The little walk down memory lane hadn't told Cason much about Vince's recent experience in the scene, but it did tell him a lot about the man himself. He tapped the side of his coffee mug.
"Is that what he's looking for with all those men playing at being Doms? Focus?"
Page cocked his head to the side. "I don't know. He won't talk about the scenes he does with them. You can see it, though, right?"
"The hole inside that seems to be getting deeper each time he comes back into the club and tries a new guy? Yeah." Cason didn't like it. The younger man needed some help and he was going to make sure he got it so he'd stop looking so sad when he thought no one was looking.
"I tried talking about it with him. We staged this whole intervention with him. He had some friends from school and I got them all together at our apartment. Some of them were freaked by the lifestyle, but I got that part. But something was still wrong, and none of us knew what to do about it.
"He was with this guy, for like a year, just after we turned twenty-one. He met him at some club he went to alone and after the first night he told me the guy signed a contract with him. Normally Vince is bounce off the walls energetic, except for when he's working on an engine, but he was depressed whenever he was home. He wouldn't talk to us, or let us touch him at all." Page was growing agitated and he had a harsh scowl on his face. Cason had never seen the normally smirking sub looking quite so angry.
"Turns out the bastard told him that when he was away from him, or not at work, that he wasn't to touch, or even speak, to another man. This guy was supposed to be this great Dom, though I'd never seen him at any events or clubs. Whatever hold he had on Vince, the bastard used it to make him miserable, but he wouldn't leave. After we confronted him, he completely shut everyone out."
Some Doms believed in breaking submissive partners into slaves that lived to serve their every need. Page's story sounded exactly like that was what had happened, but not every man was made to be a slave. Cason took a drink of his coffee and grimaced at the cold drink. He set it down and folded his hands together in his lap. He was getting tense just hearing about Vince's experiences.
"So why did he leave his Dom then? He did leave him, right? Not the other way around?" If he'd left, then Vince hadn't broken. But how he left him, and why, would say a lot about the young man.
Page pursed his lips. "He never said, but I'm pretty sure the contract expired. Vince isn't stupid, but we're both new to the lifestyle, you know? I stopped playing for a while after I saw what was happening with him. It scared me. But this submissive chick I know told me about the munches hosted by Master Pete at the restaurant. I thought that would be safer than going to clubs, and I could learn some stuff too."
Cason nodded. "You were smart."
Page snorted. "I was lucky. I met you. I thought that I wanted you, especially after I saw that paddling you demonstrated on the guy wearing those leather chaps? Man, his ass was so red afterward it was practically glowing. You barely had to touch him before he came all over the stage. But Brandon is perfect for me, and you knew that, didn't you?"
Shrugging one shoulder Cason said, "I guessed you two would be good together."
"Brandon says it's more than guessing. You're good with people. That's why you're a counselor, right?"
"I advise students on the right career path. I'm not a psychologist." Cason wanted to help people, but he'd never wanted to study psychology formally. The classes he'd taken had various approved methods that made relying on his ability a bad choice. Second guessing himself never helped, so he went in a slightly different direction. He got up before he could start doing it then. "Be right back, I need to get a refresh."
He took his coffee up to the counter, getting a refill from the smiling barista. When he sat down again, though, Page started the conversation right back up.
"Do you think Vince is in some sort of crisis, like he might need to talk to someone? Is that why you're so concerned?"
That had been Cason's first impression. He argued with himself that Vince needed more than just an ear, and knowing he had a diagnosed mental condition like ADHD meant he'd need a psychiatrist. Kink friendly ones existed. Vince didn't need a daimon descendent whose ability was completely failing Cason just when he most wanted to use it to help someone... but knowing that wasn't going to stop Cason from helping Vince, not anymore.
"Do you know if he's on medication for the ADHD?"
Page shook his head. "Not for a few years. He calmed down a little bit, at least compared to when he was a teenager. I think he has other ways of dealing with it now."
Maybe Cason could still help him. He didn't have to be their Dom to become friends with someone. "I'm guessing that he lost a lot of friends, even after that contract was up?" He tapped the arm of his chair.
"Yeah. I think he's more cautious now about letting people in, too."
Casually Cason said, "But he's still in the lifestyle, so he's still looking for a Dom."
Page's eyes got huge and his mouth dropped open.
Cason smirked. "Close your mouth."
Page closed his mouth so fast his teeth clicked together. He carefully set his cup down. "Are you going to ask him to sub for you? I've heard—"
"A lot, I'm sure." Cason shrugged his suddenly tense shoulders. "But no, I was thinking about approaching him at the munch next week and just talking to him. Maybe become his friend. Is he coming, do you think?"
"I'll drag him there myself, if I have to. Brandon wants to go. There's going to be a rope demonstration."
"Ah yes, that's my friend Suzanne and her sub, Mark. She can truss him up in the most interesting positions." He'd met the older Domme several years back and hit it off with them both. She'd taught him more than a few tricks about restraining people.
"If this is going to work, Vince can't know you told me all this. I really shouldn't have asked you, but what I'm hearing through the grapevine about the scenes he's done isn't good. Being safe is more than just making sure your partner will stop when you need them to, and it sounds like the direction he's been headed hasn't been very good for him mentally."
After Cason had talked to Page when they first met he'd known exactly who to introduce him to in order for Page to be happy. He had this desire inside, now that he knew some of Vince's story, to Dom the younger man himself but knew it could end badly. He had to resist the temptation and figure out which Dom he knew would be able to reach the submissive before he broke completely under the hands of the wrong ones.
It wasn't until after the demonstration where Suzanne had shown her favorite way to immobilize a two hundred pound man in the best position for a spanking scene that Cason found Vince standing next to Page. Brandon was nowhere to be seen, at the moment, but he could tell both young men had enjoyed the demonstration.
"— looks amazing," Vince said softly.
Cason broke into the conversation. "Mark is a very handsome man, and the white rope does show off his dark coloring well."
"Hello, Cason!" Page said happily. "I was wondering if you were here."
"I was wondering if you two were going to show up as well. I don't see Brandon here though. Don't tell me he passed up a chance to tease you while watching Suzanne tie up Mark."
Page waved his hand. "Oh, he's around. I think he went to talk to her."
That made sense. She was entertaining a lot of questions from various Doms and Dommes about her techniques. "Well, she is a master at bondage. You can be sure that anything he learns from her you will enjoy. Probably." Cason laughed.
Vince had fallen silent and had yet to look up after Cason interrupted the conversation. Cason raised an eyebrow and looked at Page. "Why don't you introduce me to your friend?"
"Oh! Sorry, Cason. This is my friend Vince. Vince, this is Brandon's best friend, Cason."
"Hello, sir." Those gray-green eyes flicked up but never made it past Cason's chin. Cason held tight to his smile and didn't allow his expression to waver.
"Hello, Vince. I take it from your comment when I walked up that you appreciated the demonstration?"
Vince's voice was soft when he spoke. "Yes, sir."
Cason corrected him. "Cason. Use my name. We're not in a scene, we're at a demonstration. There's no need for formality, so relax."
"Yes, Cason." The obedience factor of being a submissive was clearly something that had been drilled into Vince. It seemed unnatural for the man though. He usually flirted and laughed, teasing the young Doms he had been choosing in the clubs.
"Suzanne is an old friend. If you'd like to get up closer to her and Mark, see his bindings up close, I could take the two of you to the stage. She's probably going to unfasten him soon."
Vince glanced at Page, who answered for both of them. "Sure! Thank you, Cason, we'd love to see it. I wanted to check out the knot work she did on his arms. It seemed really elaborate."
Nodding, Cason stepped behind both of the smaller men and guided them forward with a hand on their shoulders. It was a struggle to speak normally and keep his hand light on Vince's shoulder; he couldn't stroke the young man's neck even if the golden skin called to be touched.
"Well, they seem elaborate because they are elaborate. Technically, she could have just wound the rope around his forearms, tying them together, but where is the beauty in that? The purpose in rope bondage isn't just to immobilize the submissive. Cuffs and spreader bars could do that. There is an artistry in the way the rope touches the skin, the knots used and the positions it bends the submissive to please their Dom."
"To make them attractive," Vince said suddenly.
Cason nodded. "More attractive. The contrast of the colors of the rope, the way the body is positioned and curved, the beauty of the trust such submission takes. The sub must work with them and hold still for it to work so it shows their desire to please their Dominant."
"Bending to their will."
"Yes." Cason stopped them a few feet from Mark, having made their way through the small crowd. "Of course, with some like Page here, bondage is a way to make them pay attention."
"Hey." Page's lips parted like he was going to stick out his tongue, but then he stopped. "I pay attention."
Vince's laugh was light, but it seemed genuine, and it pleased Cason immensely to hear it. He chuckled himself.
Smirking, Vince said, "You realize you just kept yourself from sticking your tongue out at him because of the gag I saw Brandon make you wear at the club last week, right? You know, gags are a form of bondage too."
"That they are," Cason said. He proceeded to explain the Japanese harness and the intricate knots that formed a pattern with the coils going up and down Mark's arms.
"With his arms up like that, he's in a prime position to be spanked if he's laid stomach down, or to have his nipples tortured if he's chest up. His arms are immobilized, but comfortably secure up and out of the way."
Page shivered. "Oh." His eyes were staring at Mark but he wasn't seeing him. Cason just knew he was imagining himself tied up like Mark with Brandon's hands, mouth, and maybe some clamps making his nipples achingly sensitive.
He chuckled darkly. "I can see some rope in your future, Page." He turned to look at Vince. "What about you? Are you a fan of rope bondage?"
Vince licked his lips as he stared at Mike but said, "Not really."
That hesitant denial smacked of a bad experience, especially if Vince was aroused. If Cason wasn't wrong, and he rarely was, then Vince had a hard-on pressing against the zipper of his jeans.
"What about bondage in general?" he asked.
"I like it."
"Just not ropes."
Vince glanced at him. "Not certain kinds of ropes."
Cason smiled. "It's always good to be sure of your preferences. That's what these sorts of events are good for. There's no pressure and you talk about the lifestyle, even learn something new. It's good for newcomers to get together without worrying about protocols."
"I saw the demonstration you did." Vince looked at him fully instead of glancing at him from the corner of his eye. His not so subtle hint about not worrying about protocols worked, but this time Cason hid his smile.
"And what did you think?"
"You were very... controlled." His voice was too enigmatic for Cason to decide if that was a good thing or not.
"Any Dom worth the title is always in control."
Vince shivered. The room was comfortably warm; Mark showed no signs of discomfort, even though he was shirtless. Still, maybe Vince was cool. There was a fireplace at one end of the meeting room opposite the stage.
"Would you care to go sit down and continue talking?" Cason hoped Vince would say yes. "It looks like Suzanne is about to untie Mark. Brandon will be right over to get him, so we won't be abandoning Page to his lonesome."
The hesitation on Vince's part disappeared when Page smiled and shooed them away. "Okay." Cason led the way over to the armchairs, trusting that the younger man would follow him. It was warmer by the fire and Vince relaxed into the comfortable chair when they sat quietly for a few minutes.
Cason had a theory. Vince wasn't nearly as reserved as he appeared. He had seen him laughing and enjoying the attention at the clubs, interacting normally with the other dancers. The flashes of sadness Cason saw were real, though. It was as if Vince played parts of whatever type of person he thought those around him wanted.
How was Cason going to get Vince to show him the real inside? Vince leaned to one side, propping his cheek up on his fist. It was so much easier when he knew what was going on with a person's spirit. Of course then he'd feel the need to do a scene with Vince, and that was the last thing he wanted.
Well, he wanted the younger man. He had the softest looking lips, pale pink and wide. Would they turn dark pink with passion? Get puffy if he kissed them hard?
His breath stuttered when Vince licked the lips he was staring at. It took an act of iron will not to make a sound. A moment later he had his control back but it took a few minutes before Vince looked up at him finally.
"So." Cason was patient; he had to be.
"You said you wanted to talk some more."
"Of course. I believe talking is invaluable. Without it, submissives don't know what their Doms want and vice versa. Communication is at the core of what we do. A good scene always starts with a negotiation beforehand. I thought maybe I could answer your questions, if you had any."
"You negotiate with your sub?" Vince cocked his head to one side, a slight frown marring his expression.
Cason nodded. "Always. How am I supposed to know their hard limits if they don't tell me when I ask?"
"Most Doms do that? Ask what the sub wants, or doesn't want, and listens to them?"
His question upset Cason, not that he let it show. Cason kept his forehead smooth, fighting the urge to scowl. What kind of idiots had he been playing with?
"A real one," Cason answered after a minute. "Look, there are a lot of people who play in the lifestyle. They think that bossing a person around and controlling them is all that it takes to be a Dominant. That's not how it should work between a couple who really believe in living the D/s lifestyle. One of the things we could never forget is that everyone is different and that's okay."
Vince shook his head. "I don't want to live as a sub all the time." His hands clenched on the arms of his chair.
"And not every D/s couple does. Some keep their scenes only to the bedroom while others incorporate the aspects that draw them to their roles into their daily lives. Neither are right or wrong. Just because a person likes to submit in bed doesn't mean they have to give up control in their day-to-day life."
Cason arched an eyebrow. "I do not lie."
A flush spread across Vince's face and he stared at his knees. "Sorry, sir."
"Forgiven. And my name is Cason, remember? You don't know me, and it seems like you haven't been given too many chances to learn how our lifestyle really works."
"I was in a relationship with a Dom once where he wanted me to let him be in charge all the time. Now I just do scenes. I don't want... I don't want be submissive full time."
Maybe Cason could give Vince some advice about how to protect himself. Maybe that was all he needed to do, which was why he didn't see the spirits inside the attractive blond man. "As I said, you don't have to. Even in a single scene, you should talk to your partner before anything starts. Things you like, what you absolutely will not do, what makes you nervous and might need to be helped into doing." He leaned forward.
"That isn't to say that you dictate what will happen in the scene, but we're not mind readers. Doms rely on a sub's honesty. That's why I use a slow word."
"Page mentioned that, but I've never had a Dom use one."
"I've seen the types of guys you play with. I'm not surprised. I wouldn't trust arrogant newbies like that with an experienced sub, much less one who had been mistreated."
Vince jerked his head up and glared at Cason. "What are you talking about?" His nostrils flared and he spoke through clenched teeth.
Cason shook his head. Maybe no one had ever confronted Vince about his poor choices. "It's pretty obvious to someone like me. I have made it my job, and my hobby, to read other people. Every time you come back and find someone new at a club you're hiding more fear, more pain. You're not finding the peace in submission you should be."
"Obvious to someone who is what... an arrogant jerk? Where do you get off?" Vince stood up, his body rigid. His hands shook until he clenched them into fists. He glared down at Cason. "Try reading this," he said before he walked out of the room completely.
"Fuck." Cason slumped in his chair. He never would have guessed Vince would have snapped at him that way with how meek the man acted. He'd clearly struck a nerve.
What he'd said had been nothing less than the truth, but stating it so baldly was a mistake, in retrospect. Perhaps an apology would soothe his ruffled feathers. He tapped his finger on the wood arm of the chair. Now he had to figure out how to get Vince to talk to him again.
Page had once again been coerced into helping Cason with the bribe of a mocha.
"You sure he'll come?" Cason was unaccountably nervous, turning his cup side to side.
Reveling in his mocha with extra whip cream, Page mumbled an answer.
"I didn't tell him you were going to be here," Page finally said.
"Damn it, Page!" Cason couldn't believe that Page would do that. "So he's going to walk in the door, take one look at me, and walk back out again. How is that going to help me help him?"
Page didn't even look embarrassed. Or sorry.
"He'll stay. I think you intrigued him, after he got over being pissed. He was only mad because you were right, you know."
"I know." Cason didn't drink any of his coffee, just stared at the dark black liquid rippling as he fidgeted with his cup. "I could have said it better though."
Page shrugged. "He has issues, but I don't want to see him hurt again like he was last week."
Cason has been swamped with the influx of students coming back after winter holidays and had gone home each night exhausted. He hadn't been out to the clubs in the last three weeks since the munch where things went so wrong with Vince.
"Who hurt him? How?" He stared at Page, his eyes narrowed. The handle on his cup was going to break off if he squeezed it any harder.