AN: Thank you to my beta, forsweatervests, whose beta voice I have started hearing in my head. She always, always makes my stories one billion times better. I am using this for the "broken bones" square of my hc_bingo.
Mike went to Victor’s because it was the kind of place neither Jessica nor Harvey would be caught dead in, and if that meant he couldn’t get what he really needed, in this instance, he would take whatever he could get and be grateful for it. Mike doubted he'd be able to ask for what he needed ever again, not when Harvey had so carefully played things out to keep Mike safe in his professional life. Donna’s lecture about what Harvey was willing to give up to take care of Mike would not stop replaying in his head. Donna’s furious gaze was locked in his memory, shading his emotions a kind of cold, blue color that hurt his head.
Worse, whenever he tried to think of something else, all he could see was the guarded betrayal in Jessica’s eyes. She was off-limits as well. While Mike wasn't entirely sure why helping Harvey take care of Madison 25 rather than cater to Porter had made her body language brittle and forbidding, Mike knew he'd hurt her in a way that was somehow personal. She'd protected him—even if she was only protecting herself—and he'd destroyed whatever trust had been built between them. Mike tried to breathe and found his chest tight.
As soon as he'd finalized the necessary paperwork for the Madison 25 deal, he made his way out of the firm and over to the club. He'd been itching to give himself over for hours, hoping against hope that doing so might allow him not to think for a little bit. Even an hour or so would be an immense relief. He went to the “coatroom” at Victor’s, stuffed his clothes into a bag, and went out to the main area. He might not be able to find what he needed, but he could always find something close.
It took Mike less than half an hour to find someone interested in what he was offering. Most of the time, when Mike went to these places, he wanted praise, approval, affection. Sometimes, though, he wanted absolution.
They negotiated terms. The dom, a sturdy, unremarkable man whose light brown eyes made their way casually up and down Mike’s body even during the talk, nodded and took Mike into one of the rooms.
The rooms at Victor’s were more like cubicles. It wasn’t exactly the kind of place someone went for a tasteful scene. It was more the kind of place a person went if he needed to bleed. Mike didn’t need that much, not really, but he’d never found a nice medium outside of actually having a full-time dom, something he’d never even considered until—
Mike shut that train of thought down, bringing himself back to the present, to what he was here for, what he needed. He pushed everything else out of his mind and went to his knees.
Mike held out longer than he should have before safewording. He knew that. He should have safeworded when the bindings made his breath short, or when the dom switched from using the flogger's business end to using its grip. But he did safeword when one of the hits made him jerk in a way that pulled his left arm all wrong.
The dom barely paused his strokes, so Mike safeworded again, thinking maybe the dom hadn’t heard, or didn’t remember. This time, though, the dom said calmly, “You’re done when I say you’re done.”
Mike’s brain swam in that response for a moment, the bonds seeming to tighten up on him, his bruises aching out of all proportion. Then he made himself focus, and started screaming for help.
That really pissed the dom off.
Mike lost periods of time. There was yelling, one voice, then more. There was pain and then a lull and then more pain. He tried to force himself to retain focus, but really only managed once they were untying him, trying to get the arm that had broken from the stress of the restraints and the pressure applied by the dom free without hurting him further. It wasn’t possible.
He whimpered, “Ghost, ghost,” even though he was partially aware the people with their hands on him weren’t the dom, probably didn’t know what it meant. He was painfully aware it had been ignored.
Someone, male, was whispering, “Sh, I know, I know, but we’ve got to get you out of these.”
Mike tried to help, but what muscles weren’t playing dead were bruised to hell and back. Another voice, female, said, “No, no, let us do it. Try and relax.”
There was another shift of his arm, and Mike screamed. It hurt, like he’d been screaming a lot. The voices kept on reassuring him, and then there were other voices, other hands, and he felt the IV slide in, breathed the moment the morphine hit, losing consciousness on the exhale.
He came to in the hospital, while they were setting his arm. They’d clearly given him a local, because he didn’t feel anything, just some pressure. It was strange to watch. Once they were done, they asked him questions, mostly just his name and insurance and if there was anyone they could contact.
When they asked for his insurance, a man in his late-fifties/early sixties waved them off. “The club’s insurance will cover that.”
Mike said, “Um.” He still hadn’t quite shaken off the panic of the scene, but it was receding enough for him to at least think.
The man, who looked a bit like a retired biker, said, “Let us take care of it, kid. We kicked your dom out and blacklisted him, and we’re gonna cover the medical bills. We might cater to a rough crowd, but not one that breaks the rules.”
“I safeworded,” Mike said, not because it pertained to anything, but because he couldn’t seem to stop himself, like repeating it enough times might mean this didn’t happen, that he’d been listened to, and he wasn’t here and all this was just a fucked-up nightmare coming off of all the other stress in his life.
The guy rubbed a hand over his face and muttered to himself, “Should’ve brought a dom,” but said to Mike, “We know. It was pretty clear.”
Mike looked down at where they were taping his ribs. He wasn’t looking forward to the pain meds wearing off. It was a Friday, but he was going to have to have to go in tomorrow, especially right now, with Harvey and Jessica both walking a tightrope Mike could see but didn’t understand, and his job somewhere in the balance of all of it.
Mike closed his eyes and made himself breathe. He needed a lie for when Harvey saw him. Biking accident? That would probably work. He was going with that. He forced his eyes open and said, “I—thanks for, uh,” rescuing my ass? Paying? Riding along? Mike gestured with his uninjured arm. “Y’know.”
The man’s smile was understanding. “Just paying it forward, kid. I’m Ryan, Victor’s partner.”
Mike nodded, repeating, “Thanks.”
“We’re gonna give you a ride home, if you’re comfortable with that.”
Mike could hear Gram warning him about accepting rides from strangers, Harvey’s voice mingling in a strange way. He was too tired to listen. “Yeah, that’d be great, thanks.”
Unless things were really out of control, Harvey generally worked from home on weekends, so in a normal situation, Mike could have avoided him until Monday. Not that he would really have looked better by then, but it would have given him some time to fortify himself. Of course, things were really out of control just then, so Mike was aware he probably had no chance of avoiding Harvey for the next two days.
As it turned out, he got less than an hour. He came into the office early on Saturday, thinking that if he worked efficiently, he could probably be out of the office with the jobs he could take home by noon. He had barely begun drafting settlement papers on a deal Harvey had closed Thursday—but which had gotten shoved aside for the Porter mess—when Harvey called him up. Mike agreed, gave into his extreme desire to take a couple of the Tramadol he’d picked up at the pharmacy before coming in, and got on the elevator.
When he opened Harvey’s door, Harvey was looking down, reading something, and started to ask, “Did you stop for coff—"
Then he looked up. There was a beat before he asked, "Did you get hit by a bus? While on your bike?"
Mike just rubbed at his face with his uninjured hand. "Something like that. You needed me?"
Harvey opened his mouth and for one glorious, miraculous second, Mike thought he was going to get away with waving the whole thing off. Then Harvey said, "How much like being hit by a bus was it, exactly? And who are we suing?"
Mike was tired, he'd gotten at most a few hours sleep. The pain pills were only just taking the edge off and he hadn't even managed the relief he'd needed from his own guilt. It was hard to think quickly, but he forced himself to. "New driver. Kid. I'm not suing. His insurance is covering it."
That last was mostly true, seeing as how the club had paid for everything, including promised reimbursement for cab fare to and from the office while he was healing.
Harvey pressed his lips into a tight line. "For a guy whose entire life is basically a lie, you're a shit liar."
Mike tried another tactic. "How did Jessi—"
"And if it wasn't a bike accident, which you would have just come clean about, then it's something you don't want me to know about. I'm going to assume, for the moment, that you're not dealing, or hanging out with Trevor, or doing anything that would be that monumentally idiotic and ungrateful."
A second after the damage was done, Mike would come to realize he'd been played, but that was a second too late. Harvey was still the far better tactician. Mike snarled, "I went to a club, okay? Things got out of hand."
The silence between them sat like tepid, still water for a moment before Harvey said silkily, "You went to a club."
"Which is my right," Mike recovered. Harvey wasn't his dom, just his boss. Mike didn't have a dom. If Harvey wanted that— Mike shut that thought down.
"And things got out of hand."
"I safeworded," Mike said, flat and clear, both because fuck Harvey, Mike hadn't been at fault, and because he still felt the need to remind himself, both a reassurance and a fact that made him quake inside, made him unsure if he'd ever be able to seek out what he wanted again.
"And we're…not suing anyone?" Harvey sounded confused and like he was trying not to sound confused at the same time.
"They blacklisted the guy, covered my medical expenses. They screen, but it's a club. They're not going to catch everything. And I don't need my sex life in a court room." All of which Mike was sure Harvey knew, so it was kind of a dick move to make Mike explain.
Harvey stood up and walked to the windows. After a second Mike started to suspect that, actually, Harvey had just needed someone else to say it aloud. The line of his shoulders read as epically pissed. Finally, he barked, "Couch."
"What?" Mike said.
"On the couch. You're taking a nap."
Mike tensed. "You're not my father or—"
"I'm your boss, and you can't be doing great work at this moment, which is what I need from you, so lie down on my couch and sleep until I tell you to get up and begin proofing my briefs."
Mike narrowed his eyes, but he was too tired to really fight all that hard. Harvey's couch was annoyingly comfortable.
Mike woke up to the sound of Jessica and Harvey's murmured conversation. He didn't miss the sharp edge of it, but that could be about anything from the Porter problem to Harvey picking a record she disliked. For a second, he didn't try to focus, let himself drift over the pain to where those voices were just a comfort, nothing else. Then he opened his eyes and forced himself back into the present, into dealing with the two of them so he could get away, get to his cubicle, lose himself in work and their needs like some kind of non-equivalent metaphor.
Jessica must have noticed a shift or something, because she cut herself off mid-sentence and said, "Stop playing possum."
She was using her dom voice, and Mike stilled for a moment, because they hadn't talked about this, hadn't negotiated, and he found his vision tunneling. Harvey said, "Breathe," like his boss, like Harvey, maybe a little bit like a friend, but nothing like his dom.
Mike took a shaky breath. He rolled off of Harvey's couch, righted himself, and, with as much dignity as he could muster, walked over to where they were both sitting. He took a seat without being asked. Softly, Jessica said, "Okay," to nobody so much as herself.
They sat there quietly, and if Harvey glared at Jessica for a quick second, long enough for Mike to see, everybody's attention was back on him quickly enough. Mike wanted another pill. He wondered how long he'd been sleeping. He chanced a look outside and noticed it was late afternoon. The loss of time started making him feel shaky again, and because it was his best option, because what he actually needed was off the table, he said, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry to you, Jess—Ms. Pearson, because I lied to you, because I put you in a bad spot, because I came between you and Harvey. And I'm sorry to you, Harvey, because I also put you in that spot and because I was duped by the functional-sociopath persona you've got going. I'm not sorry I helped Harvey with the Porter thing and the client got what he wanted, and I'm not sorry I went somewhere to get what I needed because I couldn't ask either of you. And that's…pretty much all I have to say on this subject, ever."
It was nowhere near as good as the two of them taking him to a room where he could yell and pulling it out of him, one scream at a time. Nowhere close as absolving as having them put him back together, one caress and word of encouragement and pardon at a time, but it would have to do. His pills were down in his desk. He pushed himself to his feet. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go do my job."
He got roughly two steps before Jessica said, "Sit down before I fire you," in her managing-partner voice. Mike still hesitated, but he turned and sat back down.
After letting him settle, Jessica said, "Stop me when I get something wrong."
Mike stole a glance at Harvey, whose expression was largely unreadable. That wasn't unusual, but there were times when it was a good sign and times when it wasn't. This was the latter.
"As good as Harvey and I are at compartmentalizing," she started softly, "we are, at the end of the day, only human. It might have been one thing if meeting up, seeing each other in our…different roles, had just been a one-off. But we broke that rule. We went back. All of us."
Mike was entirely sure he didn't want to know where this was going. He couldn't imagine a version of this talk where he came out ahead.
"And out here, while it may be vital for me not to be overly communicative, as a dom, once I knew we were—once I realized this was going to continue, we should have talked. About bleed-through, about limits, about what each of us wanted and was getting out of it." She was sitting too-tall, too-straight, not the way she exuded professionalism, but more simply tense.
Mike swallowed. "You can just tell me it can't happen anymore. I'd kind of gotten there on my own. I appreciate the face-to-face, though." He made to get up again.
Jessica asked, "Is that what you want?"
It stalled Mike. He dropped fully back into the chair, wincing as it jarred both his ribs and his arm. "What does that matter?"
"In here, in the office, where I'm your boss? It doesn't. But out there? Where I'm your dom? It's one of the only things that matters."
He made himself push back. "Do you still want it? After I lied? I see the way you look at me now. It's not quite as bad as Harvey gets, but it's—it's enough. You don't think you can trust me. Our maneuver with Porter didn't help that any. So why bother? What good is a sub you can't trust?"
Jessica looked over at Harvey, who had gotten up, moved to the window, put his back to both of them. It was to him she said, "I would have done the same thing."
Harvey's shoulders tensed, and she continued. "Not with Porter. Or, well, perhaps. I don't know. But with the other thing." She looked back at Mike. "If I were you. I would have done the same thing."
Mike didn't know if that was true or not, and Harvey wasn't turning around, wasn't giving any indication of his response. Mike knew that of all Harvey's weaknesses, the most damning one was the inability to show weakness, so Mike turned over and bared his belly for both of them. "I wanted to come to you. I wanted—I wanted to give myself up to you. Not even a safeword, I was, I mean, in my head I just trusted. Both of you." He broke off before his voice could waver, but was certain they had both caught the upward swing at the end of it.
"But you didn't," Harvey said softly, turning around. And Mike had thought he had betrayed Jessica worse, but now he wasn't sure.
Jessica pinned Harvey with a look. "You didn't, either."
In typical Harvey style, he deflected, "But I'm not the one with a broken arm."
Jessica just kept her gaze on him. Finally he said, "You told me you were alone. What the fuck am I supposed to think, Jess? That a session with a tawse will clear it all right up?"
"There have been other times—"
"Not when you looked at me like that, no," Harvey interrupted. "Not when you said anything close to what you said."
Silence fell after that, and Mike was pretty sure Jessica was going to get up, going to leave, and the three of them would remain in this limbo of too-much-want-not-enough-trust indefinitely. Then, she said, "Here are the rules. Both of you." She took a slow breath. "First, you are mine. If you play, you play with me, until you seek a release, at which point, there is no coming back. Second, both of you deserve punishment, to be doled out as I see fit. Third, this does not, nor will it ever affect my professional treatment of you." She tilted her head. "Accept on these terms, or not at all."
Mike was glad it was a Saturday and that the office was basically silent, particularly on Harvey's floor. He stood, pushing back his chair, and then slid to his knees, careful, aware of his injuries. He knelt next to her and said, softly, "Mistress."
He didn't hear Harvey approach, but he felt Harvey sink next to him, was calmed by Harvey's sincere, if challenging, "Mistress."
Jessica sank her hand into Mike's hair, probably into Harvey's, but Mike was too caught up in his own sensations to be sure, and said, "My boys."
The bouncer at Brink gave Mike a slanted look, his eyes passing over Mike's arm, but in the end all he said was, "Room eight."
Mike nodded his thanks and made his way to the correct room. He closed the door behind him and immediately went to strip, but Jessica said, "Not yet. Sit down."
Mike sat on the edge of the bed, the spot where she indicated. She was standing, in jeans and a sweater, casual in a way he wasn't used to, but still commanding. She said, "I would prefer to wait until the arm has healed to do this, but I'm fairly certain you would do something new and stupid."
"Probably," Mike admitted. He was generally good about admitting his own weaknesses.
She nodded. Then, softly, looking pointedly at his arm, she ordered, "Tell me what happened."
Mike took a deep breath, but his voice was still a little shaky as he went through the steps, telling her about the negotiation and the bondage and safewording and being ignored. When he was finished, she said, "All right. Pick a safeword. Not the one you used."
Mike chose the first word that came to his mind, in this case, "Kaleidoscope." There were a lot of times when Mike purposely didn't question the way his brain worked.
Jessica's smile was all in her eyes, but he could see it. It made him flush, look away, but she just pulled his gaze back with a finger to his chin. "Can you trust me to listen if you use it?"
Mike wanted to lie, wanted to give her an unqualified yes, but he suspected she would know, and in any case, he knew better, he really did. "I'm going to try."
She carded her fingers through his hair and kissed his forehead. "Brave boy."
She stood back and said, "Undress," a slight shift in her stance and tone letting Mike know they were in the scene, now, no longer two people talking. He followed orders, if somewhat awkwardly, the arm getting in the way. She had made him wait until the worst of the damage to his ribs and the bruising had gone down, but when she'd started catching him coming into the firm at four in the morning, she'd sent him a message with date and time. Mike had felt his whole body come undone with relief. Harvey'd had his session less than a week after the three of them had spoken, and although he hadn't sat for nearly five days afterward, he'd handled everything thrown at him with less recklessness than he'd been showing before Jessica beat that—and the worst of the guilt—out of him.
She said, "I'm not tying you up. You're going to do as I say, or we're done here."
"Yes, mistress," Mike said, appreciating that she wasn't going to try that yet. He wasn't sure he was ready, and he didn't trust himself to safeword, so it was for the best.
She arranged him in a sling, so he was suspended, no pressure on his arm. She showed him the release, in case he needed it, and made him show her he could use it. She then immobilized the swing by essentially staking it to the ground, using implements provided for bondage.
"You are going to count," she said. "And thank me after each one. And beg me for another."
"And when you beg, it will be accompanied by a reason why you deserve another."
"You can repeat yourself, but if you lose count, we will start over again."
"Yes, mistress. May I ask how many?"
"No," she said, and without further warning, landed a blow directly on his ass.
It hurt. This was no warm up, no warning, this was just a beginning to what, Mike suspected, would be a very long punishment. Vaguely, he was aware she was using the metal paddle with the drilled holes—his least favorite implement ever—but he made himself focus on what was important. "One, mistress, thank you. May I please have another for lying to you?"
She gave him another.
He lost count at thirty-seven. She caressed his cheek with her finger and said, "One."
Mike went into auto-pilot at some point. It was well after he'd begun crying, after he'd felt the release of the weight that had been sitting on his chest, close to when he thought he might have to make himself safeword he just…slipped past the pain, out of himself, into a space where the words came automatically, everything came easily.
He didn't notice when she stopped, had no idea if there even really had been a number she'd designated. He almost missed when she undid the leg harnesses, guiding him carefully back into a standing position.
He thought she might have let him stay in the space for a while, holding him to herself—the sweater was impossibly soft—and whispering things like, "Did so well," and, "such a perfect sub," but it was hazy except for the feeling that he was safe, forgiven.
When Mike surfaced a little, she said, "Welcome back."
He shuddered, everything hitting at once, a rush of sensation and thoughts that were a little too much, and she squeezed his ass. He screamed, but it helped, allowing him to focus on one thing. He took a breath and she asked, "Better?"
She walked him into the bathroom and drew a lukewarm bath, dissolving bath crystals in it so that when she guided Mike down, the water felt soft somehow, silken. She took her time cleaning him, paying attention to the spaces between his toes, behind his ears, all the little nooks and crannies, her touch gentle at times, firm at others. She kept up a murmur of reassurance, telling him how good he'd been, how good he was being.
She dried him off afterward, laying him down and applying cooling cream to his ass. She said, "I have to walk away for a minute. I'll keep talking. Are you all right?"
"Mmm, mistress," Mike mumbled.
When she came back she put him under the covers and climbed in with him. The rentable bedrooms were probably Mike's very favorite thing about Brink. He'd never actually spent the night, but it gave a dom and a sub space to come down comfortably. The sheets were always freshly laundered, probably regularly purchased. Mike knew there were only a couple of rooms with beds in them, and that they were more expensive and less regularly rented than the straight-up playrooms. It was emotionally warming that Jessica had shelled out the extra to give them the chance to come down together.
She was wearing a soft cotton cami and panties, but otherwise they were skin to skin. Mike breathed deeply, taking in the scent of her. He didn't snuggle close, didn't take liberties. She drew him into herself, though, and said, "Sleep."
Mike said, "Yes, mistress."
Mike woke sometime later, probably not all that much, an hour or so, maybe. He could tell by the pattern of Jessica's breathing that she was awake. He said, "Mistress."
She swiped her fingers over the back of his neck. "Hey there."
It was always hard, this part, when they were done, but not quite back to being Managing Partner and Junior Associate. He said, "Thank you."
"Next time, ask." Her tone was soft, but did not brook any argument. "Or this will seem like a pleasure session."
He took a deep breath, "Yes, mistress?"