You Can't Post That

by AlwaysWatching

Tags: #cw:noncon #D/s #dom:female #f/f #humiliation #pov:bottom #sub:female #pov:top #sadomasochism

A Discord user is unhappy with the implementation of the rules on her favorite server. Her least favorite mod offers to have a conversation with her and explain why she’s wrong. AKA: A discord mod hypnotizes, then berates, her least favorite user.

SereneSprings: That needs a CW tag

HappierInPink: What?

HappierInPink: The fic? Or? It's got the tags on it if you click through to the link.

ElmSpring: I shouldn't have to click on it to know what the contents are

HappierInPink: but it's Ao3? There are no images. You have to read to get to anything.

ElmSpring: Check the rules

HappierInPink: I did?

HappierInPink: You only have to spoiler if you're going in depth about something. I'm just posting it and saying I like it. The tags it needs are on the fic itself

ElmSpring: @Moderator

ElmSpring: This needs to be tagged.

(Mod)AppleInMyEye: Okay

(Mod)AppleInMyEyes: Elm, look, we've been here like 5 times before

(Mod)AppleInMyEyes: We get that you don't like non-con

(Mod)AppleInMyEyes: but people can post and say they do

ElmSpring: There should be CW on the fic itself

ElmSprings: I'm not asking for a lot! It's not that hard to just add them.

(Mod)SereneSight: OKAY

(Mod)SereneSight: WE'RE DONE HERE

(Mod)SereneSight: WE'RE NOT DOING THIS AGAIn

ElmSpring: Serene, fuck off, you're not supposed to mod me

(Mod)SereneSprings: I'm about to mod the fuck out of you. I agreed not to do it because I'm nice, but I can do whatever I want

ElmSpring: Youre a shit mod

(Mod)SereneSight: We're hashing this out in DMs

ElmSprings: No I'm not wasting my time

SereneSight: VC with me then

ElmSpring: Why? You clearly arent trying to understand me.

Serene hovered over the 'ban' button by Elm's name. Elm deserved it, but this was the first time she'd ever offered to VC with her. Maybe Serene was a masochist after all, because while she was sure nothing productive was going to come of talking to Elm, she still went to her profile and called anyway. 

SereneSprings started a call!

Elm watched Serene’s call pop on her screen. She thought that answering was a terrible idea. No matter how she looked at it, nothing productive would get done. The speech she had prepared for this moment to prove her point and get the rules to be changed would be wasted on Serene. She thought the most probable result would be a screaming match. If she didn’t answer though, Serene would surely rub it in her face. It left her with one option. She answered.



ElmSprings Joined the call!

Serene, listen, I know you're a fucking pervert and you think it's fine that everyone in the server is posting non-con and slavery shit, I know they're technically allowed to do it, but at the very fucking least, there should be a requirement to describe the fic that you're posting in the channel or tag for what's in it. I'm not asking for that much. Just some basic courtesy." 

Calling Serene a pervert hadn’t been a part of Elm’s speech, but the rest of it had been practiced. Elm thought that she’d have been better off trying kindness first, but Serene had an uncanny ability to piss her off like no one else she’d ever met.  She’d spent more time than she wanted to admit to herself trying to figure out why. She had no answer. It pissed her off more. 

"Elm, listen, I know you're impossibly whiny and don't like the rules that you've read a hundred times now, but it's a link to an Ao3 fic and there was no in-depth conversation. Nothing here needs to be tagged. Cry about it." 

Elm was suddenly very glad to have started aggressive. The accuracy of her prediction combined with Serene’s codsension made it easier to let her anger take the wheel. 

"You're a bad person. You're cultivating a toxic environment of people posting extremely triggering fiction without any warnings for what they're posting, then, you're making it sound like I'm in the wrong for bringing it up. Fuck you."

Serene straightened up, ran her hands down her button up shirt to make sure it looked crisp, combed her fingers through her short brown hair, then turned on her camera. She thought it would help Elm finally get the fucking message.

"Cam up,."

"What?"

"Cam up and look me in the eyes, because I'm only going to say what I'm about to say once."

"I'm not camming up for anything. What the fuck?"

"Okay, then I'm going to ban you."

"What? For what?"

"For whatever the fuck I want to, because this is a private discord I run, not a public square."

"I'll go to Dragon."

"Do it. Dragon isn't going to care what you tell her. She doesn't want to mod it. It's why I do. And trust me when I say banning you isn't something she'd get on me about. So cam up or I'm going to ban that ass."

Elm glared at her monitor. So these were Serene's true colors. It figured. She told Serene to give her a moment, then pulled up a recording software on her computer. Serene said Dragon didn't care, but she bet that could easily change if she had proof of the exact way Serene had talked to her. 

Elm's turned her camera on. She glared at Serene. Serene was a butch woman who was dressed like she was going to work. She had neatly trimmed brown hair. Elm was thin and sharp faced, with pink hair that was starting to turn blond at the roots. She wore an oversized pink hoodie that swallowed her up. 

Neither of them was surprised by how the other looked. Both had posted selfies in the server, though they never said anything under the other's pictures. Their grudge was well known and had become a sever meme.

"So, what did you want to say that I had to be on cam for?" Elm crossed her arms. She wished Serene could see her tapping her foot. It would've sold her anger better than this. She thought the image of her on her screen seemed more petulant rather than righteous. She blamed it on Serene wearing half a suit even though it was almost midnight on a Friday night. 

"That you need to stop bitching, that no one broke the rules and — no. That's it. You don't need to hear the rest of what I think." Serene wished she was face to face with Elm, so when she looked down at the other woman, she was forced to feel it. Condescension didn't carry over as well through a camera. 

"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?" Elm was intent on baiting her. She had turned on her camera for it. It would be a waste to give up now.

"If I tell you, you might run off and tell on me. I should honestly just ban you now." Serene had been online for long enough she knew bait when she saw it, but it was still so hard to keep herself quiet. She wanted to wipe that look of superiority and disdain off Elm's face.

"What, are you going to perving on me?"

"I bet you'd like that."

It didn't sound like a jab or a mean joke. Both of them thought it sounded more like a dark attempt at flirting, a quiet question asking 'how far do you want this to go?'

Elm swallowed. "That's a weird thing to say." It wasn't the rejection that Elm thought she'd give. The tone of it was almost encouraging. Elm told herself it was only so she could keep Serene taking her bait.

"There are lots of things that are weird, like how fucking weird it is you spend so much time talking about non-con when you say you hate it as much as you do." Serene thought it was a rather naked attempt to regain control of the conversation, but it was setting in the position she'd put herself in. 

"What's the implication?" Elm asked, smelling blood.

"You know what it is."

"Why don't you tell me? Are you a coward?"

"No, but you are. How often have you gotten off to something someone linked in there and then dropped by to say how disgusting you found non-con? I bet you're a twisted little freak."

Elm's mouth hung open. Serene's eyes darkened in return. She couldn't believe Serene had said that. She'd thought she had to try much harder to bait out something good. But Serene just said it. 

Serene waited for a cry of triumph. She'd given Elm exactly what she wanted. It was a sound bite that looked bad in and out of context. She'd handed Elm a gun to execute her with. Only, Elm didn't react how she should've.

Instead, her eyes had gotten wider. Her stomach flipped. Her face grew warm, and the heat from it seemed to travel downwards, pooling in her stomach in a way she wished wasn't so familiar. She shook her head, trying to recover, but couldn't find a single thing to say.

Serene laughed. She'd thought she'd given Elm a gun, but Elm was handing it right back. She licked her lips and threw self control to the wayside. She wanted to see what else Elm would let her do. She raised a single finger. "Look at my finger.

"What?" The bizarre request made it easier to focus, but then Serene started to move her finger back and forth. She tried to ignore it, but the animal part of her couldn't help but track it. She felt like a cat being fascinated by paper being crinkled. 

"There you go. Good job. Just look at it," Serene ordered. She noticed how focused Elm had gotten. This hadn't been a complete shot in the dark, but she was surprised it was working so well. It made it even harder to stop. "Sit up straighter."

Elm did.

"You're too easy," Serene said. "Is this why, even though you know I'm never going to agree with your petty bullshit, you agreed to talk to me? Is it that easy to get in your head? Are you obsessed with me or something? "

"I think you're obsessed with me. You won't leave me alone. You told me to turn on my camera. You're worse," Elm said. She kept following Serene's finger as she moved it. Once or twice, she looked away, just to prove that she could, only to end up looking once again. 

"I'm fucked up and have no issues with it. You're a delicate, prissy little princess. Do you see how fucking tense you are? Take a deep breath. Relax. You're the one who turned on your camera. You wanted this." 

Elm did as she was told. Serene wished she would’ve listened so well normally. It'd spare her so much trouble. 

Spite encouraged Elm to ignore Serene, but relaxing was nice. She'd had a stressful week. This conversation with Serene was the cherry on top of that, but the person who pissed her off the most was soothing her quicker than anyone else had. She was very careful not to think about how exactly, she was pulling it off. The answer was too big to admit to. 

"For someone who hates me so much, you're awfully relaxed, aren't you?" Serene asked. Elm felt like her mind was being read. It made her feel small. "That was a question, dumbfuck."

"Fuck you," Elm replied. Her voice was soft. She didn't know when it had gotten like that. It was getting harder for her to focus on Serene's finger, but she was trying anyway. What had Serene said? Why was she angry at her? She knew she had a good reason, but it was getting hard to remember exactly what it was. 

"You're going to tell me the truth about things now. Take another deep breath if you understand." Serene’s glee was rising. She felt like a cat cornering a mouse. 

Elm did. Serene smiled. She stopped moving her finger. Her recklessness was buoyed by the knowledge that, if Elm didn't want to go into trance, she wouldn't. 

She thought it was time to pounce.

"That was hardly a deep breath. Again."

Elm did. It felt amazing to do. 

"Again."

She did.

Again ."

Elm had never breathed so fully in her life. She felt like air was reaching parts of her lungs it never had before. Everything had quieted. This was better than any file she'd ever listened to. She felt like she was reaching that wonderful little half sleep she'd so rarely been able to hit before. 

Serene stopped talking. Elm didn't fidget. Serene thought she looked perfectly at peace, slumped back in her chair, her neck exposed as she carefully maintained her steady, consistent breathing. If Serene was only interested in the truth, she would’ve asked her questions now, when the humiliation and shame wouldn’t get in the way as much, but there was little satisfaction in that for her. She wanted Elm to feel ashamed. 

"You're going to tell me the truth now. Say yes if you're going to," Serene ordered.

"…yes," Elm sighed.  She smiled after. Elm didn't have any plans on doing so, but it felt nice to say yes and nice to listen to Serene. The nasty edge to her voice should've made it harder, but it only enticed her further. A silly thought of playing with knives flitted through Elm's head, leaving as quickly as it came. 

"You're going to tell me nothing but the truth. You're not going to leave anything out. If I ask a question, you're going to answer it in its entirety. Say yes if you understand."

"Yes."

Serene repeated two more variations of the same idea, trying to make sure the suggestions were deep in Elm's mind, before she folded her hands and sat back. Elm was still floating in her trance. Serene snapped a picture of her. Elm was adorable in it. 

"Then let's get you up for now. Stop fucking drifting off. Come on. Move around some."

Elm didn't want to. She enjoyed the floating feeling, but Serene kept urging her up with a dogged insistence. She started to tense her muscles and shake her head, until her eyes — she hadn’t realized that they had even closed— were open again and she was looking at Serene's grinning face.

A rock formed in Elm's stomach. Serene's eyes sparkled. 

"Finally." Serene wished she could've said she was surprised by how easily Elm went under and came back up, but it matched her theory about the woman. She thought she already knew the truth, but where was the harm in confirming it?

"How do you feel?" Serene asked.

"Good. Relaxed." The words came easily and without thinking. Elm wanted to cover her mouth after they'd come out. She needed to hang up. Serene had hypnotized her. It was safe to admit that in her head. But if she'd been hypnotized and given suggestions, she was beyond compromised. The sharpening of Serene's smile only hammered the message in. 

"Why are you still here?" Serene asked. She was eager to press her advantage. Seeing Elm so off balance stroked her ego. She wanted to reduce Elm down to nothing. It was a dangerous, seductive urge. She would try to be better than it. Elm was annoying, she was a bitch, but she didn't deserve to be completely destroyed. She'd only do what she knew Elm would recover from. 

"I want to know why—" Elm covered her mouth. No. She wouldn't speak. She felt like she needed to tell the truth, but she didn't need to speak. 

"What were you going to say?" Serene asked.

Elm mumbled into her hands. Her brain didn't agree that remaining silent was a work around. She didn't know why she was like this. Where was her resistance and will power? 

"What, you're not even going to have a fucking conversation with me? Surely you're not that pathetic."  Serene was giddy and wired in a way she'd only felt once before. "Elm, put your fucking hands down and answer my question."

Elm's hands shook slightly. She pressed them harder into her face. There was a growing terror inside her, seeping into her bones, making everything sharp and tight. Serene's eyes were cutting into her. Elm thought that, if she sat back, if she stopped fighting, that it would cut into her so deeply that the fear would come bleeding out and drown her.

"Elm."

"Fuck you! God, what the fuck is — you can't talk to me like this! I'm not — you — what the fuck!" Elm's mind spun in worthless circles. "I hate you. You shouldn't have power."

The desperate fumbling to hurt Serene found their mark. The gravity of what she was doing pulled her back to earth. She blinked a few times, eyeing an increasingly frazzled Elm who looked halfway to crying. She hadn't hung up though. Serene had intentionally left that out as a suggestion. She wasn't going to be made out to be evil.

"Stop talking to me then. Hang up."

"No! We haven't even talked about how you're letting people get away without warning for things enough!"

Serene thought that wasn't what either of them wanted to talk about anymore. "Do you get turned on by what people post?" she replied. 

"Yes," Elm said, then recoiled in shock. She had told herself a dozen times that she didn't like it. She chose very carefully to not think about how hot some of the posts got her. It was easier to think about the disgust. It made more sense. "Fuck, I — it's not like that." She couldn't explain why it wasn’t. Her typical excuses were out of reach.. "I want to talk about why you treat me like shit." 

"I do it because you berate people for being into the same exact shit you like, because you're too guilty to admit you're just like them."

Elm blanched. Every single word went through her armor and pierced her like arrows. She wanted to issue a denial, but her mind was still refusing to cooperate. 

"What's one of your favorite kinks?"

"Non-con." Elm said. The horror set in. She covered her mouth again. It was half hearted. She was in so deep. Why was she fighting like this? She needed to go on the offense. Being defensive never got her anywhere. "You're—"

"Shut the fuck up." 

"What—"

"Shut the fuck up," Serene repeated. She kept her voice calm and collected, trying to keep as much emotion as she could out of it. She wanted Elm to squirm. To feel beneath her and realize that she didn't hold the cards anymore. "I'm asking the questions here. This is an interrogation and not an interview. Fold your hands, put them on your lap, and don't move them."

"I—"

"Don't you want to listen?"

Yes," Elm squeaked. She squeezed her eyes shut. It wasn’t the answer she wanted to give, but it was the one that felt right . The one that made her feel small and weak. Beaten down and seen . What had her tummy doing flips at the thought of serene snapping at her further. To her, the truth had never felt more like a monster, lurking behind her, ready to consume her at a moment’s notice. 

"So you like non-con. Why?"

"It's hot," Elm said. She felt her will crumbling away. She shouldn't be saying this, she was ruining the recording she was taking. Her reputation was being destroyed. 

Something inside her that she had no name for clenched at the thought.

"That's it? It's hot? Why is it hot? Give me some fucking detail." Serene was pleased at the surrender she found in Elm's pretty gray eyes. She wanted more. In the back of her head, she reminded herself to be more careful, for all the good that it did. If she was being careful, she wouldn't be in this position.

"I…the loss of control? Just — not being able to do anything." Elms' face was hot. Acceptance was easier than resisting. It felt better. She was so fucked up. 

"You do like to think of yourself as helpless, don't you?" Serene remarked, all too happy to twist the knife. "Is that why you're always picking fights about things you know you're wrong about? Does it turn you on to get all that attention, to be so righteously angry, and then have everyone ignore you anyway?'

Elm wanted to tell herself that she didn't like how Serene was stringing this together and deny the tremor that had worked through her had anything to do with arousal, but when she shifted her thighs, she could feel that she was wet. 

"Well?" Serene asked, annoyed that Elm hadn't answered the question. Had she asked too many at once? Had she been too abstract? She thought must've been getting ahead of herself. "Do you like to feel helpless?"

"Yes." If Elm hadn't been aware of that now, tonight had been her proof. She burned with shame. 

"And I make you feel like that?" Serene had never wanted the answer to be yes so much in her life. As vulnerable as Elm was right now, a rejection now would’ve cut Serene more deeply than any single insult she’d thrown out. 

"Yes."

"Good. You should. I think of you like that. You're like a little dog that has too much fucking attitude and needs to be put in its place."

Elm shrunk in on herself. "I'm not a dog. I—" 

"Shut. The. Fuck. Up." 

Elm winced and looked down, no longer able to look at Serene any longer. The sharpness of her eyes, the curl of her mouth, the acid that dripped from every single word, all of it wore Elm down into something soft and weak. The fear from before had transmuted into something nameless, but no less overwhelming, and was drowning her all the same. 

"God, you can't fucking listen for shit, can you? No wonder all the times we've ruled against you haven’t stuck. I can't believe you're as much of a liar as you are too. How long have you been reading non-con things?' Serene delighted in Elm’s inability to hold eye contact. It made her feel 10 feet tall. 

"Since I was a teenager," Elm admitted. She left out that the first thing she'd ever masturbated to was a mean, terrible, bad end rapefic. The horror of it had stuck with her all through the years, but so had the cloying heat of arousal that made her go back over and over and over and over again.

"You're into all sorts of kinky shit, aren't you?"

"Yes."

"You ever think about someone beating you?" 

Elm wanted to cry very much. She sniffled instead. Serene was dragging out thoughts that were supposed to remain boxed up. It was like she had taken a bat into the antique store of her mind and was smashing everything in sight.

"Well?"

"Yes," Elm said. She remembered getting off once to the thought of someone whipping her. Not stopping even when she screamed. Continuing even when she went limp. Being pushed past the port of passing out and only being given more . A hundred other shameful fantasies, each savage and brutal, unrealistic yet somehow magnetic to her, struggled to make themselves known.

"Tell me your favorite fantasy. The one you revisit the most," Serene said. She wished she could've put Elm on her knees. It would've complimented how powerful she felt now. Extracting this fantasy would do more than that ever could, though.

"I — it's — please Serene," Emn said. The truth was fighting to form on her lips. No matter how humiliated she was, she couldn't rid herself of the compulsion to give Serene what she wanted. "I can't. I—"

"You can fucking talk, can't you? You're doing it right now. If you can talk now, you can talk and tell me your fantasy. So fucking do it and stop wasting my time."

Elm cringed. A sob nearly overtook her. Serene drank all of it like the finest wine. She felt like a succubus that fed off suffering rather than sex. 

"Out with it. Your fantasy. Now, Elm. Don't disappoint me more than you already have." 

Elm didn't think she had further to go. She thought she had already broken, but Serene telling her that she was disappointed ground her down further. Serene had finished smashing the shop and was now setting it on fire. 

"I—I get—someone has been watching me," Elm started, knowing how elaborate this fantasy could get, how many different directions it went in, and tried to pick the least shameful version. "Following me. Noticing me. And I— I know they're doing it. But I don't see them."

Serene was surprised, but she didn't let herself show it. This wasn't where she thought Elm was going to go, but she wasn't going to stop her. If this is what got Elm off, then she could play along.

"You want to be stalked. Figures. You think you're important enough to get one. Then what? You just get watched? Masturbate for them when you know they're there?'

Elm's stomach twisted and she bit her lip. She'd thought about that before. She'd gotten off to. There was one night — one shameful, awful night — where she'd been loud . When she'd gotten so lost in her fantasy that she writhed around on her bed, showing off as if there really was someone there watching. Frission shivers gave her goosebumps. She wanted to curl up in her chair, but there was no defense she thought would hold against Serene.

"S—sometimes," Elm said. "But it's — that's not what I think about. Usually."

"Then keep fucking talking. You're not done yet. You can do it. Be good."  

Elm clung to the thought that she could be good . It wasn't something that Serene had given her at all. Not since she'd lifted her finger. She had been beaten down, but there was sweetness now. The barest hint of it. It made Elm feel even smaller for noticing it and caring.

More ashamed, that she wanted to be good, very, very badly.

"I go to a bar. One night. To get out. And I drink a lot. And then— then a pretty woman buys me a drink. I don't see it get made. But she's really — she touches me and lifts and I take it and drink it anyway."

"Oh my God. You play the fucking idiot in your fantasies too?" Serene said. She was committing every single word to memory. She wished she'd been recording or could write them down without losing track of what Elm was doing. "So what, you get roofied, don't you? She drag you out of the bar?"

"…no," Elm said. She squeezed her legs together. The arousal had moved lower and was sitting low in her stomach, then bouncing back and forth between there and her cunt. She peeked up at Serene, then flinched at the hardness still in her eyes. "She doesn't—it's not drugged? Maybe? But she starts…starts to talk to me. And she's wearing a necklace that catches the light. And—and—"

"Fucking spit it out!"

"I can't look away!" Elm said. She couldn't get enough air. It was like the world was spinning out, the feelings she was talking about were bleeding into reality. "She keeps moving it and I can't look away! And she tells me to relax. And drink more. And listen. To just listen."

"She hypnotizes you." It was so obvious to Serene now. Of course it would be like this. 

Yes. "

"You're so fucking stupid, even in your fantasies, aren't you?" Serene asked, indulging in every cruel word and impulse She saw no reason not to. 

"Yeah. I—she—the woman—she calls me stupid, too. For leaving with her."

Silence. The thick sort. The kind that lingered because there was nothing that needed to be said. It was all obvious. All clearly on display. Serene knew this as well as Elm. There were more questions to ask, more things to probe into, but they didn’t need to get into it now. They would do it next time. Because there would be a next time. Both of them were already thinking about it. Imagining, even in the barest abstract, even as this moment tried to swallow them whole, what ‘again’ could be. 

"And she drags your dumbass to her apartment? Her house? Her fucking basement? You're not done yet," Serene reminded Elm. She wasn't going to let the other woman finish until every last drop of the fantasy had been wrung out of her. She wanted to know, needed to know, how far this could go.

Elm licked her lips. Her head was so full of cotton. Serene was going to keep pushing and pushing. And Elm—Elm was going to give. She'd fantasized about everything that Serene had suggested one time or another, but Serene was being mean. Elm thought she'd want to hear something mean, too. That she’d ever wanted to tell a version that humiliated her less no longer mattered.

She wanted to give Serene what she wanted more. 

"Her basement," Elm said. Her eyes fluttered shut. She let the cottony feeling of submission grow and consume her. It was bliss. "It's cold. Just concrete and a thin mattress. She throws me onto the floor and gets out handcuffs." She shivered. Everything was coming easier now that she was only trying to make Serene happy. "She makes me give her my wrists then puts them on too tight. They hurt. She pulls me to my feet, slaps me, and chains my hands up to the ceiling."

Serene noticed the change. She didn't know what shifted, she didn't know how she could tell that all the fight had left Elm, but she just knew . Even though Elm was sitting somewhere far away, she could feel it. It was the sweetest shot of power she'd ever felt. Her grudge against Elm made it all the sweeter. 

"Then she hits me. Beats me. Hurts me. Tells me I'm worthless. Tells me I'm never going to leave. Until I can't think. Until there's only her. Just her." Elm hung her head. Her whole body felt like it was shaking, but despite that, there was a deep sense of calm preventing her from vibrating out of her skin. Whatever would happen next would be up to Serene. Elm didn't need to waste her time worrying or figuring it out. There were no pieces to put together. Serene had told her what she wanted and she'd keep doing it. Elm needed only listen. 

"You're fucking pathetic," Serene said. 

Elm flinched. Serene's eyes grew darker. This was it. The climax. She was going to tear as deep into Elm as she could. If she was there, she thought she'd have her hands around Elm's neck or face, holding her still so she couldn't look away.

"This is what you are. A fucking pervert like the rest of us, but it takes you being hypnotized and someone who sees you for what you really are to drag it out of you. I bet this is what you've been angling for the whole time. That's what your fantasy is, isn't it? Some women finding you so interesting they can't look away taking you and doing whatever they want. Not your fault. Doesn't matter how much you want it or enjoy it. It's not your fault. Never your fucking fault. You're oh so helpless."

Oh. That was right. She had been hypnotized. She had been dodging the admission, even as it was so obvious to her. She felt as stupid as Serene was insisting she was. Another tear ran down Elm's face. She didn't wipe it away. She barely noticed it at all. All her focus, all her ego, was being crushed by Serene. It was all that mattered.

"And you can't even lie about it. You'll give up all your dignity as soon as someone gives you a scrap of what you want. Fucking manipulative bitch. I can't even believe you."

"I'm sorry," Elm said. She didn’t want to be seen as manipulative. She wanted to be good and make Serene happy. 

"What was that?" Serene asked. "You're fucking what?"

"I'm sorry!" Elm said. She hoped Serne didn't think she was yelling it at her. "I'm sorry. I'm pathetic. I'm sorry."

Serene was about to berate Elm again when she saw another tear trail down her face. It was what made her pull back. She'd broken Elm down, but too much more, and she was afraid she’d knock out a critical support. 

Only then did she realize how far she'd pushed and how much power she held. Elm opened her eyes. They settled on Serene, waiting for instruction, for more installs, for anything 

Serene had thought of it before. She couldn't destroy Elm. She'd led them into the hole, now she'd lead them out.

"You're lucky you're so pretty," Serene said.

The compliment hit Elm harder than any insult could have. Seren thought she was pretty . Her. With her badly dyed pink hair, her clothes that swallowed her up and hid her non-existent curves and bony body. Her, with a resting bitch face that made people instinctively avoid her. She smiled. It had never felt so good. Serene had said everything she'd been thinking so far, without even a hint of a lie. Elm was certain that hadn't changed.

"Thank you," Elm whispered. She'd never heard herself sound so meek, but it wasn't right to use any other tone. She was sure of it.

"You should thank me for everything else I said. Not just what makes you feel good."

"It all feels good," Elm said, the truth again, falling out of her. 

The confession threw Serene off. She resisted the urge to reply and took a moment to think. Elm waited patiently. She was prepared to wait a while. Serene took a deep breath. Praise worked before. She'd use it again.

"I figured." Serene sat back. "I'm pleased."

Elm leaned in. Serene was pleased with her? She could accept that she was pretty, but she didn't think she'd done anything to make her pleased. If anything, Serene had only seemed angrier as things continued. 

"You are?" Elm asked. She was afraid to say it, she didn't want to question Serene, but she couldn't handle not understanding how.

"Yes. You were howling at me before, talking so much about how I was wrong, but now you've calmed down and found your place. Just needed someone to put you there. So yes, I'm pleased." Serene smiled. "Look at me."

Elm did. She saw Serene's smile. It made Elm glow. It was as good, maybe better, than any compliment she'd been given so far. Elm had gotten a smile . She'd never fantasized about this part, the guilt always overtook her before she could, but she liked this quite a bit. She wished she could've nuzzled Serene.

She really wanted to touch her.

“Thank me for hurting you.”

“Thank you for hurting me, Serene.” 

Serene delighted in the reverence in Elm’s voice. Objectively, she knew she hadn't earned it, but she still enjoyed the feeling. Was it so harmful to like it? She was going to deposit Elm on the other side of this in one piece, if perhaps shaken when exactly what they'd done set in. Maybe some reverence was in order. She could've been worse. She'd thought of being worse. 

Being worse had a dark appeal.

Elm's eyes kept flicking away before she forced them back on Serene's face. Elm pulled a face, clearly struggling just from looking at her. Serene wanted to enjoy it for longer, but she had to get them out of this, not lead them deeper in.

"You can hang your head," she said.

Elm dropped it, stupidly grateful to not put in the effort anymore.

"You have a Blahaj on your bed?" Serene asked, spotting the head of it just on the edge of the screen. "Go get it and hug it."

Elm took off her headphones, got the stuffed shark, crushed to it to her chest, then went back to her chair and slipped her headphones back on. That she didn't have to go back to the computer didn't occur to her at all. 

"Good girl," Serene said.

Elm blushed violently. Serene kept surprising her. There was never any footing to be found, but she liked being surprised like this. Instead of knives behind everything she did, there was warmth enough to fall asleep in.

"Thank you."

"We're going to just sit like this for a bit. Hug your shark. If you want to speak, you can."

"Okay." Elm didn't think she'd say anything at all. This quiet was comfortable rather than expectant. It was safe to sit in. 

So they did.

Serene swallowed. Her throat was dry, but she thought that she may have taken them somewhere safer. She glanced at the clock. They had been talking for over an hour. God. 

Elm's head slowly began to clear, like the sun setting. As it did, she held her shark tighter. Brief bursts of anxiety and shame shot through her, clearing her head further. She chanced a look at Serene. Serene was looking up at the ceiling, frowning heavily. 

That was what truly set things into perspective. 

Elm checked the time too and flinched at what she found. She couldn't remember when things had gotten like this, even if she had remembered the path they'd taken to get there. She wiggled her toes and fingers, even though she knew there was nothing wrong with them.

The 'end call' button sang to her. If there was ever a time for it, it would be now, when Serene wasn't paying attention, when it didn't feel like she would snap without Serene's attention. She put her hand on her mouse and hovered over it. Serene didn't notice.

With a sudden burst of strength, Elm ended the call, then reached down and pressed the power button on her computer.

Her monitors went blank.

Serene and Elm, unknown to one another, stared at their screens, wondering what the other was thinking and how they felt. Knowing that they couldn't reach out to ask, that some invisible line had been crossed that could never be undone.

Both of them resolved not to let it happen again. Serene thought of banning Elm. Elm thought about leaving the server.

Neither of them would go through with either.

Because then they couldn't make the same mistake again.

x24

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