Sometimes You Just Need to Be Forced into An Important Conversation
“What the fuck?”
“Let us go!”
“You can’t do this to us, we have rights!”
“Not really, actually.”
“Fucking ugh. This is your fault, you stupid fish.”
“What? You’re the one who broke the shovel!”
“You broke my shovel?”
Jed and Micha blinked, looking together at James. “No,” they said at the same time.
Ron sighed. “I’ll fix it tomorrow.”
“Wait,” Jed said, struggling. “If you didn’t know about the shovel getting broken, then why am I tied to a chair?”
“Because you don’t deserve autonomy,” Micha told him. “But why am I tied to a chair?”
“To limit the space you waste by occupying it.”
“We tied you to the chairs,” James said, going around and making sure the knots he and Ron had magically tied were tight enough, “because we want to talk to you and this seemed like the easiest way.”
“Uh.” Micha looked around. “I can think of like twenty-five easier ways to talk to us. Like maybe saying ‘hey Micha, hey stupid, let’s talk for a minute.’ Or something like that.”
“Don’t be dumb, why would they address you twice?” Jed asked, rolling his eyes. “What do you want to talk about?”
“Something that you two will refuse to discuss if you’re not tied to something,” Ron told them, as James came and sat back down. “Your relationship.”
“Oh, easy conversation!” Micha said, smiling. “We don’t have one.”
“Yeah, we tolerate each other because we have to and I plot his eventual death when he’s asleep,” Jed agreed. “Discussion over, good talk.”
James and Ron looked at each other, and James sighed. “Okay,” Ron said. He stood up. “In that case James and I are headed to bed, goodnight.”
He took James’s hand and they started to leave the kitchen, getting about halfway there before the boys started struggling. “Hey, aren’t you going to let us go?”
“No,” James called over his shoulder. “The spells on the rope should wear off by morning.”
“Okay, okay, God,” Micha said, flexing ineffectively against the rope. “We can talk, God, stop being weird and kidnappy.”
“Definitionally you can’t kidnap someone who wants to be there,” Jed told Micha.
“You totally can, people can revoke consent.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“That’s just because you’re stupid.”
“Okay,” James said, sitting back down. “Rule one for this conversation. You two are going to do it without fighting.”
“This is a punishment,” Jed muttered.
“It’s an intervention for both of your safety,” Ron told him. “You can be angry with us about it if you want, but we care about you and we’re worried you’re going to hurt yourselves.”
Both boys were scowling now, not making eye contact with anyone. Micha huffed. “That’s a bit rich coming from the king of spankings,” he said. “We’re not doing anything you guys don’t do.”
“And we’re not doing a lot of things you guys do do,” Jed added.
“Nobody is judging you or telling you what you can and can’t do,” James told them. “You’re both very opinionated and confrontational people and that plays out in your relationship and that’s completely fine. We’re not going to ask you to stop anything you’re doing because none of it is bothering us.”
“We never thought it was,” Jed said. He looked embarrassed.
“We just want that to be clear upfront,” Ron explained. “I get that it’s embarrassing to be forced to sit and talk about this. Trust me, it was when it happened to us, too. But I want you both to understand that the point of this discussion isn’t to make either of you feel ashamed. You shouldn’t feel ashamed about what you like. Especially not around us.”
“And I know that it was probably much easier to talk to Isaac about sex than it is us,” James added. “Me especially. But we want to know. When he was talking to you, was there anything you wanted to know that he didn’t talk about? Or something that you think your families didn’t teach you?”
“No, I had very thorough and humiliating sex education from my brother thank you,” Jed muttered.
“Yeah, my dad invited me to a ritual in the river and it was a fucking lie,” Micha said. “We know all about sex and also we’re having sex so it’s not like it’s a mystery to us.”
“You can forgive us for thinking you might not,” Ron said. “You did both think sex was gross a few weeks ago.”
“It is gross when you do it,” Micha explained, and Jed nodded.
Ron rolled his eyes. “Anyway, the real reason why we tied you to the chairs is because we knew you wouldn’t be able to escape the sympathetic magic on the ropes, because we’re going to talk about tying people up.”
“I mean we know how to tie people up,” Micha said, swallowing.
“Do you know how to tie people up safely?” James asked, rather pointedly. “You’ve got a fairly bad rope burn on your wrist there.”
“That was an accident,” Jed muttered, guilt in his voice.
“And accidents happen sometimes,” Ron agreed, feeling bad for him. “But you’re literally living with two people who know how to make sure that doesn’t happen when you don’t want it to.” He waited a beat. “Do you hear what I’m saying?”
“Yes, we should take advantage of the natural resources in our environment, got it,” Jed said. “Thank you, I guess.”
“It’s more than that.” James gestured, and Ron got up to get him some tea. “Have you ever sat down together and talked about what you like and don’t like?”
“Of course not, we don’t talk to each other unless we have to,” Micha said.
When Ron and James had talked about this earlier in the day, they’d agreed not to touch that particular subject today. Ron was pretty sure their dislike of each other wasn’t totally performative, but it was pretty clear it was a major part of their game, even if they didn’t realize it.
“Well,” said James. “You have to. Because if you’re going to tie each other up and hit each other, that’s completely up to you, but you need to know what you both like.”
“The whole point of tying Micha up is that I don’t have to care about what he likes,” Jed protested.
Because Micha was nodding, Ron said, “That’s true, if that’s what you both want. As long as it’s satisfying for both of you. Micha, do you like when Jed ties you up?”
“No,” Micha said immediately.
“Don’t misunderstand.” James took the teacup Ron offered him and pointed back at the chair for Ron to sit again. “There’s a difference between not liking being tied up and not liking Jed tying you up. Does that make sense?”
“I don’t like being hit with anything other than a bare hand,” Ron said. What they actually needed was someone who was into harder stuff than them to talk to Jed and Micha, because Ron and James didn’t do a lot of things that Ron didn’t like. Todd and Arty were too new to this whole thing to tap them, though, and who knew when they’d be back now that James and Sam weren’t talking. “It hurts too much and it’s not fun for me. But I still like it when James does it sometimes, because I like that he forces me to do things I don’t like. Is that what being tied up is like for you, or do you actually genuinely not like it?”
“Well…I don’t know?” Micha asked. “I never thought about it like that.”
“That’s why we wanted to talk to you,” James said. “There is a difference between being made to eat your vegetables and being made to eat poison. You need to think about things like that, or else you can end up getting seriously hurt. Jed, set aside for a second how you personally feel about Micha. You don’t want to rape him.”
“No, of course not!” Jed jerked in his chair. “No, God, I wouldn’t.”
“And nobody’s saying you would or are. But you need to make sure you’re both on the same page about what you want and what satisfies you. It’s okay to make him do things he doesn’t like, as long you both understand that there are real boundaries somewhere in your relationship, and as long as you both understand where they are.”
“Okay, I…I guess that makes sense, yeah,” Micha muttered. He swallowed. “Uh. I mean. You haven’t…made me do anything I regret. Even the stuff I didn’t like. It’s still fun.”
Jed nodded, licking his dry lips. “Yeah. Me too. Well, uh, actually. The other day when you twisted my arm. I know you wouldn’t have actually, but I thought for a second you might break my arm, and that scared me a little bit. I didn’t like it. I think in the bad way. It made me worry you’d do it again.”
“Oh.” Micha looked down. “I won’t do it again. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“Okay, thanks.” Jed took a breath. “I do like it. Fucking you, I mean. I want to keep doing it. Like we have been.”
“Me too. But, you guys all having to stop acting like Jed’s the one always doing stuff to me, what the fuck?” Micha demanded. “I do stuff to him all the time too!”
“Yeah,” Jed admitted. “We both kind of want to be the boss.”
“How do you decide which one of you is?” Ron asked, out of curiosity. “Do you take turns?”
“No, we just…fight, usually,” Jed said. He sounded embarrassed again. “Is that wrong? I feel like, I mean you guys obviously know which one of you is the boss. If me and him both want to be the boss, does that mean we have to find other people to…”
“There are no other people,” Micha snapped.
“I know that.”
“If you’re happy with each other, there’s no reason to find other people,” James assured them. “Let me ask you. You both want to be the boss, but do you hate the relationship when you’re not?”
“Well, no,” Micha said. “It’s fine.”
“I mean it sucks, and stuff,” Jed said. “Letting Micha do whatever dumb shit he wants. But it’s…satisfying, I guess. Even when it’s weird it’s like…it’s still fun.”
“I do wish we didn’t have to fight to figure it out.”
Ron nodded. “You could take turns?”
“We tried that,” Micha said. He sighed. “It was boring. I felt like…it’s so stupid. I felt like I hadn’t earned it. I know I shouldn’t have to earn it, but…”
“Same though,” Jed agreed. “I got bored that night because he just let me do stuff and it was like…whatever. It’s fun because I get to make him do it, you know? Like what’s the point of not letting him cum if he told me he was okay not to?”
“It’s fun because he has to admit I’m better than him,” Micha confirmed.
“I understand that,” James said, smiling. “Ron is a very good boy, but I also like putting him in his place, even when he’s not misbehaving. A lot of the things we do are symbolic. I tie Ron up in knots he can escape from, but he doesn’t escape from them. I make him get me tea when I’m closer to the kettle, or make him sit on the floor, because then I’m taller than him.”
“It’s like sympathetic magic.” Jed snorted as he said that. He looked at Micha. “We should fight…symbolically?”
Micha shrugged. “We argue about magic a lot. How about every time I prove I’m a better witch than you, I get to be the boss?”
“Wait, then you’d never get to…”
“Oh, shut up, you fucked up an obvious spell today, cocksucker.”
“I don’t respect your witchcraft enough to let you decide if I fucked up,” Jed said, defensive.
“Same.” Micha looked at James and Ron. “I do respect theirs, though.”
James raised an eyebrow. “I understand what you’re asking, but it’s better if you ask it clearly.”
“Can you…I don’t know, like every day just…tell us which one of us did a better job that day?” Micha asked, obviously embarrassed. “I think…if you told me I was better than Jed that day, then if I’m stepping on him later I won’t feel like I didn’t win.”
“Yeah,” said Jed. He nodded. “Yeah, I think that would work. And…” He took another breath. “I mean Micha and I aren’t that good at, you know.”
“Behaving like humans, I’ve noticed,” James said. “It’s fine. I can do that.”
“We are supposed to be teaching you stuff while you’re here,” Ron agreed.
“That’s right. So Ron will set you a task every day or so and I’ll determine how successful you were. But you know me by now. I’m not going to pretend you did well if you didn’t, just because you’re sad you haven’t been the boss recently. I expect you to do the things you’re tasked with and I expect you to do them well and I’m not going to worry about your sexual desires when I’m assessing that.”
“That’s perfect,” Jed said, nodding quickly. “That’s great. Because, because you don’t care it means that it’ll actually mean something.”
“It’s like, objectivity,” Micha agreed. “At least until we figure something else out.”
“Or kill each other.”
James sighed. “Okay. Ron, go get the real rope. We’re going to show them how to tie proper knots and then I’ll show them how to hit someone the right way. We’ll also talk about stop words and then you two are, whether or not you do it with Ron and I, going to talk about what you think you do and do not want to do. While we’re doing all that, if there are any other questions you’d like to ask us, now would be a good time.”
“Are you going to untie us?” Micha asked. “I…promise not to run away.”
Ron smiled. “Nah. The magic on the rope isn’t that complicated and neither are the knots. Why don’t you both try to get out of it and see how you do?”
They looked at each other, understood what Ron had done, and both started trying to undo Ron’s binding spell. James shared a look with Ron, who went to get the rope. Spike had been right. If Ron and James hadn’t talked to them, they would have hurt themselves pretty soon. They might still hurt themselves, they both liked to push and do more than they should. But they’d be okay.
Now if only Ron could figure out how to get them to admit they liked each other.