Quiet Strength

Chapter 1

Eric

 

Nathan was trying to kill me.

“Was I not supposed to ask?” He blinked at me, curious and almost innocent, like he had no idea why I was choking to death on the fry I’d just eaten. “I’m good with whatever it is. I’ve been researching different preferences and fetishes. People are weird.”

I finally managed to take a breath without coughing and reached out to take a sip of my water. Of course, I wasn’t stalling, I was just very thirsty. When I couldn’t put it off anymore, I had a hard time figuring out what to say. “You’re people too, don’t forget that part.”

So maybe I hadn’t actually answered his question. I was hoping that with his habit of conversation-hopping, he wouldn’t realize it until later. It didn’t seem to be working, though. He smiled and nodded, clearly not fazed by the idea of being weird. “Very true. But Gabriel likes it too, so I’m okay with that.” Then his voice lost some of his usual excitement and he started mumbling. “At least, I thought I was…I probably am.” I didn’t like the sound of that. I jumped back into the conversation before I could talk myself out of it. “Are you having second thoughts about what he wants?”

Gabriel hadn’t seemed like the kind of guy…master…who would push Nathan into something he didn’t want, and Marcus had nothing but great things to say about the guy. However, I didn’t want Nathan dragged into something he wasn’t ready for.

Nathan looked slightly frustrated and shook his head. “No, not really. It’s a lot to take in, I think.”

That had to be an understatement.

I could understand why he liked being taken care of, but the whole puppy aspect of it was hard to wrap my mind around.  I was doing my best to keep the image of Nathan dressed up out of my head, but it was hard. My imagination kept trying to run wild, and I didn’t appreciate it. Damn thing had a mind of its own.

Was he having the same trouble?

The idea that he was trying to picture me in my little boy persona made my stomach swirl. Suddenly, I wasn’t sure the fried food had been a good idea. Nathan perked up in his seat again, leaning forward with more excitement. “Being his pup the other night was hot. Hands down, it beat every regular date I’ve ever gone on. Like, no contest.”

As odd as the conversation was, I was glad he’d found something that made him happy. He’d been…lost for so long that finally figuring out what felt right must have been a huge relief. “You hadn’t really seemed to click with anything or anyone before. I’m glad you’re finally figuring it out.”

He’d dated around, but it had always seemed haphazard and random. A guy here…a girl there…no one that really seemed to matter to him. It probably should have occurred to me that he might be into something different, but even if I’d made the connection, I’m not sure I could have said anything back then.

I didn’t always see what made Daddy so proud of me, but even I had to admit I was more confident now than I’d ever been. A few years ago, or even a few months, I wouldn’t have been able to work up the nerve to sit with Nathan if he’d known what I was into.

It would have been impossible.

Nathan lifted one shoulder in a casual shrug. “I couldn’t figure out what everyone was talking about when they’d go on and on about how hot something was. Looking back, I guess it was because that take-charge thing that Gabriel has going was missing. I like going out to dinner and stuff, but the domination thing adds something special to it.”

I’d always known how hot the “take-charge thing” was, so I could understand what Nathan meant. He was usually so lost in his own mind that it would have taken a two-by-four to the head to have made him realize what he was missing. “I can understand that. No matter what alternative lifestyle you’re into, it’s hard to think through it all, to begin with.”

I couldn’t help remembering high school and how hard it’d been. Not wanting to go down that path, I tried to shove the memories away. They didn’t matter anymore. I had Daddy, and I knew how much he loved me.

“He was so sexy. All dommy and take-charge.” Nathan’s dramatic sigh pulled me back. His eyes had a faraway look, like he was remembering something naughty.

I tried not to laugh. It was impossible not to relax around Nathan. “Take-charge is hot.”

“So am I not supposed to ask about what you guys are into? What are the rules about that?” He leaned forward and blinked, curious and innocent again like he had no idea he’d made my heart stop completely.

I was fighting the blush I knew was heating up my face. Hoping that it would fade faster if I wasn’t looking at Nathan, I reached for a fry. There was a big part of me that wanted to run, but I could hear Daddy’s voice in the back of my head, soothing and low, telling me how proud of me he was. I knew what he’d want me to say—but I wasn’t sure how much I’d actually manage to get out.

I started with something simple. “Well, I wouldn’t ask just anyone, and most of the time if you’re at a club or someone’s house it’s usually kind of obvious. It’s not wrong to ask, though.”

Nathan didn’t seem to believe me. He gave me a cautious look and started fiddling with his food. “You don’t have to tell me. Gabriel would probably say it’s none of my business. He’s right, but we’re not going to tell him that.”

His almost whispered confession made me laugh. Tossing my squishy fry back on my plate, I relaxed back in my seat. I could do this. “D—Marcus said I should tell you. He said that it would help you to have someone to talk to who understood what you were going through. When I was first starting to explore my sexuality, I didn’t have anyone who would get it, so he’s probably right.”

I was fighting to push the ghosts back where they belonged, and it took me a second before I could keep going. Nathan must have thought he’d done something wrong, because he frowned and his eyebrows pulled together. “Listen, it’s—”

Not wanting him to think he’d done anything wrong, I shook my head and interrupted. “No. I’m not embarrassed about what I like. I just don’t have that much experience sharing it.”

Try none.

Other than talking with Daddy, I didn’t have any experience sharing my lifestyle with other people. He’d spoken with Marshall and Robert, and I wasn’t sure writing it out on the club application counted. Nathan was the first person I’d ever shared even the tiniest bit with.

Daddy would have been proud of me, but I was getting nauseous. I wasn’t sure how much of my inner turmoil Nathan understood, but he smiled at me and sat up straight. “You can practice on me. Here, I’ll go first.”

He looked so serious, like it was a job interview or something. “My name is Nathan, and I like being my master’s puppy.” Then he frowned and started mumbling, “There has to be a better way to say that.”

He was impossible to stay worked up around. He was just too funny. “Alright, dork. My name is Eric and I’m my daddy’s little boy.”

Nathan got excited and started nodding, almost bouncing in his chair. “I know this one…let me think…I know this one…I read about it…age…age something…there were more letters…this stuff really has too many acronyms…um, oh, age play and something with four letters that started with an A or maybe a B.”

He was so proud of himself. It was almost as though he’d studied for a test and then got excited when the material he’d learned was actually on it. Focusing on him and the academic way he was approaching it made it easier, even though my face was so red it hurt. “Yes. One of the main terms is age play.”

My heart started pounding, but I wasn’t going to give up. There was nothing wrong with what Daddy and I did. Hearing his voice in my head on repeat made it easier to continue. “The letter thing…well, that’s ABDL…it’s a type of age play.”

Nathan’s mouth popped open and the words burst out. “Is it your type?”

I could see the question was coming. Anyone in his position would have asked. Whether it was curiosity with the lifestyle or just trying to understand in general, most people would have at least thought about it. Nathan just didn’t have much of a filter. Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes and held up one finger, trying to push the growing panic back.

Daddy and I had talked about this several times. He’d wanted to make sure I understood it was okay to talk to Nathan about our life and that it was also okay to tell Nathan I wasn’t ready. I knew Nathan wouldn’t be mad, but I also knew he’d be hurt if I didn’t at least try to share it with him. The expression on his face at the restaurant had made that very obvious.

He’d clearly been upset about me having an entire life that he didn’t know about. He was so honest and open that he probably didn’t understand why I was so shy when it came to talking about it. Taking another deep breath, I tried to remember my conversation with Daddy. Sliding my fingers into my pocket, I rubbed back and forth over the plastic of the binkie.

Daddy was right. It helped center me, and it was the perfect reminder of his support and love. I could almost hear his voice reminding me that Nathan wasn’t going to judge, and that he needed someone to talk to about BDSM and being different. There hadn’t been anyone I could talk to, and I wasn’t going to do that to him.

I opened my eyes and kept my fingers pressed tightly against the binkie. “It’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to understand. Most people in the lifestyle are really open when you ask sincere questions.”

He clearly didn’t believe me because he was shaking his head and mumbling about how Gabriel was going to be mad at him. “Are you sure…”

“It’s fine. I promise. I’m just a little…sensitive about it, but you’re my friend.” I wasn’t going to let myself forget that.

“I’ll help you remember that if you need me to.” It came out earnest and almost sweet, and I had to smile.

“Thanks, Nathan. But to answer your question, yes, sometimes it is my type. It’s not something that Daddy and I do all the time, but it’s something we both like.” I could feel myself start to hold my breath, but I couldn’t stop it. What would he say?

I didn’t know what I had been worried about.

Nathan shrugged like it was nothing.  “I have a tail. I think that beats your diapers in the who-wins-the-odd-desire contest. What do I win?”

I was so surprised, I swallowed wrong, and all of a sudden I couldn’t breathe. Coughing and choking, it took several minutes before I got it under control. It was so bad the waitress even came over to check and make sure everything was okay.

When I’d finally managed to take several sips of my drink and could function again, everything suddenly wasn’t as stressful. Or maybe Nathan had just sent me into shock.  “I don’t know about that. I think the tail sounds cool. Not what I’m into, but kind of fun. What color is it?”

He frowned and scrunched up his face. “Black, but I want a new one that’s more colorful. I’m not sure I’m a plain black tail kind of pup.” He said it like it was an everyday conversation and we were picking out shirt colors or something. He made it impossible to feel awkward for very long.

I nodded. “You’re right, I’m not sure you’re a plain kind of pup. How did you like your first scene?” Suddenly starving, I took a bite out of my hamburger. It was incredible. “Yum, so good. Daddy’s on this health kick at home and we have entirely too many vegetables now. Unless he asks, we’re not going to tell him I had a burger.”

Nathan either didn’t notice my slip or didn’t care, because he ignored that part. “Home? You guys living together?”

“Not exactly, but I spend so much time over at his place now it feels like it. I think he’s getting ready to ask me to move in.” Daddy had started grumbling on nights that I had to stay over at my own apartment. Even stopping by for a few hours to clean and pick up my mail had him hovering when I got back to his house.

I was gone so much, some of my neighbors had stopped by to make sure I wasn’t dead. I thought it was morbid, but with their age and health concerns, they’d thought it was reasonable. Sometimes they really didn’t seem to understand how old I was.

“It looks like you don’t mind the idea.” Nathan was smiling, obviously happy for us.

My grin had to be ear to ear, but I couldn’t help it. “I can’t wait. He’s trying to take things slow because I was a little…hesitant in the beginning, but now I’m getting to the point where I want him to hurry things up a bit.”

Nathan nodded sagely, like I’d said something incredibly smart. “Slow can be good, but I’m starting to agree with the go faster point of view.”

“Gabriel’s going too slowly?” I could understand Gabriel taking his time; Nathan was…well, Nathan.

He nodded. “Kind of. I’m ready for sex and more scene stuff, but he wants me to be sure and to think things through. You’d think I was crazy instead of just a virgin. I’m not sure after the whole tail thing if I’m still a virgin. What do you think?”

Beer went everywhere.

Maybe it was the calm, curious way he said it, but it had me choking and sputtering, spraying my drink over the table. Nathan just reached for more napkins and started cleaning up the mess. He was evidently getting used to surprising me. His internal monologue just popped out and I heard something about Gabriel killing him and oversharing.

Not wanting him to feel bad, I shook my head. “Not oversharing. I just wasn’t expecting it. Sorry.”

He shrugged like it was nothing. “That’s okay. Just let me know if it’s too much information or something. Gabriel thought it would be good for me to talk to someone who had a less vanilla type of relationship, so I wasn’t thinking, I guess.”

“No. It’s okay. I want you to be able to talk to me about stuff like that. I wish I’d been more open with you to begin with. Maybe then you wouldn’t have had to wait so long to figure out what you liked.” Since he’d already started the oversharing I kept going, wanting to tease him a little. “And for the record, the tail doesn’t count. Still a virgin, dude.”

He sighed and slouched down in his chair. “That sucks. I was hoping I’d gotten that out of the way so Gabriel wouldn’t have anything to overthink about. He’s a worrier.”

“So you guys haven’t had sex yet?” Keeping a straight face for this conversation was almost impossible. So was feeling nervous and embarrassed.

“No. Evidently not.” He started gesturing with his hand. “We’ve made out and stuff and had the puppy play evening, but nothing beyond that. And I’m still not allowed to come or play with myself.”

I had to smile. The disgruntled look on his face and the fact that he obviously hadn’t meant to share the last part with me was too funny. Then he mumbled something about oversharing, which I guessed was an inside thought too.

“Just a little, dude, but that’s okay. I can, um, share your frustration. Daddy keeps control over that kind of stuff too.”

“So is it weird that I like it?” It was easy to see he was on the fence.

“That you like denial? No, lots of people do. It’s all wrapped up in liking it when someone takes charge. There are lots of ways that people incorporate different types of control in scenes. As long as you’re into it, then I wouldn’t worry about it. Try things you’re comfortable with and if you like it, then do it again. If it turns out that it’s not your thing, then don’t.”

“It’s that simple?” The skeptical tone of his voice made me keep going, even though part of me knew I should have been embarrassed.

“Only if you allow it to be. Some people end up overanalyzing their desires and making themselves miserable. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, I think you should just go for it.”

“How did you get so smart?” He grinned and gave me a teasing smile.

That was easy. “I have a smart daddy.” And I’d heard that lecture too many times not to have memorized it.

Nathan laughed, more at ease and less stressed than when we’d first sat down. “So you’re just repeating someone else’s great advice?”

“Of course. I’m one of the overanalyzers.” I thought he should have known that right off the bat.

“Well, you’re in good company, ‘cause me too, but I don’t want to be. I’d rather jump right in and not think about it.” There was something behind his words, but I wasn’t sure what it could be.

“Like a good sub.” I nodded and took a drink of my beer. “We’re happiest when we stop thinking and let our Daddy/Master/whatever take charge.”

Nathan rolled his eyes. “Well, my whatever at home wants to care for me so much that he’s making me think too much, and I don’t know how to move past that. Once we started, the puppy scene things fell into place, but I know there are other things that he finds hot…like bedroom stuff, and I’m ready for some hands-on explanations.”

“Duh, you’re nearly bouncing off the walls. You need to relax and spend some time in subspace. I think it would probably mellow you out a bit.” Daddy knew just how to help me turn everything off. Sometimes I got all the way into subspace, but a lot of the time it didn’t even need to get that far for me to relax completely.

“Subspace? That’s the floaty feeling when you’re doing scene stuff, right?” I nodded, and he continued, a distant look on his face. “That was fabulous. It felt kind of tingly and relaxing…and I actually managed to turn my brain off and just cuddle. That part is definitely a do-again.”

“What were you doing before you went into subspace?” It would be too intrusive of a question for most people to want to answer, but it was Nathan, so I didn’t worry.

“Just lying on the couch in all my puppy stuff. Completely horny because, you know, the tail, but just cuddling next to Gabriel while he touched me. It was hard to sit still at first, but after a while, that floaty feeling started and it was fabulous.” He said it dreamily, like it was the best thing he’d ever experienced.

“You’re going to love it after a heavier scene, where you sink in even more.”

That got me a frown, and he slumped down in the chair. “I’m supposed to be patient or something.”

“Patient until when? What did your master say?” It felt like I was only getting half the sentence from him again.

“To think about what we’d done and that we’d take it slow.”

That was all? “That makes it easy, then.”

His head cocked, and he looked at me like I’d said something incredibly interesting. “What do you mean?”

“Just tell him you’ve thought about it and you’re ready.” There was an unsaid moron in my voice, but I couldn’t help it. Why hadn’t he talked to his master?

Nathan had one of those lightbulb moments. “You think that might work? I thought I had to go over it more.”

“Yeah, talking to your Dom is usually the best way to go. They worry less that way. Just tell him that you’ve thought about it and you want more. Say it respectfully and be open with him. The results will probably be amazing.” The way Gabriel looked at Nathan made it clear he was more than ready to jump right into things with Nathan.

Gabriel might have been trying to go slow for Nathan’s sake, but it couldn’t have been easy for him. As soon as Nathan told him how he was feeling, I was betting Nathan wasn’t going to be a virgin much longer.

Nathan tried to stay focused on finishing dinner and talking with me, but it was easy to see his mind was elsewhere. He didn’t say much about what was going through his thoughts, but the little pieces that escaped were determined and slightly naughty.

They were interesting enough that I finally sent him home before the waitress could be scandalized. After promising him that he could pay next time, I waited for the server to bring the check while he wandered distractedly out the door.

When nearly ten minutes went by before someone came over with my bill, I was starting to wonder what was going on. We’d been going to the bar for years and normally they’d had great service. Thinking back, though, things had been slowly sliding downhill for a while.

“I’m sorry, sir. I’m not sure what happened to your server, but I’ve given you a discount as an apology.” It was clear the cute little waiter was expecting me to lose my marbles. He was doing his best to make things better, but there was a strength to him that said he wasn’t going to put up with any shit.

For a twink, he reminded me a lot of Daddy.

It was weird.

“That’s okay. I knew something had to have come up.” When I didn’t go off the rails, and I just took the little black tray to slide some cash onto it, he seemed to relax. “What’s going on? I’ve been coming here for years, but lately…”

The waiter, whose name tag said Zander, leaned against the table and nodded. “Things have been slipping.”

I had to agree with him, and I was glad he hadn’t brushed over my concerns. “Yeah.”

“The business has been in the same family for years, and recently the gentleman who was doing the day-to-day running of the place died. He was great, but the rest of the family is going a little crazy trying to step in. Hopefully, things will settle down when they decide who’s going to run it permanently. Right now the kids and some of the other family members are taking turns, but they all have full-time jobs, so some people are taking advantage of it.” He looked around the room like he was searching for my errant waitress. “Again, I’m sorry about the wait.”

“That’s okay. I just hope they get things figured out.” I loved going there, but between Allie’s insanity and the poor service, I was starting to think I’d need to find a new place to hang out. Something closer to Daddy’s house would be easier, anyway.

“Me too.” He straightened and seemed to be brushing off his frustration as he nodded and walked away.

His long strides ate up the room as he marched over to the bar. As I walked out of the building, I watched the bartender shaking his head with his hands up, placating the twink in an apologetic manner. Maybe it was because I wasn’t hiding from myself any longer, but it was getting easier to see people who didn’t fit the mold I expected them to.

The twink with the Dom gleam in his eyes was just the most recent, but trying to see who people really were and not who I thought they should be was becoming second nature. It made me curious to know how people saw me. Not that I really wanted to know…not yet, anyway.

Heading to my car, I knew I’d get there eventually. Daddy could help me do anything.

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