Warnings: D/s, BDSM, graphic and potentially triggery descriptions of bondage and flogging, mentions of physical abuse of a minor, first time. This material is intended for mature audiences only, so please DO NOT READ if you are offended by the subject matter or are under 18 years of age. Seriously, you are forewarned.

A/N: This fic was written as part of the Star Trek Big Bang Challenge of 2010. Beta'd by ggo85 and mijan.

As always, I have tried to treat the subject matter herein with sensitivity and respect. Your comments are welcome.

Jim's reaching across the table for the soy sauce when Bones' hand snakes out and grabs his arm. Startled in mid-movement, Jim stops what he's saying about pressure points and bandage sprays, and follows Bones' gaze.


They're in Bones' room in the medical apartment complex. It's Friday night, and they're ostensibly studying together because Bones promised Jim that he would help him cram for his Emergency Response practical on Monday. Jim actually had to bribe him with beer and Chinese takeout, which is now spread all over Bones' desk.

Jim's sleeve has ridden up as he stretched his arm across the table, revealing the rough, red abrasion encircling his right wrist. Bones is holding him by the forearm, staring at his wrist and frowning.

Jim tries to tug his arm away and make another grab for the soy sauce, but Bones holds firm. The look he gives Jim is curious, even clinical. "That looks pretty nasty, Jim. Where did you get it?"

"I don't know," Jim replies. "Uh, probably was in Hand-to-Hand. We were working on wrist holds, pinning your opponent, that sort of thing." His tone is nonchalant, but he can't stop the hot flush from creeping over his cheeks.

"That sort of thing," Bones repeats, raising a cynical eyebrow. "You had Hand-to-Hand on Tuesday. You came to me afterward in the clinic for a black eye."

"Uh huh," Jim agrees. His eye socket is still bruised, although Bones healed the small cut below his eye and reduced the swelling. "Elbow jab right to the face. Gennady Orlov is a menace," he says with a laugh. "I must've had this then, Bones. You just didn't notice."

"Could be." Still grasping his arm firmly, Bones turns his wrist over, palm up. Without warning, he presses down on the abrasion with his thumb, making Jim yelp "Ow!" at the sudden sting. "Except that this is a fresh injury," he says calmly.

Jim jerks his hand away with a snarl, shaking his sleeve down to cover his wrist. "Some fucking bedside manner you have! Warn a guy first." The bottle of soy sauce stays on the far side of the table, but Jim decides to do without. He picks up his pair of chopsticks and begins eating, keeping his left hand tucked casually in his lap. "Anyway, I told Gennady he's gotta teach me that move, or next time I'll-"

"Let me see your other wrist, Jim."

This isn't heading anywhere good, and Bones is giving him that I'm a doctor so cut the bullshit look, which usually means that Jim's lost the battle before it's even started. Even so, he makes a half-hearted attempt to delay the inevitable. "Bones, it's nothing. Let's just eat, okay? You promised to go over this material with me."

Bones just waits expectantly, unmoved by Jim's protest, so after a pause, he presents his left wrist with an aggravated sigh. The red, swollen scratches, just beginning to scab over like those on his right wrist, make Bones scowl. "Look, they match," Jim says. "Satisfied?"

"Where did you get these marks?" Bones' voice is deceptively quiet, which in Jim's experience is a sign of the calm before the storm. He wonders if there's any way to avoid the coming discussion. Probably not, because Bones is relentless where Jim's health is concerned. And he knows that Jim's default reaction is to deny that there's anything wrong. Or lie.

Jim attempts to bluff it out. (No, this is not embarrassing. At all.) He gives him a smirk, but it comes out as more of a grimace. "You're the doctor. I'm sure you can figure it out."

"Ligature marks, Jim," Bones says flatly. "These are rope burns, and don't try to tell me you got them in class."

Jim inclines his head in confirmation. "Good guess, Sherlock Holmes. Now are you going to help me with my CPR technique, or what?"

"Jim..." Bones hesitates, and Jim puts down his chopsticks and looks up at him. Bones is giving him a look of concern. "Did somebody hurt you?" he asks quietly.

"No! I'm fine. Don't worry, Bones. It's not what you're thinking." And damn it, is he really going to have to explain this to his best friend?

His mother's face is tight with disapproval and worry. "What's going on, Jim? You didn't tell me you'd enlisted in Starfleet. You just said you'd moved to San Francisco."

"Well, then, now you know." He gives her a bland smile. He knew that she'd find out eventually; Winona's still on active duty, and she has her connections. It's not that his enlistment was a secret, exactly, just that he hasn't gone out of his way to tell her about it. They haven't spoken in months.

"Imagine my surprise when I got a call from Kurt Cheney. Kurt and I served together on the Nelson four years ago-"

Jim groans to himself; Cheney is his instructor for the first-year command seminar. "Yeah, I know, Mom, he told me-"

"...and we keep in touch. He says that you're bright but very argumentative."

"Come on, Mom, I'm supposed to argue with him, it's a command seminar!"

"Well, maybe you should keep in mind the limits of appropriate behavior from a cadet. Even in a command seminar."

"He's an arrogant ass, mom! He knows his subject, but he likes to go on about history, too. He's seriously misinformed. We were talking about the Battle of Andoria, and I just explained to him that-"

"I told him that you got your brains from me," she interrupts, fixing him with a hard stare that reminds him, uncomfortably, of a thousand other discussions just like this. "The mouth, you got on your own. You never understood about respecting your elders, Jim, and you'll wash out of the Academy in no time if you don't learn it now."

Thanks for the encouragement, Mom. "I do respect him. What, I can't point out when he makes a mistake?"

"Maybe there are some things you still need to learn, hotshot. You just got there, remember? You're only a first-year cadet, and he's your instructor..."

He makes an effort to calm himself, wanting the conversation to be over. "It's okay, Mom. You don't have to worry. I'm doing fine here." He's really not doing all that fine, but he's used to keeping things from her. There's no point in telling her about the cadets who ostracize him, resenting his intellect and his famous name, or the loneliness he feels sometimes, even surrounded by so many people. "My grades are good."

She gives a harsh, cynical laugh. "Your grades are the least of my worries."

"What's that supposed to mean?" he asks indignantly, although he knows what she's referring to, of course. He's been in and out of trouble for years, and he can't blame her for not wanting to pick up the pieces again. His foot begins tapping nervously on the floor.

"It means that I know how smart you are, Jim, but you haven't been in school for years, and the Academy has its own rules and regulations."

"I'm getting used to them. Wanna see me salute?" Jim grins, trying to inject some humor into the leaden atmosphere. His mother rolls her eyes. "Come on, Mom, I'm 22. I can keep my part of the room neat and do a few push-ups."

"Oh, Jim." She sighs, and his stomach clenches at the familiar note of disappointment. "Of course you can. But the point is, what are you even doing at the Academy? Since when do you want to be a Starfleet officer? Did you just wake up one morning and decide to enlist?"

He feels irrationally angry at her for questioning his motives, even though she's only saying out loud what he'd been thinking for months. But he blusters on, because arguing with her is an ingrained habit. "Why can't you just take it at face value? I wanted to do something with my life, that's all. You kept telling me to go to school, to get out of Riverside."

She shakes her head. "I meant college, Jim! This doesn't make sense. You hate Starfleet. You've told me that, often enough."

Jim doesn't answer, and the silence stretches between them, awkward and heavy. He doesn't make an effort to keep the conversation going. What's the point? He knows it's only going to end with the usual accusations about not living up to his potential, and complaints about his self-destructive blah blah blah. Or his favorite, you're-only-doing-this-to-hurt-me.

"Is it your father?" she asks, finally. "Are you trying to follow in George's footsteps? Because those are awfully big shoes to fill."

Jim looks down at the floor and she stops. When he turns back to the comm, she's looking at him with a mixture of consternation and guilt. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that... I just don't want you to set yourself up for failure, Jim. The Academy's only the beginning. Starfleet is a lifetime of discipline, and I'm not sure that you know what you're getting into."

Out of sight of the vid camera, he digs his fingernails into the muscles of his thigh, letting the sting of pain wash over him. He takes a deep breath. "Look, thanks for the warning, Mom, but I'm all right. I've gotta go now or I'll be late to a class." He puts all of his charm into his smile, and is relieved to see a small, answering quirk of her lips.

"Well, I guess that's a good sign, then. I've never seen you make much of an effort to get anywhere on time."

"See? You don't need to worry. Bye, Mom."

His smile fades as the connection ends, and he smashes his fist down on the desk.

What the hell is he doing here? Fuck this. His mother is right.

"You're sure?"

"Of course I am," he says, smiling at Bones reassuringly. "Entirely consensual, okay?"

Bones' mouth twists into something unreadable, but he's definitely not smiling back. The tension in the line of his jaw doesn't bode well for Jim. "Then what kind of stupid games are you playing?"

There's an awkward pause. It's not that Bones has never heard Jim brag about his sexual exploits. It's just that recently, without spelling it out, Bones has started giving him the kind of unspoken signals that mean the beginning of something: a hooded glance, a brief squeeze on the shoulder, an accidental bump of thigh against thigh when they're sitting side by side, a half-smile that isn't quite as innocuous as usual. Bones' signals are so brief and enigmatic that Jim's not sure they're there at all. Jim's good at reading the kind of blatant, uninhibited messages that come his way on a regular basis, but this subtle heat that flares up when he's least expecting it leaves him unsteady, not knowing where he stands or what Bones wants.

The one thing he's certain about is that he doesn't want Bones to know what he was up to the other night with Gennady. Jim grabs the chopsticks again and resumes eating, keeping his eyes focused on the food. "That's my business."

Bones snorts. "Well, you obviously wanted it to be my business, too, Jim! You come waltzing in here, waving your bleeding wrists around under my nose-"

That's just too much, and Jim rolls his eyes. "I did not wave them around. My sleeve rode up when I was reaching for the soy sauce. You're the one who's making an issue out of this." He wants to add that the abrasions aren't bleeding, but once Bones is started on a rant, it's better not to interrupt him too much.

"-not two days after I healed your god damn black eye, but I guess that wasn't enough hurt for you, was it? You get beaten up in class on a regular basis. Now apparently you have a new hobby that involves getting tied up, but that's okay, because it's consensual, right?"

If there's something Jim hates, it's being belittled, but he checks his anger. He knows that Bones cares about him, and he knows that what he did the other night went a lot farther than he'd intended. "For God's sake, Bones, calm down. It's not a hobby. It was just one night, and it was my choice! If I don't mind, why are you getting upset?"

"Because you're hurt, you idiot! Was it just the wrists, Jim? Or maybe the ankles too?" Jim looks away uncomfortably, and Bones nods. "I knew it. You never do anything halfway. I'll bet if I lifted up your shirt, I'd find all kinds of marks on you." Bones is right, but Jim doesn't want to give him the satisfaction of admitting it.

Bones leans forward suddenly and pulls down the collar of Jim's black undershirt, revealing his throat. Jim swats his hand away in annoyance. "At least you had the sense not to use rope on your neck. Remind me to show you some pictures of what strangulation victims look like. It'll be good prep for your Emergency Response practical."

"It was just a little fun, Bones. You're overreacting." His voice, even to his own ears, sounds petulant and defensive. He tries again. "What's the matter with you? I was just looking for a little release. It's healthy. You're a doctor! Don't be so fucking judgmental."

Bones fixes him with a glare. "Judgmental? If you got abrasions like that, then your partner's an amateur and you were both just plain irresponsible!"

"Look, I don't want to talk about it."

Bones continues as if he hasn't spoken, decibels climbing. "The rope you used was too thin and too restrictive! Your circulation could have been cut off or you could have gotten nerve damage. And if your partner let you walk away with those kinds of injuries, he's either a total jackass or as clueless as you are!"

"Calm down, Bones. It's not your scene. I get that," he says, although part of him is wondering how the hell Bones knows so much about proper bondage technique. "But I'm fine. I was just experimenting a little, okay?"

"I didn't know that you were interested in this kind of thing, kid." There is a hint of gruffness in his voice, and also something else… Surprise? Curiosity?

Jim reddens. "Maybe I didn't either."

After his classes, Jim forgoes his usual leisurely jog around the perimeter of the campus, opting instead for the more demanding Academy obstacle course. The path weaves through the man-made parks of the Academy and in and out of the huge indoor fitness complex. It's starting to rain, and the drizzle mixes with his sweat, falling down his brow and running into his eyes.

He drives himself up the punishing ascents, climbs nets and wire fences, sprints through muddy terrain and crawls under bushes. Large screens posted at the end of each segment inform him of his times and scores, and he takes a masochistic pleasure in forcing himself through retrials when he hasn't met his own exacting standards.

As hard as he pushes himself, though, he can't clear his head. Even as he pants and wheezes and grunts his way through the grueling course, his mind is busy obsessing. He recalls and analyzes every nuance of the conversation with his mother, and then replays it, this time saying what he should have said but didn't have the guts to. He digs up all the past discussions in which his mother expressed her disappointment in him or implied that he'd never live up to the standards she'd set for him. He gets angrier and angrier as he remembers all the times when she wasn't around, leaving him to fend for himself in ways that she never dreamed of. He imagines having that conversation with her, telling her exactly what happened and when and with who.

He runs and runs and can't stop thinking.

An hour and a half later, as darkness falls, he's exhausted. His muscles ache, his lungs burn, and he's chilled to the bone from the wind and incessant rain. He's a little nauseous from the exertion. His mind is quieter, finally.

It's better. But it's not enough.

Jim's relieved when Bones finally drops the subject and focuses on his food. As they eat, Jim bugs him with questions about emergency medical situations. After dinner, Bones takes out his medkit, and they move on to the practical aspects: Jim takes his pulse, makes a basic tricorder sweep, and applies a pressure bandage to Bones' arm.

"Your technique is shit," Bones informs him.

Jim scowls at the bandage he's trying to place around Bones' forearm, which has already begun to unravel. He throws up his hands. "Show me how it's done, then. You're the professional."

"Thought you'd never ask," he says with a grin. "Lie down on the floor. You can't work with a patient that's sitting in a chair. And push up your sleeve." When Jim has complied, Bones kneels next to him and grasps his elbow, holding it out to the side, and points to Jim's bicep with his other hand. "Let's say you've got a deep cut right there. Not all that hard to imagine, if you get drunk on Aldebaran firewater again and start picking fights with the guys at the next table—"

"That only happened once, Bones!"

"…and one of them pulls out a knife," Bones finishes, fixing Jim with a hard glare. "So you're bleeding from a deep laceration." He traces a line along Jim's arm with his fingernail, to demonstrate. "All right, pay attention. I'd check for a fracture first. Look for a break in the skin, swelling, or pain." Jim nods, noting the way Bones' fingers are probing methodically along his humerus bone.

Bones' tone is calm and confident, as if he's lecturing one of his residents. "Put the dressing on the wound site and apply direct pressure. Keep it up until the bleeding stops. That should take a few minutes." Bones lays down a sterile bandage and presses down firmly with the heel of his hand.

Bones' hands are warm and surprisingly strong. It's an odd experience to be on the receiving end of medical care when he's not actually injured. Jim's enjoying it, despite the awkward position he's in, lying on the floor with Bones kneeling above him. It's been a long day, and he doesn't mind letting Bones take charge for a little while. It's funny, the way the steady pressure on his arm makes the rest of his body relax.

Bones maintains his hold, still talking in that calm, measured voice. "If you're putting pressure on a cut, it's going to hurt. But you have to press down hard enough to stop the bleeding, even if your patient is complaining about the pain."

"Okay." That makes sense, although the idea of hurting someone who's already wounded makes him a little nervous. It occurs to him, for the first time, that Bones probably has to deal with that sort of situation every day when he's at work. Fuck, he could never be a doctor.

"When you've stopped the bleeding, wrap the wound with something elastic, to keep up the pressure. If you've got a standard field bandage like this one, use it. It's made of polygarnate, and it adjusts the pressure automatically." He begins winding a wide bandage around Jim's arm. "Wrap an extremity in this direction, distal to proximal—from farther away to closer. Try to keep the tension even, and keep the limb elevated." When he finishes, the bandage is tight, and it constricts slightly around his arm.

Bones presses his fingers to Jim's wrist. "You should check the pulse above the bandage manually, to make sure circulation's still good." He looks at him thoughtfully. "How does that feel, Jim?"

"Huh?" It's a strange question, since he's not actually injured, but maybe Bones is just demonstrating proper medical concern. "It feels good. Uh, I mean, it doesn't hurt."

Bones unwinds the bandage, a small smile on his lips, and lets Jim up. They go back to the desk and go over a few other First Response techniques. Bones draws the line at allowing Jim to inject him with a hypospray, and makes him practice on an orange instead while he cleans up in the kitchen.

It's harder than it looks. He's so focused on perfecting his citrus hypo technique-snap in the saline, swipe, jab, press, release-that he doesn't notice the whirr of the scanner behind him until it's too late. When he turns around, Bones is holding the medical tricorder and scowling.

Jim hates med scanners. They aren't nearly as accurate for diagnostic purposes as a biobed, which is equipped with highly precise sensors and cellular imaging technology. For the most part, the biobed eliminates the need for the patient to say very much, because the bed displays his bodily functions automatically on the screen above his head. The most a tricorder can do is measure vital signs and perform limited diagnostic imaging, which means that Jim is about to be asked some uncomfortable questions.

"Bones," Jim reminds him, "you're supposed to be helping me practice. Show me again how you do that hypo jab."

"Pull up your shirt. I want to see what's underneath."

"That's tempting, but I'll pass," Jim smirks. Bones doesn't look amused, which is a bad sign. "Put that thing away. I'm fine."

"Cut the crap, Jim. The scanner's showing increased platelet and lymphocyte interaction and macrophage activity over your chest and abdomen."

"So what?" It's not a brilliant response, he knows, but there's a chance that Bones may drop the subject if he puts up enough of a fuss.

Bones rolls his eyes. "That means you've got some open wounds, kid. So you're going to let me see whatever it is you did to yourself while you were experimenting the other day."

"Some other time." Jim stands up abruptly. "We're done, then, if you're not going to help me study anymore. I'm going back to my dorm."

Jim grabs his PADD and his cadet jacket, but Bones is quicker than he is. He places himself between Jim and the door and folds his arms over his chest. "I'm not kidding, Jim. Take off your shirt."

Jim can't explain why he's compelled to obey. There's something authoritative and steady in Bones' tone which Jim finds hard to resist. It's not the tone Bones usually directs at him-he tends to use a derisive, scathing kind of sarcasm as he rips Jim up one side and down the other for whatever bit of stupidity or clumsiness caused the problem at hand, although his hands are gentle-but Jim's heard him speak like that to the nurses and the other doctors. It's a commanding, confident tone that implies: I expect you to do exactly as I say. For some reason, it makes Jim's stomach clench.

He sighs and grabs the bottom hem of his shirt, pulling it off over his head in one smooth move and tossing it onto the desk. He knows, as he does it, that cooperating like this is a not a good idea, because Bones is going to be furious with him.

"God damn it." Bones moves closer, fingering the sharp cuts along his abdomen and chest, pressing slightly on the sensitive skin while Jim pastes an indifferent look on his face. "I knew it would be something like this." A hot sting of pain flashes through him as Bones touches the swollen edge of deepest cut, just under his rib cage, and he flinches involuntarily.

Bones is shaking his head. "There are twelve separate lacerations that I can see. Most of the cuts are fairly shallow, but these two," he says, pointing to the deep one and another below his navel, "are pretty deep, and they're getting infected. I'll need to clean and treat them."

He's a little rattled by Bones' description of lacerations and infections, not to mention cleaning and treating. If Bones has his way, things are going to get medical and unpleasant very quickly. "Bones, don't make such a big deal out of it, it was just a little knife play-"

"Knife play?" Bones looks disgusted. "Is that what you call it? Did your friend even sterilize the blade, or did he just run into the kitchen and start rummaging around in the drawers?"

"Of course he cleaned the blade," Jim scoffs, although he really has no idea where Gennady got the knife or whether he sterilized it.

"He?" Bones raises an eyebrow. Jim stares back defiantly. "Well, did he use an antiseptic before he started slashing you?" Jim shakes his head, feeling like a scolded child. "Did the fool even wear gloves?"

"I don't think so, but—"

"And for your information, this isn't knife play, kid. Do your research next time. This is cutting, plain and simple."

"How would you know what knife play is?"

"I'm a doctor, remember? Believe me, I've seen it all before. I know what blood play looks like, kid, and this ain't it. This is random and uneven, just like a beginner would do after seeing too many cheap porno vids. Was this what you wanted?"

"Don't give me that look," he says defensively, although it's beginning to dawn on him that maybe Gennady wasn't as knowledgeable as he seemed. "Lots of people do this sort of thing. Not everybody's vanilla like you." Jim really doesn't know anything about Bones' sex life, beyond the fact that he was married. If he's been getting any action at all since they've been at the Academy-which Jim doubts-he's been completely discreet about it.

Bones gives him a withering gaze. "Well, thank you for that lecture on sexual diversity, Doctor Kirk. Personally, I don't care if you get your kicks from holding hands with your partner or doing acrobatics. But this guy's an irresponsible asshole if he let it get this far."

"I told you, it was consensual!"

"You consented to letting somebody carve you up like a Thanksgiving turkey?" he asks, and Jim glowers at him. "Your wrists are bruised and abraded and you came out of there bleeding in a dozen places. Did you even have a safeword, Jim?"

Jim shrugs away from Bones' touch and takes a step backward. He doesn't really want to answer. It's nobody else's business whether he did or didn't have a safeword, and besides, this is downright embarrassing. Jim's pretty uninhibited in the bedroom when the door is shut, but he's not so keen on giving the blow-by-blow afterward to his best friend and his doctor, especially since Bones is making him feel like an idiot. His ears are hot, and he can imagine how red his face must be by now.

But Bones is looking at him expectantly, and the silence is itching along his nerves, so he finally answers. "Not a safeword, exactly, but I agreed to it, okay? I told him he could do what he wanted. I thought it would be... I don't know. Intense."

"So you didn't discuss any limits, then." His tone is rising dangerously. "Did you both check your common sense at the door? Damn it, Jim! Sounds like the blind leading the blind! No wonder you ended up like this."

Bones has a point, Jim concedes, but hell, how was he supposed to know what was going to happen? Gennady told him he knew what he was doing. "You're making it sound worse than it is. It's not that bad."

Bones just shakes his head. "Well, I'll give you a choice, Jim. You can either take a short walk with me to the clinic, or you can lie down on the bed here and let me clean and seal those cuts now."

"No fucking way! I'm going home."

"Don't argue with me. Do you want to have an ugly scar for a souvenir? Or a sepsis infection? Sit." Bones glares at Jim until, sighing, he perches himself on the edge of the bed.

He watches glumly as Bones turns back to the desk to where the medkit is lying open, selects two small liquid-filled vials, and snaps them down onto the hypospray. "Come on, Bones, I don't need-Fuck!"

Bones slams the hypo home with a practiced flick of his wrist and thumb, a one-handed jab-press-release. Despite everything, Jim is impressed by his dexterity with the hypo. "It's an antibiotic for the infection."

"For God's sake, Bones, I was gentler than that when I was practicing on a piece of fruit! Don't you think that..."

A wave of dizziness washes over him, and he stretches out his hands to the bed for balance. "Whoa. What was in that?"

Bones smiles. "I added a muscle relaxant. It'll make things easier." He places his hand on Jim's shoulder, steadying him, as Jim starts to sway slightly. "Lie down, Jim. Don't fight it."

"I think this is unethical," he grumbles, but can't resist anymore as Bones guides him back onto the pillow, hoisting his legs up onto the bed. "Didn't give you permission to treat me..."

"I'm a Starfleet physician and you're an injured cadet. That's all the permission I need." Bones is rummaging in his medkit again, and returns with a disinfectant spray, a dermal sealant and some other supplies that Jim can't identify. "Relax, kid, this will take a little while."

The muscle relaxant takes the fight out of him. Jim keeps his eyes trained on Bones as he works, fully focused on Jim's bare chest. He's always liked to watch Bones in his doctor mode. His movements are fluid and sure, and his brow is slightly furrowed in concentration. Jim can feel Bones' fingers, pulling and stretching his skin, but it doesn't hurt. He feels floaty and a little detached, as if the numbing agent Bones is spreading over the cuts is numbing his brain as well. Bones sets up a sterile field around the cut under his ribs, and the heat from the device soothes him further, making him drowsy.

After a few minutes Bones looks up and meets his eyes. "Talk to me, Jim."

Jim shakes his head. "I don't want to talk about it. It was a mistake."

"I'd say the way you went about it was a mistake, but you acted on a need." Bones' voice is surprisingly gentle. "I'm actually kind of impressed. Most people don't go so far as to act on these kinds of impulses. It takes courage. I'm just trying to understand what you wanted."

He really doesn't want to explain any of it, but he can't quite stop himself from speaking. Maybe it's the intimacy of the situation, with Bones leaning over him, touching him, and so fully focused on him. He has a sneaking suspicion, though, that whatever drug Bones has slipped him is loosening his tongue and lowering his inhibitions.

So he answers, revealing the painful, simple truth. "Maybe I wanted it to hurt." Once the words are out of his mouth, the air in the room feels suddenly stuffy, and Jim feels a hot flash of embarrassment sweep through him. Even so, he can't stop. "Maybe I needed to stop thinking about... things."

"Things?" Bones repeats. "What things?"

"I don't know..." He sighs, knowing that Bones' eyes are on him, waiting. "Being here at the Academy. A Starfleet career." His voice is low, hardly audible even to his own ears. "My dad. My mom."

Bones doesn't say anything, and Jim wishes he could just manage to shut up. But he can't seem to control his tongue. "I thought it would help... I can't sit still in my classes. I'm too jumpy. I went for a run the other day, and that usually works, but not this time..."

"So you thought you'd do something a little risky. Something you've been thinking about but never tried."

Jim doesn't deny it. "I needed to get out of my head, that's all. Just for a few hours."

To his surprise, Bones doesn't give him one of his disparaging looks or berate him for being a self-destructive idiot. He just nods, as if Jim's confirmed something he suspected. "Tell me how it happened."

Bones' fingers are warm and comforting on his chest, and the soft whirring of the dermal stimulator relaxes him. "We booked one of the small sparring rooms at the gym," he begins. "It was pretty late at night, and most of the rooms were empty." Jim remembers how he stripped down to his briefs and let Gennady bind his wrists and ankles to the bars mounted on the wall of the small sparring room at the gym, feeling the thrill of immobilization, the rush of powerlessness.

"At first, it was a turn on. The secrecy, the ropes... I let him blindfold me, and he just touched me, ran his hands over me, for a while. It was..." It was erotic and terrifying, he almost says, but no one, not even Bones, needs to know that. No one has to know how his body flooded with a rush of adrenaline and arousal as Gennady's rough hands began skating along the muscles of his back, thighs, and abdomen. "It was exciting," he says instead. The dermal stim unit is a little irritating and he squirms uncomfortably.

Bones doesn't look up from his work, but a small smile plays on his lips. "I'm sure it was. Hold still now." His hand presses down firmly on Jim's hip, keeping him from moving. It grounds him, and he relaxes into the touch with a sigh.

"I liked it. It felt good, even when he got a little rough." Bones raises an eyebrow in curiosity. "Nothing much, just a pinch or a slap here or there. But then... He told me he'd brought something, and he was going to try it, if that was okay with me. I said yes."

"Just like that? Blindfolded and tied up, and you gave him permission to do whatever he wanted?"

Put that way, it does sound reckless. "I've never done anything like this before, Bones," he admits. "The guy I was with...he said he liked power games and he knew what to do. I let him control the scene. That was the point, wasn't it? I didn't know he was planning to cut me like that." He closes his eyes. "That was my fault."

Bones raises an eyebrow. "How was that your fault, Jim? You were tied up and he was the one holding the knife."

"I knew I was taking a risk," he says. "If shit happens when I put myself in that position, I've got no one to blame but myself."

"No limits," Jim tells Gennady. "Make me feel."

"I know what you need. I can give you what you want." Jim feels a brief rush of heat that goes directly to his rapidly-hardening cock, even though Gennady hasn't touched that yet. "You relax, Jim. Just let me do the work." He can hear Gennady take a few steps away, moving across the room to the bag he's left lying near the door.

Jim waits. The ropes are tight and abrasive against his wrists and ankles, and though he strains against them briefly, he can't move at all. Unable to see or move, his remaining senses seem more acute. He wants desperately to be touched again.

The shock of the cold metal on his skin, just as he's expecting the warm touch of Gennady's fingers, startles him and he flinches. The bottom drops out of his stomach as he realizes just what Gennady is holding against his skin. His heart rate ratchets up and a cold sweat breaks out over him.

Fuck. A knife.

Jim hates knives. Gennady doesn't know that, of course. No one does. Knives make him feel small and helpless and vulnerable. There's a very bad memory that goes along with a particular knife in a particular kitchen, and a very small scar just under his chin.

He doesn't protest, though. Protesting would mean admitting the power and shame that memory holds over him, and it makes him furious with himself that he's allowed those images to surface again, now, just as he's starting to lose himself in the scene.

"Don't tense up. Relax." Gennady traces patterns over Jim's chest with the flat side of the blade, teasing him. He drags the handle around Jim's throat, making him gasp. He glides it over his lips, and dips it into his mouth.

Jim's mouth is dry and his breathing is quickening. He feels as if not enough oxygen is reaching his brain, but he can't seem to take a deep breath. His muscles clench, and when Gennady pokes him gently with the tip, just over his navel, he presses back instinctively into the wall.

Calm down, he tells himself. It's just play, just a mind game. He makes an effort to loosen his muscles and slow his breathing. Gennady presses the cold, blunt edge into his thigh, scraping it hard along his skin.

"This is really getting to you, isn't it?" Gennady sounds a little giddy, oblivious to the panic attack Jim's on the verge of having.

"Maybe you could slow down a little," Jim manages to say.

"Relax. I'll put the knife down for a bit. Just focus on how you feel." Gennady runs his hands again over Jim's sensitized skin, alternating between light, feathery touches of his fingers and hard scrapes of his fingernails. Jim's breathing gradually returns to normal.

It's good, he thinks; the element of fear is just what he needed. Gennady palms Jim's flagging erection through the cotton of his briefs. Jim feels his cock twitch and swell slightly against Gennady's fingers. "That's better," Gennady says with satisfaction. "Want to try again?"

Jim nods. It's about time he dealt with his fear, anyway. This is just a scene and the knife is a prop. He can handle it. "Sure."

Gennady brings the knife out again, touching him here or there with the flat of the blade. He plays across Jim's shoulders and traces the line of his spine and the curve of his bicep. He makes quick slashes with the blunt edge of the knife, pressing down just enough to raise a welt without breaking the skin. He scrapes the blunt edge across his chest. It's unpredictable and it keeps Jim off balance.

The sting of the knife is good; it's not really painful, and it centers him, reminding him that it's clearly a game. Jim begins to breathe more deeply. He's calmer, even as his heightened senses are stimulated and teased. His focus sharpens and narrows. He's not really afraid, but he's on edge and nervous.

Then he hears Gennady says, "Now don't move. Let's try something a little more intense." He freezes as he feels the sharpened edge of the blade drag across his chest. Gennady suddenly presses down, and he feels the blade sink into his skin.

He makes a startled cry at the sharp pain. He wants to object, to tell Gennady that this is going too far, but his vocal cords seem paralyzed. He struggles vainly against the bonds, and that just makes it hurt more. His heart starts hammering in his chest and his throat is suddenly dry.

"Keep still," Gennady tells him, sounding amused, "or I might accidentally do this." Jim hisses as he feels the sharp point of the knife poke into his skin just above his sternum, leaving a stinging pain in its wake. "Or this," he says, pressing down hard enough on the blade to cause a white line of fire to open along Jim's rib cage. Jim can feel the slow drip of blood trickle down his abdomen.

Gennady's voice is calm and soothing, even as he traces the blade lightly down Jim's neck. "That's what it's about, Jim. Fear is good. It'll give you an adrenaline rush. The endorphins will kick in and then it won't hurt at all. Come on, you're too tense..."

Of course I'm fucking tense, he wants to say. He tries to control the panic, reminding himself that this is what he wanted, what he asked for. But the feel of metal penetrating his skin touches something primal in him, and he knows that unless he stays perfectly still, the knife will do serious damage.

Gennady presses down again in a quick flick over his chest. There's a split second in which he feels nothing besides the pressure of the blade, and he thinks that Gennady might be right, that it won't hurt. But then the pain washes over him, a sharp burn that makes him moan and jerk back, and fuck, what the hell's wrong with him, did that pathetic sound just come from him?

He pulls against the ropes, eyes straining open against the blindfold. His body forgets that it's a game and can only focus on one thing: fight-or-flight.

Gennady stops, and the hesitation is clear in his voice. "Want me to keep going?"

Jim knows he's being given a choice, and the rational part of his brain is screaming at him to stop. But there's a secret part that he keeps hidden in a dark corner of his soul, that is drawn to the hurt like a familiar comfort. It's nothing he would ever admit, but it's something he knows on a visceral level, a shattering truth that came to him when he was young. Pain is inevitable and expected; at best, he can control when and how it overtakes him.

It's how his world works. And sometimes he seeks it out, brings it on himself.

So he says nothing.

"I'll take that as a yes. Let's try another one."

"It hurt," he admits. "But I didn't stop him."

"Why not?"

"Fuck if I know." His eyes are closing. God, he's so tired.

Bones sighs heavily, smoothing the sealant gel over the last cut. He picks up the tricorder again. Moving it slowly down the length of Jim's chest down to his hips, he seems satisfied with the readings. "Well, the cuts should heal within a few days."

Jim grunts in sleepy acknowledgment. A second later he's startled out of his doze by a sharp slap to his cheek, and he cries out in surprise. "Hey, what the hell-"

"Don't fall asleep." Bones is glaring down at him. "I have a few things to say to you."

Shit. Of course he does.

"You can sit up." Bones collects his equipment from the bed, dumps it onto the desk beside the medkit, and steps into the bathroom.

Jim pushes himself to a sitting position. His head is still a little fuzzy, as if he's had too much to drink. He grabs his shirt off the desk and tugs it down gingerly over his chest, which is covered in gleaming translucent gel. The abrasions on his wrists are also covered with a salve, and they don't look as red and swollen as they were before. He shrugs into his red uniform jacket, feeling depleted of energy.

Jim hears the rush of water in the sink as Bones washes his hands. "You still have traces of the muscle relaxant in your system, so straight to bed from here. You can wash off the gel tomorrow night."

"Fine." All he can think about is collapsing in his bed.

Stepping out of the bathroom, Bones goes to the desk and fiddles with the medkit, keeping his back to Jim. "All this just to get your rocks off, Jim?" he says, too casually. "You couldn't just get laid without having somebody slice you up?"

Ouch. "It wasn't about fucking. We didn't do that, anyway. I don't..." His voice trails off.

I don't do guys, he's about to say. But he's not entirely sure about that lately, not if his fantasies about his best friend are anything to judge by. "I've never done that," he amends.

"You never let a man fuck you?" Bones' tone is neutral, noncommittal, as if he's asking something about Jim's medical history.

"That's not my thing," he says too quickly.

"Not your thing, huh?" Bones gives him a skeptical look, and shit, Bones is learning way too much about his fantasy life. "But letting a guy tie you up and cut you is your thing?"

"That's my own damn business! I know you don't get it, but that was for the thrill. For the risk."

"Or the hurt," Bones says quietly. "Or the surrender."

"Maybe. I don't know." Jim sighs, tired of trying to explain what he hardly understands in the first place. He's not sure that he's relieved, now that he's told Bones about what happened. He wants desperately to slide into his own bed, shut his eyes, and try to forget that this conversation has taken place.

"All right, Jim. Now listen to me."

Jim braces himself for the tirade, but Bones only says quietly, "Number one. I want you to come back here next Friday evening. You'll need a follow-up on those cuts and abrasions-"

"Oh, come on, Bones, it's just a couple of little scratches!"

"...and I'm assuming you don't want a record of them in your medical chart. So I'll check you out here again." Bones' expression turns stern. "But I'm warning you, the next time I find out that you've damaged yourself in these kinds of games, I will make a full notation in your medical file."

"Okay, okay!" Jim isn't sure whether Bones would actually carry out on his threat, but his stomach churns as he mulls over the implications. A comment like that in his file could seriously screw up his chances at command.

"Number two. Stay away from your partner, whoever he is."

"I knew you'd say that." He's already wondered what he'll say to Gennady on Tuesday, during their next Hand-to-Hand class. At the moment, his plan is to bluff his way through, pretending that nothing out of the ordinary happened between them.

"I mean it, Jim. What you did, consenting in advance without knowing what he was planning, was irresponsible and dangerous. You could have been seriously injured, and you're lucky your partner didn't do something worse. I want you to promise me that you won't try something like that again-"

Jim cuts him off, meeting his eyes defiantly. "That's very fucking helpful, Bones. I tried to explain it to you. You want to tell me again how stupid I was? Thanks very much."

"That's not what I was about to say, you idiot! I want you to promise that you won't try something like that again, not with this guy and not with anyone else."

Jim shakes his head and scowls. "Telling me not to do it—"

"I know. It doesn't make the need go away. Which brings me to the third point. The next time you feel like that—like you can't concentrate, can't stop thinking about things, and you need to get out of your head—I want you to come to me."

"To you?" he says incredulously.

"Yes, to me." Bones meets his eyes directly. He looks deadly serious. "Nobody else, Jim.

Jim's laugh has a bitter edge. After all this, Bones still hasn't understood anything. "What the hell can you do? I know you're a doctor, but this isn't something you can just hypospray away!"

He's taken aback when Bones just chuckles. "Who says I'd use a hypospray? You're not sick."

Jim blinks at him. If there's a joke here, he's missing it. He wonders if Bones is making fun of him.

Bones seems to sense his confusion. "Leave it to me to figure it out. Trust me, I know what I'm doing, and you've just demonstrated that you don't."

He's so tired that he'll agree to anything at this point. "Whatever. Come to you. Got it. Anything else?"

Bones looks as if there's plenty more he'd like to say, but mercifully, the only thing that comes out of his mouth is, "That's it for now. Go home, kid. Get some sleep. Don't do any strenuous exercising for the next two days and make sure you eat regularly. You look like shit."

As Jim stumbles out of the room, rolling Bones' instructions over in his mind, he has the uncomfortable feeling that he's just missed something important. But in his muddled state, he can't quite figure out what it is.