Warning: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It introduces Side-eye, a member of Ricasso's gang who has some odd neurological problems due to prenatal drug exposure. Diminished sensation leads to sensory-seeking behavior, some of it self-destructive. The poem features recovery from past injuries, requests for assistance with consensual pain, a little nervousness at trying new things, power exchange, fumbling around with new superpowers that are sometimes confusing, references to personal health, awkward conversations, physical and emotional spotting, unintended food roulette, spicy food as a kink material, hand feeding, consensual experimentation with superpowers, aftercare, and other challenges. Although not quite fluff, the overall tone is positive. If these are sensitive areas for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.
"No Feeling of Being Alive"
In the morning, Gray went to the gym
and worked through the short set of
exercises that Thriver recommended.
There were elbow bends, wrist bends,
and forearm rotations. Thriver had also
stuck a note reading, Take a hike!
onto the treadmill and another
that said, Don't even think about it,
on the weightlifting equipment.
Gray soon discovered even
that much wore him out quickly.
Thriver had warned him to push
only as far as discomfort, not pain.
Gray felt grateful for the excuse
to quit and go see Ricasso instead.
"Hey boss, what did you want?"
Gray said as he entered the office.
Ricasso beckoned him behind the big desk
and said, "Take a seat, please."
Okay, this was serious. Gray tried
not to worry as he rolled a spare chair
into position as indicated.
"You're not in trouble, quite the opposite,"
Ricasso said. "I'd like your help with something."
"I'm all yours, boss," Gray said instantly.
The list of things he wouldn't do for Ricasso
was pretty short, and he was sure that
his boss wouldn't ask for those.
"One of my boys whom you haven't met yet
has an issue that requires very careful handling,"
said Ricasso. "Side-eye tends to lose touch
with himself and the world around him."
"Okay, what does that have to do
with me?" Gray wondered.
"He needs a certain amount of pain in his life,
to help keep his focus, or he starts picking fights
and finding accidents to get into," Ricasso said.
"I've been helping him with that as best I can, but
it's a tricky balance between causing him enough
pain without doing any permanent damage."
"You want me to play with him?" Gray asked.
"I dunno, boss, I love kink but I'm just starting
to get the hang of it now. I'm not sure I know
enough yet to fly someone like that safely."
"You don't. It wouldn't be safe for you to top him
alone," Ricasso agreed. "Side-eye goes down
very easily, so I'll need to stick close anyway.
I'm asking you to spar with him instead of
just topping. You have plenty of experience
with that. I'm confident that you can make
this work, if you're willing to help."
"Why me?" Gray wondered.
"Because you understand giving and
receiving pain. Because your power hurts
but it doesn't harm. Because I know that
you're ready," Ricasso said. "This isn't
a new idea, Gray, I've been wanting to ask
you for a while now. I waited because earlier,
kink would have been your best approach, but now
you have whole new options to explore. You can
test your power with Side-eye and not spook him."
That sounded exciting, and a little scary.
Gray wanted to learn more about his new ability,
but he hated hurting people by accident. At least
this way, though, he'd be working with someone
who wanted -- needed -- to get hurt.
Gray took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
"Okay," he said. "I'll do it. If you say that
I'm ready, then I trust you to know it."
That didn't stop Gray from fretting over
the next several days while Ricasso
arranged a time they could all meet,
because Ricasso wanted himself
and Thriver available as spotters.
It also gave Gray more time
to recover his strength and mobility.
He wasn't all the way back to normal
yet, but he was getting close.
When Side-eye finally arrived,
Ricasso made the introductions, and
Gray got his first good look at the young man.
Side-eye had broad shoulders, dark hair,
and light brown skin marked with several tattoos.
Diamond studs twinkled at his earlobes.
Something about his body language plucked at
Gray's attention. Side-eye leaned against the wall,
easy and open. He didn't cross his legs or even
reach his arms across the front of his body.
Gray realized that he was silently signaling, Hit me.
That was, of course, the object of today's meeting
but the sheer scope of vulnerability threw him
off balance -- especially since Side-eye was
actually an enforcer and good at his job.
Curious for more input, Gray made
the mental twist that would show him
the hidden lace of nerves.
What he sensed horrified him.
The intricate pattern snagged and snarled,
as if something had pulled some of the strands
out of alignment and torn others altogether, so
that the whole design was tangled. It was
dimmer, too, than what Gray had come
to expect from another soup.
"Holy crap, what happened to you?!"
Gray blurted, then clapped a hand over
his mouth in horror. "Sorry, I'm sorry,
I shouldn't have said that out loud.
It's just new, what I can sense,
and you look -- um. Different."
"My mother did drugs when she was
pregnant with me," Side-eye said quietly.
"So I'm pretty messed up."
"Then you think some of the damage
is neurological?" Ricasso said to Gray.
"I don't know," Gray said,
throwing up his hands. "I don't
know what I'm seeing or feeling here.
I mean, I can see it, but I can't
really understand it."
"Yet," Ricasso added. "You'll learn.
In the meantime, maybe we can
figure out how to use what you
already see to help Side-eye."
"I'm not a real doctor," Gray protested.
"No, but you've been studying anatomy
with me for its applications to kink, and
Thriver says you've been reading some
of his first aid materials," Ricasso replied.
"I was bored," Gray said. "I was stuck
in bed and then on light duty and I
really needed something to do
before my cooking class started."
"Bored people read anything with
words on it, Gray, they don't do
all the self-tests," Ricasso said.
"They don't?" Gray said. "But then
how do they learn anything?"
"Mostly trial and error," said Ricasso.
"Anyway, my point is that you know more
about nerves than you probably realize yet,
and it would be helpful for you to study further."
"I like the sound of that," Gray agreed.
"Will you still spar with me?"
Side-eye asked, giving Gray
a look from the corner of his eye.
"Of course," Gray said. "I won't
back out just because you startled me."
Given the disparity in their powers --
Illusion was no match for Pain Ray --
Gray figured he could win, especially
since Side-eye wanted to be hurt.
"Let's take this to the gym," said Ricasso.
The gym actually consisted of several
areas that members of the gang could
use for different types of physical activity.
The sparring section had thin, firm mats
on the floor and dummy weapons in
buckets or cabinets along the wall.
Thriver had a load of the foam projectiles
made to look like rocks and bricks, which
they used for throwing and dodging practice.
He waved as they approached, then bent
down to distribute more of the objects around
the floor where they could be snatched up
by combatants during a bout.
"There's one more thing that you need
to know about Side-eye before we begin,"
Ricasso told Gray. "He doesn't have
much in the way of brakes, because he
can't always feel things clearly, so don't
rely on him to tell you if he's hurting or tired.
He gets so caught up in the sensations
that he may not realize it's going too far."
Gray shivered a little, trying to imagine
what it must be like with emotions muffled
to the point of having no joy or fear or grief,
no sense of injury, no feeling of being alive.
He turned to Side-eye. "Are you trying
to work on recognizing your boundaries,
or not there yet?" he asked.
"Trying, but I suck at it," said Side-eye.
"I just like to go really rough, and
not everyone is into that, except for
serious fights. You don't have to fuss
over me. I hate it when people do that.
I can take care of myself just fine."
Ricasso shook his head. "Not by half."
Something sparked in Gray's mind.
"I have an idea," he said.
"Let's hear it," Ricasso said.
"As long as you can keep your feet,
we'll play it your way," Gray told Side-eye.
"But if you go down for a count of three,
you're done sparring for the day, and
you have to let us take care of you."
Side-eye twitched. It took him
a long, careful minute of consideration
before he said, "I can live with it."
"Ricasso and I are spotting for you,"
said Thriver. "Use superpowers or
soft projectiles only today, no hitting.
Scoring is three touches per round."
"But my gift doesn't make contact,"
Side-eye said. "How's that fair?"
"If Gray ducks your superpower, then
you get a point," Ricasso declared.
Side-eye and Gray looked at each other,
then both of them said, "Agreed."
"Standard safewords apply:
green for go, yellow for slow down
or pause, and red for stop," Thriver said.
"Start lightly and build slowly."
The two opponents nodded.
"Step in," Ricasso said.
Gray and Side-eye went into one of
several circles marked on the mat with tape.
"Fight!" said Ricasso.
Gray dove toward the nearest of
the foam bricks. He lobbed one at
Side-eye, who dodged out of the way.
Then Side-eye retaliated with a fake rock.
Gray twirled to the side and evaded it.
Continuing the same motion, Gray
took a swipe with his talent, only
to discover that hitting a fast target
was a lot harder than one that wasn't
actively trying to elude him.
Just then a flicker of motion
swinging at his head made
him drop to the floor.
"Point to Side-eye," called Ricasso.
That was Side-eye's superpower in action?
Suddenly Gray realized that this wasn't
going to be as easy as he'd thought.
He concentrated harder on following
Side-eye with his gaze, and finally
managed to connect, making
the other man yelp.
"Point to Gray," said Ricasso.
"Score is one to one, and so
the next point takes the round."
It only took another minute for
Side-eye to tag Gray with a foam rock.
"First round to Side-eye," said Ricasso.
"Quit pussyfooting around and
hurt me," Side-eye demanded.
Gray had a better sense of his style,
now, the way he moved and struck.
That let him get a lock on Side-eye,
putting enough power into the thrust
to make him cry out in pain.
"Need a break?" Gray asked.
"Fuck you," Side-eye said,
and threw a brick at his head.
Gray dodged the missile, rolled,
and threw it back at Side-eye.
He missed, but made the other man
stumble off-balance in the process.
Side-eye flicked another illusion at him,
but this time Gray recognized it.
He moved into the shadow,
snatched up a fake rock,
and hit Side-eye with it.
Gray felt proud of winning a round,
but he didn't let it throw him off track.
Side-eye was still a formidable opponent.
Gray was tougher, Side-eye was stronger,
but neither of those really came into play
during this kind of competition.
It was more Gray's observation pitted
against Side-eye's greater experience
with his superpower, since the powers
themselves were equally useful.
Sometimes when Gray managed
to put a touch on Side-eye with
his superpower, he held it longer
than necessary to score a point.
Side-eye groaned in his grasp
but refused to go down.
They circled around and around,
trading points, sometimes one winning
and sometimes the other. They actually
made quite a good match on the mat.
Side-eye sent sharp-edged illusions after Gray,
and Gray retaliated with a harsh jolt that
made Side-eye drop to one knee.
Then Gray noticed something that
gave him pause. "Yellow," he said.
"What the fuck," snapped Side-eye.
"I never touched you that time, and
my shoulders aren't on the mat!"
"Not for me, for you," Gray explained.
"Hold out your hands so you can see them."
Scowling, Side-eye obeyed. "There, you see
how they're shaking? That's your body
saying 'yellow,' that it's time for a break."
"If you stop now, we can have lunch,
and you'll get another round afterwards,"
Thriver reminded him. "Overdo it,
and you're done for the day."
Side-eye grumbled but retreated
to the bench to rub himself with a towel.
Gray followed him. "Good match,"
he said. "How are you feeling?"
"I like your new superpower,"
Side-eye said, watching him move.
"I want more of it."
"Lunch first," said Thriver. As soon as
they caught their breath, he ushered
everyone into the kitchen.
Ricasso brought out the pocket bread,
some fresh vegetables, and a pitcher of water.
Thriver sliced long slivers of gyro meat off of
the vertical spit on the counter. Then Gray
added a big carton of plain yogurt and
three different kinds of tartlets.
"Life is uncertain; eat dessert first,"
Ricasso declared, and grabbed
a tartlet to pop into his mouth.
"No, wait --" Gray exclaimed.
Ricasso's eyes bugged.
His skin flushed crimson.
He wheezed in pain.
Then he snatched the water pitcher.
Gray pried it away from him and replaced it
with the yogurt. "Here, try this," he said.
"Don't throw water on a grease fire."
Ricasso lifted the whole carton
and chugged half of it.
"Sorry about that," Gray said.
"I wasn't expecting you to snitch one
before I had time to describe the fillings."
"We're used to you baking batches of
chocolate pastries, Gray, not filling crusts
with zetetic napalm," said Ricasso.
"But I wanted to offer a range," Gray said
in a small voice. "See, these are apple-cinnamon.
They're warm. Those are ginger. They're hot.
Then the ones you ate are filled with pepper jelly
made from Carolina reapers. They're ... well, napalm."
Dr. Carolina Fleer was an engineer by profession,
but liked to breed hot peppers as a hobby.
Her reapers clocked in at an impressive
2,200,000 on the Scoville scale.
Beyond the heat, though, they also had
a sweet fruity flavor that made splendid jelly.
That was Gray's real reason for using them
to make pastry filling, along with the fact that
Side-eye loved pain and Gray liked it and
hot pepper pastries just seemed like fun.
"I apologize for overreaching," Ricasso said.
He started to assemble a gyro for himself,
then added, "And for putting my mouth
on the yogurt carton. That was crude."
"I'm sorry that you didn't like
the reaper sweets," Gray said
as he made his own gyro.
"I like the concept," Ricasso said.
"The execution may need some fine-tuning."
Side-eye made a soft snicker. "It was funny
that you didn't see it coming, though," he said.
He piled food onto his plate, without bothering
to compose an actual sandwich from it. "Imagine
if Gray made a whole batch of jam ones, but with
all different fillings. You wouldn't know if you
were getting one that was warm, hot, or
volcanic -- until you bit into it."
"So it would be like dessert roulette,"
Gray mused, biting into his gyro.
"Do you think it would work, though?
Ricasso wasn't very impressed."
"I didn't know I was playing dessert roulette,"
the boss pointed out. "I do like spicy food,
and some people really enjoy ... surprises."
"But can you do it so they'll look similar?"
Thriver said. "These are all different."
He picked up a cinnamon and a ginger one,
but left the reapers strictly alone.
"Sure, all I need to do is put topping on them,
like a crumble crust or a meringue," said Gray.
"You can buy cinnamon jelly or ginger marmalade,
and several different kinds of pepper jelly."
After they finished their sandwiches, Ricasso
picked up one of the cinnamon tartlets and
fed it to Side-eye, who took the pastry
quite delicately from his fingers.
Apparently once he got warmed up,
Side-eye became more receptive.
"Gray, do you want to try hand feeding?"
asked Ricasso. "The tartlets are small enough
and they hold together well; they're perfect."
"Sure, that sounds like fun," said Gray.
So Ricasso demonstrated the techniques,
first feeding Side-eye one of the cinnamon tartlets
and then accepting a ginger one from Thriver.
Next he exchanged bites with Gray
to teach him both sides of the process.
Gray liked feeding and being fed.
There was an intimacy to handling food
that resonated with something deep inside him.
"Remember that equals can feed each other,
but they do it a bit differently," said Ricasso.
"They're more likely to help guide the food
instead of just accepting it passively the way
a submissive does from a dominant. It's all okay.
Do whatever works for you and your partner."
Gray thought about that as he held out
one of the cinnamon tartlets for Side-eye
to take, keeping his hand still.
Side-eye nibbled it out of his fingers
without nipping. His eyes closed in bliss.
Then he leaned forward and looked
at the ginger tartlets on their tray.
"These bite back a bit," Gray said
as he picked one up. He brushed
a fingertip over Side-eye's lower lip
to coax him into opening his mouth,
then tucked the bite inside.
Side-eye hummed in pleasure
as he chewed and swallowed.
His gaze went right to the reapers,
and he licked his lips.
"You may have some of these,
but it's going to hurt, so I'm
dipping the first bite in yogurt
until we figure out how high
your heat tolerance is,"
Gray warned Side-eye,
suiting actions to words.
This time when Side-eye
accepted the pastry, it made
him flinch and whimper
as he chewed.
Tears trickled down his cheeks.
He was whimpering, Gray
realized, in pleasure.
The lacy network of nerves
seemed a little brighter.
That was probably good.
"Clean a top's fingers when
he feeds you something drippy,"
Ricasso prompted, and Side-eye
complied by licking the smear
of yogurt off Gray's hand.
"More," Side-eye begged.
"Please. Plain this time."
"Okay," Gray said. He used
the side of his fork to cut one of
the bite-sized reaper tartlets into
even smaller pieces, then slipped one
between Side-eye's waiting lips.
There was something
incredibly gratifying about
being able to feed him and
hurt him at the same time.
Gray took a bite of reaper himself,
savoring the sweet, fruity burn.
Then he picked up another pastry
and said, "Want to try a whole one?"
Side-eye nodded eagerly.
This time Gray dabbed a finger in
the jelly and applied it to Side-eye's lips
as if using lip gloss, which reduced him
to beautiful, open-mouthed panting.
Only when that slowed down did Gray
cup one hand behind Side-eye's neck
and feed him the rest of the tartlet.
A flare rippled through the lace of nerves,
echoed in the blissful shivers that
shook Side-eye's body.
"Hmm," Thriver said. "You've
been at this about ten minutes, and
I'll swear that just triggered an endorphin rush.
Have you gotten the talk about levels yet?"
"Oh yes," Gray said with a smirk.
"Endorphins are your friends."
He picked up the next piece of pastry.
"Maybe I was wrong about you," Ricasso said,
thoughtfully watching Gray feed Side-eye.
"You're doing a great job at this. Either I've
underestimated your progress, or else
you just have terrific instincts."
"I'm not actually doing much," Gray said.
"I'm letting Side-eye show me how far
he wants to go with the heat."
"Exactly my point," said Ricasso.
By the time they finished all the pastries --
with Side-eye getting the lion's share of
the reapers -- everyone was full and content.
"Thank you," Side-eye said to Gray.
"It's so hard for me to feel anything.
You're coming through a lot clearer
than sensations usually do."
"I'm glad I could help," Gray said,
and meant it. This wasn't exactly
the kind of kinking around for fun
that he did himself -- it was closer to
Emotional First Aid, which he wasn't
really trained for -- but it was working.
That was enough to satisfy him.
Thriver made them wait half an hour
for sake of digestion, even with
their superpowered metabolism.
So they talked about pastries and
spicy food, feeling the burn and exercise,
Thriver's knack with healthy ingredients,
and one of Ricasso's latest con games
that targeted a bunch of rich forks.
Side-eye was clearly still riding a buzz
of endorphins when they returned to the gym.
Gray made a mental note to keep a closer eye
on him as they sparred, because that would
dull his already-low sense of injury.
The second bout grew more intense than
the first, now that Gray and Side-eye both
knew that their superpowers wouldn't make
the other man run screaming out of the room.
Gray made more contacts using his ability,
and he held them longer, striving to find
the longest path of light through Side-eye's
erratic nervous system. Each time, Gray
waited until his opponent cried out
before he let go of the connection.
Side-eye fought back. Once he
hit Gray in the face with a sponge rock.
another time he charged so close that
Gray had to jump back to avoid a collision,
which they weren't supposed to do today.
Next Gray tried altering the direction instead of
the intensity, to see if he could aim pain at
a particular body part. He zapped one foot
with a sensation of broken glass and
Side-eye limped away from him.
Then the whole room seemed to tilt.
Gray crashed to the mat,
landing hard enough
to knock his wind out.
"Shit shit shit, are you okay?"
Side-eye said, anxious hands
patting over his shoulders.
"I didn't think it would do that!"
"Move aside so I can check him,"
Thriver said firmly, pushing
Side-eye out of his way.
Gray let Thriver look him over
and press worried thumbs
up and down his forearms.
"Will I live?" Gray asked.
"You're okay," Thriver said.
"Side-eye, save that last attack
for later when Gray knows you better."
"Yeah, I'll do that," Side-eye agreed.
They went back to throwing foam things
at each other. Gray beaned Side-eye with
a brick. Side-eye got him back with a rock.
Gray aimed stinging swats at Side-eye's hand
every time he reached for a new projectile. Side-eye
began flicking bright flashes in Gray's face
whenever he tried to grab something.
Side-eye was starting to slow down,
though, so Gray eased up on his attacks
just enough to avoid overloading him.
Gray was keeping such close watch on Side-eye
that he was caught completely off guard when
Thriver said, "Time to stop, guys. Gray,
you're starting to stumble."
"I am?" Gray said, looking at his feet.
They seemed stable enough.
Then he tried to walk, and tripped.
Thriver caught him. "I think you've
burned through all the calories from lunch,"
he said, depositing Gray on the nearest bench.
"Sit still, and I'll get you a reload."
They were, alas, out of pastries
but Thriver soon came back with some
orange segments and sandwiches. "Here,
start nibbling on the fruit," he advised.
Gray obeyed, enjoying the sweet-tart flavor
of the oranges as they burst in his mouth.
Side-eye wasn't doing as well, though,
jittering so much that he had to tuck
one hand under his legs while the other
aimed a wavering sandwich at his mouth.
He'd quit before faceplanting into the mat,
but maybe he would still allow Gray
to take care of him just a little.
Gray ran a soothing hand over Side-eye's arm,
"Try to settle down," he said. "Think quiet thoughts."
Side-eye sighed. "Yeah, I know," he said.
"It's just hard. So much relies on being able
to feel what I'm doing, and I can't always.
I don't want to be coddled, but then I get
like this and it just ... feels different."
"Then what about something you felt earlier?"
Gray suggested. "You seemed to like my power."
"It's beautiful," Side-eye said. "I can almost
see it sometimes, too, like how my own ability
lets me make these dark gray shadows or
flashes of light. The color of that paint
the artists use for waves or clouds ..."
"Payne's grey," he said softly. "It's a favorite."
"Good name for you," Side-eye said,
leaning against him.
Gray stroked him again, more firmly,
thinking about how he might pet a cat and feel
the static electricity crackling under his fingertips.
He let just enough power seep out to nip along
the surface of the skin, watching the fine hairs
rise up behind it and then lie back down.
If he got it exactly right, maybe he could
smooth out some of the snags in what
should have been a lovely curtain of lace.
"Mmm, that's nice," Side-eye said as
he leaned back against the wall.
"How much power are you putting
into that?" Ricasso asked.
"Not much, just enough to light up
the nerves," said Gray. "It should feel
more like a prickle than real pain."
"Side-eye? Is that working for you?"
Ricasso asked, and then had to nudge
him to get an actual response.
"Mmm-hmm," said Side-eye. "Don'stop."
"Okay," Gray said. He moved his hand
slowly up the arm and across Side-eye's back.
"Perhaps it's not so much the pain he needs,
but any sensation intense enough to feel,"
Ricasso mused. "I tried a few other things
with sensory play, early on, but none of it
was enough for him, so we stuck with pain."
"He could be learning to recognize
the input better, or maybe you simply
picked the wrong kind earlier," said Gray.
"I've got an idea," Thriver said. "Let me just
grab something from the patch room.
I'll be back in a few minutes."
Gray kept petting Side-eye,
concentrating on how to maintain
the barest trickle of power through
his palm and fingers, enough to tingle
without turning so sharp as to hurt.
Side-eye let him move the near arm
out from its trapped position and up into
his lap. Gray didn't try to overreach
by pulling it into his own space.
"I'm here. You're here. Feel
where I'm touching you," he said,
coaxing Side-eye into naming
the body parts one at a time.
Ricasso helped by resting a hand
on Side-eye's shoulder and leaning on
him, heavy enough to feel the weight.
"Here we are," he said. "You can
touch us. You can feel us."
They ate slowly, regaining their strength
and appreciating the companionship.
Thriver came back with two metal tools,
each of them a wheel attached to a handle,
one serrated with dull bumps and the other
spoked with tiny sharp pinpoints. "These are
tracing wheels," he explained. "Basically they
work like Wartenberg wheels. I couldn't get
the fancy medical ones, so I grabbed these on
the cheap at a craft store. They're for testing
sensation to measure nerve function."
Gray vaguely remembered Thriver
using those on his hands after he'd
gotten his arms broken, to make sure
that all of the nerves still worked.
"I thought we already knew that Side-eye's
nerves are screwy," said Gray.
"Yeah, but that's not really why I
brought them out," Thriver said. "They're
also among the better known pervertables.
People use these things for sensation play.
Gray, let go of Side-eye for a minute.
Side-eye, give me your arm and
I'll show you how they work."
"Okay," Gray said as he obeyed.
Side-eye silently flopped an arm
from his lap onto the bench.
Thriver trailed one wheel and
then the other along the skin.
"Can you feel these?" he asked.
"Can you tell which one is dull
and which one is sharp?"
Side-eye couldn't always track
the dull wheel, but he could
definitely feel the sharp one,
and he liked the sensation.
Thriver waggled the pinwheel and
said, "See, now we've got a way to give
Side-eye something to feel that won't break
the skin as long as we don't push too hard,
and it doesn't require superpowers."
"Well done," Ricasso said.
"Hmm ... I wonder ..." Gray said.
"Metal can transmit superpowers, can't it?
The same way it carries electricity?"
"Yeah, it's all just energy," Thriver said.
"Some metals carry it better than others."
Gray picked up the dull wheel and
put one finger on the metal part,
trying to trickle his power down it
as he rolled it over Side-eye's skin.
"Sorry, didn't mean to spill
that much," said Gray. "Maybe
the metal magnifies the effect?"
"Or just concentrates it more,"
Thriver said. "Try the pinwheel, and
see if you can get it to spark just
one point at a time."
Gray tried, but he had nowhere
near the control required for that.
It was hard enough just holding
his focus tight enough to keep
the intensity low and the range
localized to a small area of skin.
If he closed his eyes, then he
couldn't do it at all; he needed
to see in order to aim.
He loved tormenting Side-eye
with the metal devices, though.
There was no feeling of being alive
quite like those pleading little whimpers
teased out of someone so strong and stubborn.
It didn't take enough energy to exhaust Gray
any more than he already was, it just felt nice.
Gray used the wheels and his superpower
on Side-eye, but he let Ricasso and Thriver
play along too, so that Side-eye never
knew for sure what was coming next.
They worked him over until the man
turned soft as putty under their hands,
lolling against the wall with a big smile.
"Let go now, so I can lay him out on the bench,"
Ricasso said finally. He took hold of Side-eye
and gently helped him to stretch flat. Then
the boss snapped his fingers and pointed
at Gray. "Blanket." He did the same
with Thriver. "Water bottles."
They brought Ricasso what he requested.
By the time they returned, the boss had
finished toweling the sweat off of Side-eye.
Ricasso covered him with a blanket.
Then he cracked open a bottle of water
and touched it to Side-eye's cheek.
"Yeah," Side-eye said.
Ricasso helped him sit up
just enough to drink, then
lowered him back down.
"Good enough?" Ricasso asked.
"Would you want to do this again?"
"Mmmyeah," Side-eye slurred.
"S'great. Wanna keep'm, boss."
"I'm glad to hear that," Ricasso said.
When it became clear that Side-eye was
falling asleep, Ricasso scooped him up
and transferred him a real bed
in one of the flop rooms.
Gray watched Thriver tidying up the gym,
mopping sweat off the padded floor
and putting the foam projectiles
back into their storage buckets.
Tired from the workout,
Gray just sat on the bench
with no inclination to move.
Presently Ricasso came back.
He laid a fond hand on Gray's shoulder
but let his fingertips trail over the back
of the neck. "You did a splendid job,"
the boss said. "You exceeded even
my high expectations. Thank you."
"You're welcome," Gray said.
"I'm just glad we found some things
that make Side-eye feel better without
injuring him -- or me -- too much."
"He goes down so easily for me, but
I've never seen him go so far, so fast,"
Ricasso said. "It took time for us to work
through enough to reach the right headspace.
You made it work the first day, even though
the main focus fell on sparring, not kink."
"My talent makes it easier, I think, and
I'm riding on your coattails," Gray said.
"I couldn't have done it without those."
The hand rubbing his shoulder found
a tender spot, though, making Gray flinch.
"You're sore," Ricasso noted,
gentling his touch at once.
"Best put you to bed too.
A nap and some aspirin
should fix the problem."
Thriver fetched the pills without
any more specific command, which
was a good thing, because Gray
wasn't sure he could've done it.
Gray gulped them down with
half a bottle of water. Then he
let his friends wobble him to bed.
He could shower later, when he
had enough energy to do it
without falling over.
It was the first time that
he'd used his new superpower
so much, Gray realized, which
surely justified taking a nap
in the middle of the day.
As he fell asleep, he licked
his lips one last time. They still
tasted of ginger and satisfaction.
* * *
Pain's Gray (Gray Agamau) -- He has fair skin, gray eyes, and ash-blond hair swept up toward the crown of his head. He's on the slim side for a fighter, but still has nicely defined muscles; they're just not overbuilt. He is heterosexual, but omnisensual, and often mistaken for homosexual. He tends to take out his temper on the homophobes when they pester him. Gray is popular among supervillains for combat support and running errands. He works for Ricasso, who sometimes loans out his services. He's prone to low blood sugar after stress or exertion, and needs to be careful to eat often enough. He is discovering a knack for making fancy pastries.
Uniform: Charcoal dexflan suit piped in reflective silver, with a cape of Payne's grey capery. His utility belt contains a well-stocked first aid kit; he's known for treating both sides in a fight, and for having the best bleeding-edge equipment from friends in zetetics.
Origin: Torture. He was an ordinary mook until someone decided to get information out of him the hard way. That really did not end well for them. Gray escaped, returned to his boss, explained his new talent, and got a raise.
Qualities: Good (+2) BDSM Switch, Good (+2) Observant, Good (+2) Pastry Cook, Good (+2) Supervillain Henchman, Good (+2) Tough
Poor (-2) Low Blood Sugar
Powers: Good (+2) Pain Ray
Limitation: This is a gaze attack that requires eye contact for maximum effect. Without that, it's only Poor (-2). It becomes combat-ineffective, merely uncomfortable, if the target is nearby but he can't see them.
Motivation: "You're not as tough as you think you are."
Ricasso (Antonin Torriani) -- He has fair skin, hazel eyes, and short wavy black hair with a mustache joining a complex beard. His eyes are the shade of hazel that blends amber and green toward the outside with darker brown near the pupils. His name refers to the unsharpened part of a sword blade that allows greater precision by placing a finger over it. His father's family comes from Duno, Province Varese, Lombardia, Italy. His other heritage includes French, British, and Spanish. Antonin is first-generation American.
Ricasso runs a supervillain gang, providing muscle and showmanship and other services. His preferred weapons include knives and swords, which he learned to use before gaining superpowers. As a hobby he enjoys kink and other forms of power exchange; he's a talented gentleman dom. He also likes dancing and other fashionable entertainments.
Origin: He inherited a sword pendant which granted him superpowers. It was made during the French Revolution.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Crime Boss, Expert (+4) Power Exchange, Good (+2) Ballroom Dancing, Good (+2) Fashion Sense, Good (+2) Lockpicking, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Suave
Poor (-2) Coping with Crudity
Powers: Good (+2) Cutting, Good (+2) Precision, Average (0) Minions
The Spadonari include both superpowered and ordinary gang members. Their name means "sword dancers." While they aren't as numerous as some other gangs, their quality is beginning to attract attention.
Thriver (Alec McKinney) -- He has fair skin with freckles, green eyes, and short wavy brown hair. He is slender and graceful. He can go for a long time without resting, if necessary, because of how his body stores energy.
After his superpower developed, Thriver lived on the streets for a while. He earned money by selling himself, not for sex, but for the thrill of playing with superpowers. Some supervillains in particular liked the fact that he could juice them up. Ricasso met him in passing, gave him money and food more than once, and tried to convince him to go to a shelter. Thriver always refused. Then one night, Thriver gave away too much of his energy. Ricasso found him passed out on the pavement and took him home. After some coaxing the next day, Thriver agreed to stay with him, and eventually joined the gang. His job is basically taking care of the other gang members, things like food and medical care and a sympathetic ear when they're upset.
Origin: His superpower manifested while he was in paramedic training, probably stimulated by the intense study. They kicked him out.
Uniform: Street clothes. He often wears a black leather jacket.
Qualities: Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) First Aid, Good (+2) Loyal, Good (+2) Soup Friends, Good (+2) Supervillain Henchman
Poor (-2) Hates to See His Friends Hurt
Powers: Good (+2) Energy Transference
Motivation: Keep everyone running.
Side-eye (Itzal Nekano) -- He has light brown skin, dark brown eyes, and short black hair with a goatee. He is very muscular, with wide meaty shoulders and narrow hips. There are gang tattoos on his right shoulder, left forearm, and back. He also has a splendid sword design between his shoulderblades, done in scarification by Ricasso. Both ears are pierced, and Itzal usually wears a pair of one-carat diamond studs from his first big heist. He loves body modifications and is always looking forward to the next one. His heritage is primarily Basque, with a little Spanish and French.
Ricasso rescued Side-eye from another boss who didn't understand how to handle his masochism safely. Side-eye currently works for Ricasso as an enforcer, occasionally as a thief. Side-eye's superpower isn't strong enough for him to make full-blown, believable images. Instead he uses it to play on people's instincts in ways that are very difficult to resist, such as creating shadows overhead or blurs of movement at the corner of someone's eye to make people duck in combat.
Because of Side-eye's desire for intense stimulation, Ricasso manages him very carefully, trying to make sure that what Side-eye gets is satisfying without doing permanent damage. Ricasso is very picky about deploying him in combat, choosing sparring partners, or letting people play with him in the bedroom. Side-eye is struggling to gain better control of himself, so he appreciates the support, and relies on his fellow gang members to help identify when he's sliding out of touch with reality. He has a submissive streak, too, but no real brakes, so that also limits his opportunities for safe play. Ricasso matches him with Gray, because Gray's power causes pain without injury, and that works great.
Origin: His mother did drugs while pregnant. Itzal was born with frail health as a result, and his illusion powers grew in slowly later in childhood. He learned to use diet and exercise to improve his health, which inspired him to try things like bodybuilding and boxing. He fell in with gangs, where he figured out how to use his superpower for combat. But he still suffers from some other aftereffects of the drugs such as depersonalization, derealization, and alexithymia. That has left him with strong masochistic inclinations; he resorts to picking fights, getting into accidents, or as a last resort self-injury in attempt to feel something.
Uniform: Street clothes.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Strength, Good (+2) Enforcer, Good (+2) Eye for Jewelry, Good (+2) Reading Body Language, Good (+2) Thief
Poor (-2) Mother Was a Junkie
Powers: Average (0) Illusion Powers
Motivation: To feel something.
* * *
"In the social jungle of human existence, there is no feeling of being alive without a sense of identity."
-- Erik Erikson
This is Ricasso's larger office building. See the floor plan. Office 6 beside Reception is the boss' office. Office 7 next to that is the general office. In the back, office 3 beside the Dottie's potty is the patch room. Offices 1, 2, 4, and 5 are flop rooms. The fitness room reaches from the left side of the reception area to the back row of offices. The end toward reception has mats and assorted punching bags. The end toward the offices has free weights, weightlifting benches, and various other exercise equipment. Office 2 is a flop room with five single beds, two along the left wall and three along the right.
Office 6 is Ricasso's private office. Ricasso's executive desk is a modular assembly. It is put together with the hutch along the wall and the other section of the desk extending at right angle to create a barrier between Ricasso and the two doors of the room. He has a brown leather executive chair to go with the desk. This secretary desk rests against the wall opposite the hutch. Together they bracket the more private part of the room, dividing it from the more public space near the door. This desk has a matching wooden chair. Ricasso has a hide-a-bed couch in his office, brown leather studded with brass tacks. Nobody else uses it but him, although he has been known to put someone on it. This rests along the wall behind the boundary marked by the desks.
Broken arms benefit from rehab exercises after healing is complete. Stress balls and hand exercisers can help too. However, it's important to avoid overuse, especially right after the cast comes off.
(These links are intense.)
Self-harm is a type of self-destructive behavior. It can be subdivided into direct and indirect or fast and slow methods. Male as well as female, people of color as well as white, can self-harm. One reason for underestimating its frequency in males may be that they tend to do what Side-eye has: getting into fights or activities with a high chance of accidents instead of deliberate injury. The former is often condoned while the latter is criticized. This forum has an excellent set of posts about self-harm. Pay attention to effective and ineffective treatments. With appropriate support, many people can find other coping methods, even if they prefer to keep an element of pain; kink and rough sparring are both safer than brawling. A crucial rule is "nothing about us without us," expressing the necessity that people with a given trait must have the power to decide how it is handled. Terramagne-America has self-harm survivors in volunteer and paid positions who work with clients to find the kind of help they want. Side-eye has instead turned to his boss for help, which is working pretty well. Lifesigns has many factsheets on different aspects of self-harm, plus the Self-Injury Awareness Book which you can read online or download. The Hurt Yourself Less Workbook is by and for people who injure themselves. People may find it useful to map their scars; see a blank map and one filled as a sample. I found two different bills of rights for self-harm, one subjective and one objective. Where There Is No Psychiatrist explains how to identify and handle mental problems if expert care is unavailable or undesirable.
Derealization and depersonalization are different dissociative experiences. Nerve damage, brain imbalances, and childhood trauma are among the causes. There are ways to overcome or cope with depersonalization. Some techniques for recovering from mind-altering cults may also help obtain everyday awareness.
Prenatal drug exposure can lead to drug-addicted babies with lifelong health problems. Although most famous with illegal drugs, the same problems can occur with many legal ones; ativan is among the most notorious.
Kink is a practice of power exchange and intense stimulation, which clearly distinguishes between hurt and harm. Gray's superpower is particularly useful because it generates pure pain without injury. For Side-eye it has the additional advantage of being more perceptible than ordinary sensation. Kink can also help with sensory integration and healing from trauma.
Foam rocks and bricks make fantastic sparring equipment.
Gyros consist of meat stuffed into a pita pocket. Minced pressed meat is roasted on a rotisserie and then shaved off. Ricasso's gang keeps a gyro rotisserie in their kitchen as a way of having hot food readily available for people with super appetites. You can buy or make gyro meat.
Want to play dessert roulette? Here are recipes for cinnamon-apple tartlets, ginger tartlets, and hot pepper tartlets. The Carolina Reaper is currently the world's hottest pepper with a Scoville rating of 2,200,000 and it has a sweet, fruity flavor in addition to the infernal heat. This is the kind of pepper jelly that Gray used to bake pastries. Because he is a sadomasochist, that's why. For further exploration, you can make cinnamon-apple jelly with powder, sticks, or candy. You can buy or make ginger marmalade. Here is a supplier and recipe for hot pepper jelly. Make sure to use a fruity pepper like the reapers; if you don't want to melt your face off, just dilute with a milder flavor such as bell pepper.
To neutralize spicy foods, use dairy products such as yogurt or try bread. Water only spreads the fire! People can adapt to spicy foods over time. And if your cook is a sadomasochist, don't snitch food before you know what's in it. Many kinkyfolk also enjoy "food that commands respect."
Hand feeding, like other forms of food-sharing and food play, conveys intimacy. In kink, a dominant usually feeds a submissive. It also happens in vanilla romance. Getting food into someone else's mouth is a little tricky; this skill benefits from both research and practice. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a dom willing to give lessons! (That's a classical form lesson, by the way, teaching the submissive role before the dominant one, which is absolutely a great idea if you are switchy enough to handle both.) It helps to look at instructions for feeding a baby. Comfort feeding of elders may be done in several ways.
Temperature play is a type of kink done with heat and/or cold. Chemical play is when similar sensations are created with substances. In this case, feeding people hot pepper tartlets is a type of chemical play, and putting that stuff on mucous membranes such as lips will burn like ever-loving fuck. Safety is especially crucial in these types of recreation.
An endorphin rush happens in waves, typically no closer than about ten minutes apart, based on neurobiology. Skilled doms can guide a submissive through this process to the depth desired. There are tips for submissives on navigating this subspace.
A good safety tip is to wait a while after eating before any vigorous activity. Depending on the size and type of meal, and your personal metabolism, this may range from half an hour to several hours. For soups with a high-burn metabolism, half an hour is usually plenty.
Hands convey many messages in body language. Sitting on hands is a gesture of self-restraint.
A tracing wheel is used in various crafts. These may have a wheel with individual sharp pins or dull bumps on a disc. They resemble Wartenberg wheels. There are also dedicated kink toys such as this five-spiked wheel.
Pervertables are mundane objects used for kinky purposes. They are often cheaper and more available than items made for either kinky or medical purposes.
Aftercare entails taking care of someone after a kinky scene. This includes both physical and emotional steps. Make sure to take care of yourself too. It helps to make an aftercare kit.