Chapter 17

Chapter Seventeen

Fuji studied the man across from him. Even though seven years had passed since the two of them had been close, the distance between them now seemed minuscule. From watching Saeki’s brief interaction with Ryoma, Fuji could tell little had changed. He hid a wince, remembering the accusation Saeki had made about being a tool.
While Saeki’s involvement would make things much easier, that wasn’t why Fuji had offered him the choice to join them.

Truthfully, when Saeki had told him about the darkness inside and his need to control it, Fuji had become ensnared by the desire to teach him. Part of him worried he didn’t have the right, since there was still a part of his own darkness he was running from, but he shoved that ruthlessly aside. Right now, there was something more important he needed to address.

“Saeki, do you have any questions about any of this? Or does it all seem pretty straightforward?”

Saeki paused, his fork half the way to his mouth, as he considered the question. He’d never been the type to answer hastily, no matter how simple the question seemed. And with Fuji, questions tended to be loaded. “I don’t have any questions,” he said, “but I do have one concern.”

“What concern would that be?” Fuji asked.

“While I understand the necessity of punishment,” Saeki said, raising his eyes to meet Fuji’s open eyes, “I can’t agree to being punished physically at your hand. I’m afraid it will trigger bad memories.”

Fuji closed his eyes, masking the hurt those words caused him. While physical punishment would work best on his friend, since Saeki wasn’t a masochist like Ryoma, he understood where Saeki was coming from. With that terrible incident lying as an obstacle between them, inflicting physical pain of any sort on Saeki was a bad idea. “I’ll agree to that,” Fuji said, “granted you understand that non-physical punishment tends to be more mentally taxing than physical.”

Saeki gave a slow, thoughtful nod. “I think I’ll be okay with that,” he said.
Fuji reached down, absently running a hand through Ryoma’s hair, pleasantly surprised when Ryoma arched into the caress. Ryoma still had difficulty accepting any affection that wasn’t accompanied with pain, so Fuji relished the few occasions it happened. He hoped that sometime in the future, he’d be able to lavish that sort of affection on his lover without causing Ryoma to flinch.

Considering Rick had been the cause—his hand tightened involuntarily in Ryoma’s hair. A soft hiss of pain alerted him to what he’d done and Fuji relaxed his grip. He felt the urge to apologize and squashed it. Ryoma wouldn’t want that from him.

The question of the hour, however, was what would Saeki find in Saeki? The freshman had agreed to form the ménage a trois, but for what reason? Fuji hadn’t lied earlier when he’d said that Ryoma found Saeki attractive—that had been obvious. But finding someone attractive wasn’t synonymous with wanting to jump into a complicated relationship with them. What had piqued Ryoma’s interest so much that he’d agreed as readily as he had to Saeki being a part of their dynamic?
Fuji could understand what he and Saeki got out of the arrangement. For Fuji, it was a chance to help someone else ease the ache of the rage caused by the monster that lived inside. He knew firsthand how difficult that rage was to control and how despicable it made one feel. Living with the despair of never being a better person ate at him daily, and he’d grown up learning that it was okay to be sadistic. He couldn’t begin to imagine how much worse it was for Saeki, whose family considered the grey area of morality the dark side of ethics.

And aside from teaching someone else to keep his darkness at bay, Fuji got his friend back. He hadn’t lied when he’d told Ryoma that there’d never been anything more than friendship between him and Saeki growing up, but he’d omitted the fact he’d had a crush. It was why he’d taken Saeki’s rejection of his plan so badly, because he hadn’t understood at that age what it was he’d felt or why he’d felt it—all he’d known was that his best friend was rejecting him and it sucked. He winced. Now was not the time to be thinking of that.

The other two were watching him watch them, as was per usual. Ryoma watched him to judge his mood and Saeki watched him because that’s what Saeki did—he watched people. And Saeki wouldn’t have joined this ménage a trois arrangement without a couple of solid reasons. Fuji suspected that the main reason he’d agreed was because it was the best way for him to learn to control his darkness. And that the second was that Ryoma would be a consenting participant, allowing him to release some of the rage inside.
Fuji wasn’t proud to admit it, but at the beginning of their relationship, Ryoma had been a means to an end. Because for Fuji, the need to hurt someone just built up inside him until it was impossible to ignore. And that was when he exercised his manipulation games by acting the part of the Bleeder, finding a victim and depriving them of their ability to continue living with any confidence in themselves.

Unexpectedly, Fuji had fallen in love with Ryoma. It’d come over him suddenly, but he’d embraced it because it eased the need he had to hurt his lover. He still enjoyed causing Ryoma pain, but once he’d realized his feelings for the freshman, that joy had been tempered with the need to also cause him pleasure. Once combined, he’d discovered, nothing else compared to it. Causing pain for pain’s own sake was satisfactory, certainly, but it couldn’t hold a candle to causing pleasure with the pain. And that, Fuji realized, was what he hoped to teach Saeki.

Maybe in showing Saeki that aspect of the dynamic he and Ryoma shared, his friend would be able to come to terms with his darkness. But that still didn’t answer what Ryoma got out of their arrangement. There’d be two people to hurt him, instead of one, but didn’t that also mean there’d be two to punish him? Fuji gritted his teeth—he didn’t want to think about this, but wasn’t it true? On some level, wasn’t Ryoma an outlet for all his selfish desires?

“Syuusuke,” Ryoma said beside him, startling him out of the beginning of his brood, “you’re thinking too hard.”

“And you,” Saeki said, “forgot the honorific again. How many times is that, Syu-san?”

“Three I believe.” Fuji forced the negative thoughts away. Ryoma enjoyed pain; why was he concerning himself about his own issues right now?

“What did I say before, about how I was using this?” Saeki asked, pointing at the control that lay near his hand on the table.

Fuji didn’t answer—the question hadn’t been directed at him.

Ryoma shivered. “Three on four, three on six, then one on eight for ten seconds if I failed to follow the rules, Saeki-san,” he said, voice near a whisper.

“Hm.” Saeki turned to Fuji. “Do you think three on two different levels is really acceptable, or is it too much leeway?”

Fuji placed a hand on Ryoma’s shoulder. “It’s far too much leeway,” he said. “If I were doing what you were, it would be one on four, one on six, and the third on eight for ten seconds. But it wouldn’t be fair to Ryoma right now if you took it to eight since that isn’t what you told him earlier.”

Saeki nodded. “Then we’ll change it after this one,” he said, activating the control and switching it to four. The jolt ended quickly. “The next time you forget the honorific, there will be no warning and it will jump to eight. Am I understood?”

Fuji felt Ryoma tense under his hand and his amusement skyrocketed. Trust his lover to take Saeki’s words as a challenge.

“Yes,” Ryoma said, folding his arms defiantly—though he was still careful not to meet Saeki’s gaze. That was the one rule Fuji had inflicted and he did not want to make Fuji mad tonight.

Saeki raised an eyebrow. “Well, then,” he said, and flicked the control to eight, pausing before he hit the on switch. He addressed Fuji. “He still doesn’t believe I’m as willing as you are to discipline him.”

“Oh?” Fuji said. “I rather think he’s expecting it.”

Saeki snorted in disbelief and pressed the on switch.

Ryoma clenched his fists against his knees, trembling with the pain and he gritted his teeth. Three seconds into the punishment, he was ready to scream, but he couldn’t because Fuji had foreseen that need. Fuji held his head in a vice-grip, one hand clasped tightly over Ryoma’s mouth so the freshman couldn’t scream, the other holding Ryoma’s wrists together so painfully there was sure to be a bruise later.

The ten seconds the control was held at eight felt like ten minutes, and when Fuji finally released him and the pain stopped, Ryoma collapsed boneless on the ground. Tears were pooled in the corners of his eyes where he’d just barely managed not to cry.

It took him two minutes to recover, and Ryoma was fully aware that two sets of eyes were watching him. Once he had his breath back, he crawled over to Saeki’s side of the table and prostrated himself before his new disciplinarian. “Gomen nasai, Saeki-san. I won’t test you again.”

Saeki reached down a hand and tangled it in Ryoma’s hair, forcing the freshman’s head back. Ryoma cast his gaze wide, frantically searching for a way not to meet the silver-haired senior’s piercing gaze. “Meet my eyes,” he said, “just this once, you won’t be punished for it.”

Ryoma cast his gaze at Fuji instead, focusing on Syuusuke’s ear, waiting for a decision. Fuji gave a slow nod. This once, he mouthed.

Ryoma slumped in relief and allowed his eyes to meet Saeki’s. The urge to say something bratty was strong, but tempered by the recent pain he’d endured. He didn’t want to go through another ten seconds of the collar on a level eight setting. Even thinking about that pain set his teeth on edge. It was just past the point where pain was pleasurable for him.

Saeki searched his eyes for a long moment before he nodded and released his grip on Ryoma’s hair. “Okay,” he said. “You’re forgiven.”

“Thank you, Saeki-san,” Ryoma said, kneeling beside him. On this side of the table, it was much easier to watch Fuji’s mood swings.

Fuji watched, amusement sparking as Ryoma decided that keeping an eye on his mood was easier from Saeki’s side of the table. Ryoma would be able to watch his face and judge from the expressions on it, but Fuji didn’t want him to have that advantage. Not tonight. He pointed at the floor beside him and raised an eyebrow, foregoing giving a command. Ryoma pouted, but obeyed, as Fuji had known he would.

Somehow, the three of them made it through dinner without any further incident. Ryoma managed to follow all of the rules set to him. Afterwards, Fuji extended an offer for Saeki to join them for the night, but Saeki declined.

“Another time,” he said. “I don’t want to intrude on plans the two of you made before I was involved in this. Besides, all this is a bit overwhelming. I need some time to process it before we go further.”

Fuji smiled, grateful. “Okay,” he said, “but I’ll expect you to join us soon.” He paused, before adding, “After all, I still have a punishment to mete out.”

Saeki grinned, the flush in his cheeks belying his apparent ease with the conversation. “Aa,” he said. “I’m sure you’ll think of something creative.”

Ryoma groaned from beside them. “You have no idea, Saeki-san. No idea at all.”

Saeki laughed and waved at them as he departed from the restaurant, walking in the opposite direction.

“So,” Fuji said, turning to his lover, “time to go home.” He hooked a finger under Ryoma’s collar. “Time I showed you how much fun this thing can be.”

Ryoma’s eyes darkened with anticipation as he slipped his hand into Fuji’s. “Aa,” he said quietly. “Let’s go home.”

Chapter 16     Chapter Index     Chapter 18

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