haven’t I taught you anything about taking care of one’s wardrobe?” Lydia asks. “There are ways to protect leather. Now, as your best friend and not as your dom.” Lydia holds the glass out again. “Drink the water. You just did something extremely intense and lost a lot of fluid. Dehydration is not a joke.”

Allison takes the glass, but at ‘lost a lot of fluid’, she can’t help glancing over the towels. They definitely look wetter than she expected.

“Tell me we didn’t soak all the way through to the comforter,” Allison says. Lydia slides a hand beneath one of the towels and grimaces.

“Well, you did gush a lot.” She sounds so matter-of-fact that Allison doesn’t even get a chance to be embarrassed, because she’s too busy choking on her water and trying not to get it up her nose.

“Oh my god,” Allison gasps once she can breathe again. “Lydia!

“What? It was flattering. Next time we’ll use more towels.”

And that’s it, that’s all the awkwardness they’re going to have about any of it. Allison thinks the word for this feeling might be ‘euphoria’. She’s in love with it.

“So, somebody has to clean up this mess, and you definitely need a shower,” says Lydia. Allison definitely feels sticky...everywhere, with sweat if not other things, so she nods. “You want to do that while I put everything away and see what I can do about the beds?”

“I can help,” Allison offers immediately.

“Great, then you can push the furniture around while I take a shower,” says Lydia, and it’s perfectly fair but something about it sticks in the back of Allison’s head even as she heads into their little ensuite with one of the few remaining clean towels.

She’s trying to wash her hair when she realizes she’s shaking. She’s alone, and she’s shaking, and the shower is hot but Allison is suddenly so, so cold.

“Come on, Allison,” she says out loud, even though the sound of her voice gets garbled in the spray. This is an endorphin crash. She knows what those feel like. It makes sense. It’s all just endorphins, and maybe blood sugar, and there’s no reason for Allison to be feeling so incredibly alone when Lydia is right on the other side of the door.

She makes it through the rest of the shower, wraps herself as tightly in her bathrobe as she can, and steels herself to look as okay as possible on the other side of the door. Of course, Lydia glances up from the duvet she’s laying over a chair to dry, takes one look at Allison’s face, and that plan falls apart entirely. To be fair Allison isn’t at her planning best right now.

“Oh, no,” Lydia says. She steps forward towards Allison like it’s automatic, and Allison freezes without quite knowing why. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” says Allison. “I’m fine.”

“Allison, that is not the ‘fine’ look,” says Lydia. “I know the ‘fine look’. That’s the ‘I’m in the middle of a crash and don’t think I get to ask for help because I’m Allison Argent’ look.”

“I just need to eat something,” says Allison. That’s all she needs.

She wants Lydia to hold her again, but that’s not...they’re friends. They have separate beds. It’s fine. Allison doesn’t want Lydia like that, she never has before, she just...

“Of course you do, that’s why there’s ice cream in the minifridge,” says Lydia. “Sit down, I’ll get it for you.”

“Stop telling me what to do,” Allison snaps.

“Allison?” says Lydia. “As your best friend, who loves you, who is more than capable of telling that you’re really not okay and would be telling you what to do right now no matter how you got here? Sit down. We’re obviously not done with aftercare, and there’s no way I’m fooling around with subdrop in somebody I’m responsible for, or in my best friend. So sit down and let me get you the ice cream.”

Allison sits. Lydia gets her the ice cream.

“Allison,” Lydia says carefully, standing exactly an arm’s length away while Allison digs her spoon into a carton of rocky road and tries not to feel pathetic. “Do you want a hug?”

Allison sighs. “It’ll go away,” she says. “I’m just sort of a mess tonight.”

“Of course you’re a mess, I’m the one who made you that way, remember?” says Lydia. She sits down on the bed next to Allison, just shy of touching. “Which means that if you want to snuggle, we’re going to snuggle.” Allison looks up at her. “Yes, I said snuggle. Deal with it.”

“Is it going to be like this every time?” Allison asks.

The thing is, that quiet core part of her--it’s still there. The euphoria’s gone, the ice cream is calming the shakes, and she desperately wants somebody’s arms around her almost as much as she doesn’t want to need anybody like that ever again, but she feels so calm and solid underneath it all, like a mountain in the middle of a hurricane, that Allison thinks it was still worth it. She’ll do it again and again, if Lydia will take her there, for that feeling. She’s just not sure how to handle the rest of it.

“I don’t know,” says Lydia. “This is my first time, too. The literature says once I figure out what I’m doing, I should be able to ease you out of it a little better.”

“No, Lydia--” Allison automatically reaches over to put a hand on Lydia’s thigh before she even realizes what she’s doing. “You did a good job. You did a really good job.”

“And next time, I’ll do a better one,” says Lydia. “But we’re good?”

“We’re good,” Allison promises, and smiles, and actually means it this time.

“Good,” says Lydia. “Now, what do you want to do?”

Allison looks back down and thinks about it.

“Can you shower in the morning?” she asks. It’s not a fair thing to demand, but she doesn’t want Lydia that far away for that long.

“As long as I can get out of these clothes and wash my hands and face, absolutely,” Lydia agrees. “What else?”

“Then you’re going to get into your pajamas,” Allison says, firmer now, “and I’m going to get into my pajamas, and we’re going to leave the beds pushed together so we can curl up and watch something mindless on the laptop until we fall asleep.” It’s not even early enough to sleep yet. Time still doesn’t make sense, tonight.

“Perfect,” says Lydia. Then she pauses. “Allison, are we going to be watching Kim Possible for the next three hours?”

“...Maybe,” Allison hedges.

“Fine, but if you change your ringtone this week, I don’t know you,” says Lydia.

“Deal,” says Allison.

They end up spooned up together diagonally across the beds, under two sets of sheets and the spare winter quilt Lydia’s mother packed them off with just in case it got too chilly. Lydia’s five inches shorter than Allison is, but she doesn’t say anything, just tucks her chin over Allison’s shoulder and her arm over Allison’s waist, and makes catty remarks about Dr. Drakken’s competence as a villain compared to Peter Hale.

And Allison is safe.

And it’s good.

They don’t talk about it, really, until Thursday afternoon. Allison looks a little wobbly on Monday morning, but no more than any Monday so far, so Lydia lets her be. It’s probably best for both of them to get a little space. Lydia’s not going to tell her how much the cuddling and the ridiculous girl power cartoons were for Lydia, too. There’s a different kind of comedown, from being somebody’s entire world for a few hours.

So that’s Monday, and then Tuesday Lydia has a nighttime guest lecture to attend for her geopolitical science requirement, and Allison gets a call from her dad that leads to skipping two classes and taking off on a hunt after some kind of feral pig demon, and it’s all back to business as usual. Lydia survives the guest lecturer’s incredibly boring nightmare of a slideshow by checking her cell phone, set to silent, for Allison’s increasingly amused texts about the competence of her father’s latest recruits. Apparently, she and Scott spend about six hours sneaking around farmland just outside of Beacon County watching half a dozen ‘trained hunters’ fall flat on their asses in every possible way. Lydia almost breaks her composure and cracks up in the middle of the lecture hall when she gets the text about the farmer cornering one of the men with an actual shotgun.

There are things to do, and things to talk about, school and the pack and trying to maintain some tiny semblance of a personal life. By the time they’re done with the party Wednesday night where Lydia has to put in an appearance and drags Allison along with her, and the make-up quizzes on Thursday that Lydia helps Allison cram for over their hungover breakfast all morning, the week’s half gone by. Next Sunday’s only a few days away. And they should talk about it.

“So we’ll have a post-mortem,” Allison says, nodding briskly. The bullet on its long chain is back around her neck, right where it belongs, six and a half days out of the week. “What worked, what didn’t, what we want to do differently next time.”

“So what didn’t work?” Lydia asks.

“I...don’t know,” Allison admits. “I think it was good, don’t you?”

“I do,” Lydia agrees. “So maybe a better question is, which parts can we improve on? Obviously we’re not going to just keep doing the exact same thing every single Sunday night.”

“Oh, obviously,” Allison says, the way that means she’s mocking Lydia, just a little bit, but agreeing too. “Hardcore bondage and kinky sexual domination can get so repetitive after a while.”

“Sweetheart, if you think that was hardcore bondage, then you haven’t been reading the literature I keep leaving you,” says Lydia.

“Um,” says Allison. “I glanced at that, actually. Maybe we stick to the not-so-hardcore bondage for a while, then?” Lydia nods.

“I do have some ideas for different positions and rigs we might want to work our way up to,” she says. “Shibari is a respected art, done properly, and I’d say you’re more than flexible enough to try.” Lydia can already envision Allison in some of the rigs she’s seen. It’s too bad that Lydia would never dare try to take pictures of any of this, because it’s going to be breathtaking.

“Lydia,” Allison says. “Do you care that you didn’t get to…” She’s twisting her hands awkwardly. “You didn’t come,” she finally says bluntly.

“I know,” says Lydia. “So tell me, how much of that was actually about getting off for you?”

“Well, it probably helped with the endorphin rush,” says Allison. “It just doesn’t seem fair.”

“I get something else out of it,” Lydia says, and hopes against probability that that will be the end of it. Allison tilts her head curiously.

“Like what?” she asks.

“I told you,” says Lydia. “I like to be in control. I don’t necessarily want to do it all the time, especially not in the face of feral demon pigs and whatever you’re doing with your ridiculous French homework, but every once in a while it’s nice to be the complete, unchallenged authority.”

“No,” says Allison. “No, it’s more than that, it’s got to be. It’s not just nice.”

“Why not?” Lydia asks. “Why does it have to be something more, why can’t I just like it?”

“Lydia, what you did to me wasn’t nice. You broke me in half. You broke me harder than anything’s ever broken me before. You can’t do that just because it’s fun, there’s got to be something deeper there.” Allison faces her, sure, unafraid. “You care about me too much for there not to be something deeper there.”

“Fine!” says Lydia. “Fine. Do you know what it feels like, to do that to you? To have that much control over everything that happens to you, over everything you feel, everything you’re allowed to do?”

“Tell me,” says Allison.

“It feels like I’m god,” Lydia says bluntly. “For just a few hours, in this crazy, screwed-up life of ours, I’m your god. I can protect you, or I can destroy you, or I could take you all the way down into subspace and just leave you there, and I don’t, because I choose not to, and what I choose to do is the only thing that matters. When I say I like control, I don’t mean I get a little bit nitpicky over details, I mean that once a week, I want nothing more than to tie up and torture my best friend, just because I can. And maybe I don’t like it, but there it is. I’m good at it, it makes me happy, it makes you happy, and it’s not sexual for me.”

She’s a little afraid to really look at Allison, but when she does, Allison just offers her a soft little smile. “Once a week, I want nothing more than to have my best friend tie me up and torture me, just so I don’t have to deal with the rest of my life,” she says. “We all have to deal in our own ways, right?”

“Right,” says Lydia. “Exactly.” There’s no reason to act like that’s more than she expected. Allison’s her best friend. It’s her job to like the things about Lydia that Lydia’s not even sure she likes herself.

“I get it,” says Allison. “At least, I think I do. It sounds like something I could really get into, sometime.”

“Would you want to?” Lydia asks hesitantly. She’s not sure she could do what Allison’s done for her. Not even for Allison.

“Maybe someday,” Allison says. “For now, this is what I need.”

“Okay,” says Lydia. “Alright, then! How about that post-mortem?”

Allison nods, willing to follow the topic change easily. “You said something about ideas for other rigs?” she prompts.

“Why yes I did.” Lydia pulled her books out of the trunk in preparation for this very conversation; now she flips one of them open to the first post-it marker, and waves Allison over to look. “Here, I think this one might be good to start with.”

“Hmm, but would that actually be that constricting?” Allison asks, tracing the line of a rope with one fingertip. “It looks like it’s mostly for aesthetics.”

“It’s meant to be used as more of a base for more complicated things,” says Lydia. “Of course, we don’t exactly have bedposts, or furniture that isn’t housing-provided crap, or the ceiling joists to support a suspension rig--”

“Suspension rig?” Allison asks, her voice climbing a few notes.

“We’ll get there,” Lydia assures her. “Now, this next one here…”