It is not the action Feliciano enjoys so much as Ludwig's responses to it. But perhaps that is putting it a little too simply. He can make Ludwig squirm quite easily without tying him up, without hitting him, without making his partner call him "Master." Feliciano can make Ludwig squirm merely by smiling at him, or kissing him in public (sometimes even in private – his partner is not at all difficult to embarrass), or by announcing that he loves him in the middle of a meeting. Ludwig is embarrassed pretty easily, when it comes to matters of the heart. And he can make Ludwig squirm as a result of more – normal – sex too (because it's always really good,) so he doesn't need the control or the mastery, nothing like that.

Feliciano enjoys these sessions – though admittedly at times he still worries about inflicting too much pain on his beloved – but he is fairly certain he could survive without them. Or at least he was sure. Now he probably wouldn't be able to, simply because Ludwig couldn't. Ludwig needs these times, really. He needs to be made to relax, to bow down, to allow somebody else to take control for a little while. And he needs it, Feliciano knows, because everybody needs something they enjoy. Life without pleasure would be no life at all.

So Feliciano enjoys it because Ludwig enjoys it, because Ludwig needs it, because of Ludwig's responses to it: he adores watching that vacant look cloud the other's lovely blue eyes as he slides into relaxation. He adores watching his shoulders slump as an unseen weight is eased from them. He adores seeing every hard string of tension snapped, pulled away, and Ludwig's body cut free. He loves seeing him smile. And so he crooks his fingers, and strokes Ludwig's hair, and croons his name over and over, until Ludwig is twitching and trembling and making these lovely little breathy panting sounds that almost sound like laughter, though they are muffled and distorted by the tie in his mouth, and Feliciano smiles too.

He slides his fingers, the ones that are not inside Ludwig, down to his lover's jaw, and he touches the makeshift gag that is still tight between Ludwig's lips. It is wet, and oddly warm. He pushes a finger between the fabric and Ludwig's skin, and Ludwig makes another noise, another quiet, desperate, babbling sound that seems to be half pleasure at Feliciano's touch, and half a whimpering protest at the way the tie is pulling even more firmly against his mouth.

Ludwig gasps for air as though he has just been submerged beneath water when Feliciano pulls the tie away, leaving it to hang about his neck. A shiny dampness remains on his on his chin and collarbones, adding to the round droplets of sweat that are creeping slowly, thickly, down and around the curve of bones and sinew.

Feliciano angles his fingers again, and begins to push in and out of his lover even faster. "Is it good, Ludi?" he whispers, because whispering – somehow – always feels a hundred times more intimate, even though there is nobody else in the house with them. Whispering also makes saying these things that are a little embarrassing much, much easier. "Does that feel nice?"

Ludwig nods, whines softly in the back of his throat. His eyelashes are fluttering jerkily, and his lips are curved upwards, just a little bit, and the way his fingers curl up and clench, then uncurl touches Feliciano's heart, warms his stomach and makes his heart beat a little bit faster. Ludwig would probably roll his eyes at such romantic sentiments, but Feliciano has found that, with Ludwig, all the clichés are true. He absolutely adores it.

"Is it nice?" he whispers again, and Ludwig hisses yes in response, the sound strained and primal and utterly saturated with pleasure.

"You have to tell me," he murmurs, and Ludwig's hips twitch upwards as he attempts to impale himself further on Feliciano's fingers, which are now beginning to search, carefully, pressing and circling, and Ludwig just shudders, beautifully, deliciously. "You have to tell me, okay? Tell me when you feel good. Don't be shy, Ludi."

"I," Ludwig manages, then Feliciano presses in again, harder, and the words are lost in a short, tight hiss of air as his throat seemingly closes up.

"Do you like that?"

Ludwig nods frantically, his fingers twitching and curling, grabbing feverishly at the sofa, and at Feliciano.

Feliciano smiles indulgently, and begins to run his free hand up and down the other's spine soothingly. There are red marks on his skin, not just on his back, but all over his body: on his arms and legs, glowing crimson streaks that will surely bruise, left there by viciously enthusiastic hands, on his neck and shoulders, small, sharp groves made by hungry teeth, and red lines along the backs of his thighs, kisses from the riding crop. Feliciano allows his hand to slide downwards, and he touches one of these marks, a long, red slice through the soft skin at the top of his lover's leg.

Ludwig jerks and moans – first at Feliciano's fingers on the mark left by the crop, and then at the fingers inside him, the ones that slide in deeper at the first buck of his hips.

Smiling again, Feliciano leans in close, and presses his lips against Ludwig's ear to calm him.

Ludwig gasps again when Feliciano traces the shape of another red slash, then another, and then a bruise, an old grey one from before that has not healed up yet. Feliciano imagines what Ludwig will look like the next morning, when his neck is purpling and his arms and legs are covered with coin-sized green and yellow and brown splotches, and his thighs are stiff and sore and still red from the crop. The thought makes him shudder, partly because the idea of hurting Ludwig is so very awful to him, and he knows, deep down, that he will never completely get over this – but also partly because he knows Ludwig will like it – and, a tiny, secret voice whispers, from somewhere in the back of his head, because he really does quite like seeing those marks, seeing those proofs of ownership, seeing the visual assertion that he can make Ludwig happy, that he can do these strange things Ludwig enjoys so well. He touches another bruise a little more firmly, a new one that is still scarlet and only just beginning to form, and Ludwig's breath catches, and he makes a choked sound of pain.

Feliciano freezes.

"L-Ludwig?" he whispers.

Ludwig does not respond, but continues shifting on his lap.

"Is that –" Feliciano says, but he is interrupted by Ludwig making a desperate little gaspy sound, and rocking his hips back against Feliciano's hand once again.

"Pl-please," Ludwig pants, and Feliciano looks, and he sees that Ludwig's knuckles are bone white on the sofa cushions. "Please, Master –"

Feliciano swallows, and presses his thumb against one of the bruises on Ludwig's right thigh. Ludwig twitches, breathing shallowly, and Feliciano takes a deep, steadying breath, and presses it once more, harder this time.

It must hurt – it must hurt a lot – but obviously Ludwig likes it, and Feliciano knows he likes it: he can tell by the way his eyebrows jerk upwards, and the pitch of the catch of his breath, and the way his back arches inward, then outwards again, in a long, languorous stretch.

"More," Ludwig mumbles, but the word is shattered, broken, each piece of it tripping clumsily over the next, and it reaches Feliciano's ears as nothing more than a sound, a noise, but the sense of it is preserved, somehow, in the intonation. And anyway, Feliciano knows what Ludwig means to say, he just does – he's always known – in that odd way the two of them have that makes no sense, and so he pushes his thumb back in, back against his lover's tender, marked flesh, and Ludwig makes a desperate, trembling, keening noise, plaintive and longing and agonising all at once, and the sound of it sends a tremor through Feliciano's body and sets his heart and his bones and his nerves alight, and makes him shudder.

He imagines bruises on top of bruises on top of bruises, criss-crossing marks from a crop, a whip, the palm of a hand – his hand – and he wonders, blinking slowly, when it was that Ludwig's pleasure became his own. When was it that these visual shows of devotion – these marks of pain – mixed and joined with his own visual proofs of love? He looks down, and he sees the red streaks and the bruises, sees the creases in Ludwig's precious, lovely face, sees his own hands pressing into his lover's body, bringing pleasure and pain in equal measure, and pleasure that is pain, and pain that is pleasure, and love – and he realises, suddenly, that he has begun to breathe just as heavily as Ludwig: that he has begun to gasp and moan and whisper along with his lover.

"F-Feli," Ludwig whispers, and Feliciano curls his fingers once more, hooks them against that good spot deep inside his lover's body, and he touches his bruises again. And Ludwig arches up against him, into him, swallowing him whole –

This is the point, Feliciano knows, where he should ask Ludwig if he wants to come, if he wants to be allowed to come, and he should make him beg and plead and cry. But something deep inside him doesn't care about what he ought to be doing, what he set out to do, what he learned from those videos that Francis helped him find. So he bends at the waist, putting his face close to the other's, and whispers to him, silly little things that make no sense at all but are shaped like love and affection, and he tells him how much he adores him, and he doesn't make him sob and beg, but he holds him close instead, shutting his eyes.

Ludwig is warm, and his skin is damp, and Feliciano can feel the hard thrum of his pulse against his lips. His blood is raging; his sweat is dripping.

"Ludi," he murmurs, and Ludwig tosses his head back, then drops it to the side, makes a hungry, whining sound. "Please," Feliciano whispers, as though it is he who is desperate for release – and Ludwig obliges, not in a crashing crescendo of relief, but in a soft sigh, a flutter of eyelids. His fingers tighten briefly on the cushions beneath him, and his hips jerk backwards and up, against Feliciano's hand, forcing his fingers even deeper one final time. He holds himself still there, hips pushed up and back, freezing as though he wants to make the moment last longer, dragging it out. Feliciano wriggles the tips of his fingers as best he can, pressing down hard against that place inside Ludwig that he knows, from personal experience and from Ludwig's reactions, feels good; feels so, so good.

Ludwig sinks back down onto his lap slowly, slowly, his muscles unwinding, uncoiling, falling slack. He begins to tremble, just a little – the movement is barely noticeable – and Feliciano moves after him, pressing against him, wrapping his arms around his chest, holding him as the shivers flicker from his warm body. They lie still, pressed together, quiet. Feliciano closes his eyes and breathes, slowly tracing his nails over the dips and swells of Ludwig's muscles, rising and sinking with the shape of his lover's breath. After a time he reaches up, slowly, carefully, so as not to startle the other, and pulls the wet blue tie free.

"Thank you," Ludwig says. Feliciano thinks that's what he says, anyway: the words are indistinct and soft. He strokes Ludwig's arm comfortingly anyhow, and when Ludwig sighs, the last vestiges of tension fading steadily away from his body, he sits up, and helps Ludwig shift onto his back. Ludwig hisses, his eyebrows shooting sharply inwards.

"Oh!" Feliciano exclaims, "oh – I forgot about the – I'm sorry!"

He will be terribly sore, Feliciano thinks, and immediately he begins to panic, and his hands shake, and he feels like crying. But Ludwig just shakes his head, and manages a weak, trembling smile, and Feliciano, body soft with exhaustion and relief, tumbles forwards into his arms, and rests his head beside his lover's collarbone.

They hold onto each other and lie there, still and quiet, just for a little while. Ludwig needs this time, Feliciano knows, to breath, to come down and steady himself, to allow the fierce pounding of his heart to slow. He holds Ludwig through it, his own eyelids twitching with sudden, previously unsuspected tiredness.

A slow, fat drop of sweat creeps down the side of Ludwig's face. It inches out from his hairline, and slides around the curve of his jaw. Feliciano raises a finger to trace its path, and Ludwig watches him silently, smiling, though only just. His eyes are still a little misty, a little unfocused, but he seems more at peace than Feliciano has seen him in a long time. He smiles, widely, and Ludwig smiles back, and closes his eyes.

"Was that good?" Feliciano says when he can bear it no longer, because he needs to know – he needs to make Ludwig happy. "Did you like it?"

Ludwig's eyes open slowly, and he regards Feliciano through a murky haze of fondness, amusement, and exasperation. "Do you really need to ask that?" he murmurs, and stifles a yawn.

"Yes!" Feliciano says earnestly, "Because I did this all for you, and I really wanted to get it right, and you've been so busy and stressed lately, and I really, really wanted this to make you feel better and make you happy again, so please tell me you liked it. But, oh, Ludwig, don't tell me that you liked it if you're only saying it to make me happy, and you didn't actually like it."

Ludwig blinks at him.

"Maybe I'll ask you again later," Feliciano says slowly. He tilts his head back against the other's shoulder and tries to relax. His blood is still pumping, and there is a pounding in his head. But his body is beginning to cool, slowly but surely, and the heady, buzzing tension that had previously strummed along his nerves is starting to evaporate.

Ludwig lies still at his side – though after a moment he turns his head, so that he is facing Feliciano, and whispers, "I loved it."

Relief that is warm, and somehow thrilling and comforting at the same time floods Feliciano's body. He smiles widely, wide enough that if he holds it for too long his cheeks will start to hurt.

"You did?" he says, leaning towards the other enthusiastically.

Ludwig looks faintly embarrassed, but he smiles anyway, and nods. "Yes," he says, quietly.

Feliciano cannot stop smiling. "Do you think we could do it again then?" he asks, his voice slightly hushed.

Ludwig looks at him. His eyelids are heavy, and the movements of his irises are slow. There is a dull flush of red across his cheeks and over the bridge of his nose, as though he's spent too much time out in the sun. It makes Feliciano want to put his arms around him and kiss him, and hold him close forever and ever. "Do you want to?" Ludwig says at last.

"You loved it," Feliciano says, "it makes you happy so of course I want to do it! And next time you need, um, it, just tell me. I'm not very good at guessing."

There is a short pause. Then Ludwig blinks again, and says, quietly, "I don't want to do it if you don't enjoy it."

And Feliciano laughs, and wriggles closer, and rests his head on Ludwig's chest, which is warm, and broad, and slightly damp. He can feel Ludwig's heart beating there, beneath layers of skin and bone and muscle, and he traces round the epicentre with the back of one hand. The thud of it against him almost tickles. "Silly Ludi," he says. "All I want is to make you happy!"

Ludwig doesn't say anything for a long while – but after a time Feliciano feels the other nation pressing his face into the top of his hair. And he kisses Ludwig on the shoulder, and Ludwig makes a quiet sound into his scalp.

"I must've done something very good in the past to deserve you," he says, after a moment. The words are slurred, but lovely. "Very good."

And Feliciano smiles, and he strokes Ludwig's shaking arm, his side, which rises and falls quickly, still, and his stomach, which is slick and warm and slippery with sweat and come. "You are good," he says. "My good, good, Ludi."

Ludwig snorts quietly. And Feliciano holds him. And Ludwig holds Feliciano. And neither of them say anything more, but it's lovely: the soreness and the exhaustion and the pain all seem normal, commonplace, everyday. But it doesn't feel boring. It feels like home.

The End