Octavia puttered about in her studio, wearing a violet dress with a pattern of red and blue mandalas. She surreptitiously opened the box of muffins she had bought on the way here and smelled them. They were still warm. With a smile, she closed the box and put it away. She started to make coffee.
Henry entered and immediately closed and locked the door. He didn't smile like he did the previous times, and there were dark shadows under his eyes.
"Coffee?" As soon as Octavia made eye-contact, there was a visceral reaction. He stared at her and seemed to freeze in place, like a deer caught in the headlights of a car.
She swallowed, guilt tying her stomach into a knot. "You didn't message me," she said softly as she lowered her eyes. "I took it as a good sign."
He started to change into his training slacks. "I've had a lot of mixed feelings. I've thought about messaging you... "
"I have just the thing." And she returned to the corner to fetch the muffins. She left the box open on the table and went to get the coffee. When she brought the coffee cups to the table, she paused, staring at the way he sat on that chair. Shirtless and notably more toned than she had ever seen him before, almost the superhero muscles from the movies. She swallowed, glad that she had her wits about her enough to not drop the coffee on the floor. She quickly set the coffee down, but he had noticed the way she looked at him.
"That's the difference a few days of hard work makes." He looked at her with big puppy eyes. "Do you like it?"
Blushing, she stared at him. "You did this for me?"
"You were staring like that the last time..." That look of longing he gave her, she had seen it before.
She shook her head and picked up her coffee cup to look at it, instead of at him. "Henry, I told you there would be after-effects. I didn't want to tell you that they'd be intense, for fear that you'd take it as a suggestion to unconsciously intensify it." She sipped her coffee. "I feel awful about putting you through that."
He leaned towards her. "In the past days I've lived in a daze. Couldn't eat, couldn't sleep, thought of you constantly." He took a deep breath. "Obsessed. And you call that an after-effect? It's unbelievable… You can cause this to happen? You can make someone fall in love like this?"
"I've had it happen before. Never done it on purpose before. It will pass." She avoided his eyes as she drank her coffee.
He whispered: "Maybe I don't want it to pass."
With the empty cup in her hands, staring at the dredges at the bottom, she asked: "Do you still trust me? As the expert you're consulting with?"
He nodded emphatically. "Yes. You've delivered more than I dared to hope for already."
She put her cup down and rose from the chair. Taking a deep breath, she took on a stern voice. "If you're not going to have coffee or a muffin, then we'll begin right now. What do you say?"
He sprang up from the chair.
"That's what I thought." She moved into the open space of her studio and pointed at the floor in front of her feet.
His eyes grew large and he kneeled down in the spot she indicated, looking up at her.
"Show me the bitemark," she ordered.
He held out his arm to her, showing the multi-coloured bruise on the inside of his arm. "It's remarkable…" He muttered. "I've never cherished a bruise like this before. Like a memento of the time we spent together. The pain reminds me of your power over me. It's delicious."
She narrowed her eyes at him. "Is it really?" When she touched his head and he immediately gasped, trembling with anticipation. She clenched her jaw, her lips forming a thin, grim line. "What do you want?"
"I want you to drop me. Take me." His eyes were begging for it.
"You understand the craving now, the obsession. You nurtured and grew it in the past couple of days. You've seen what it made you do. Despite my warnings and precautions, against your own better judgement." She cupped his cheek in her hand as she spoke these words, and her tone softened gradually.
Her words quenched the hope and eagerness in his eyes, as if reality slowly caught up with him. That's when she stroked upwards over his forehead, and his eyes rolled up. He sat still as a statue, the whites of his eyes showing and his lips parted.
"Against your own better judgement." She repeated. "There is a part of you that understands the ephemeral nature of these feelings you have for me. That part of you also knows how many people in your life would judge you or feel hurt if they knew that you had these feelings for me. If they knew all the foolish things you'd do for me."
She let go of his head and his chin sagged down onto his chest. She backed away, knowing that her absence in this moment would help drive her point home.
"You wanted to feel the shame. The guilt. The feeling of going against your own better judgement. I want you to sit with that for a moment. You are a fool. It's not even real love. I've used you and you allowed it. You welcomed it. You still crave it. Despite your own better judgement. Examine those feelings and when you wake up, I'll be over there, having coffee."
She took a deep breath and returned to her chair. She didn't even glance at her empty coffee cup. She watched him like a hawk, reading his body language and micro-expressions.
His lips trembled. He cringed. His hands clasped into fists and then unclasped again. He hunched forward and covered his mouth, staring at the floor. Another cringe. He started to get up, but he nursed the bruise on his arm as he did so, as if he wanted to cover it, ashamed of it. Quickly, he looked around the room, at her sitting at the table, but also at his clothes on the rack beside the door.
Octavia stood up and produced a thin blanket from a bag under the table. She folded it open and offered it to him, seeking out eye-contact. He gratefully accepted and she wrapped the blanket around his shoulders and arms. Then she took him by the arm to the chair.
"Do you still want that coffee?" She asked.
Without looking at her, he answered: "This may sound like a weird request. But can you get me a whole pitcher of water?"
She dashed off to the corner to fill a pitcher for him and fetch a glass. "Something about dehydration to make the muscles look good?"
"Something like that." He huddled in the blanket and grabbed one of the muffins to take a big bite out of it.
She placed the water beside him on the table and sat back down. "You can talk about it. You can say anything here, without being judged."
He ate the muffin in silence and drank some water, slowly relaxing, even though she was watching him. He hesitated a few times before he finally started to talk, searching for words. "I've had these thoughts. I knew what a fool I was being. But somehow, that was confined to the back of my mind. My need to… be yours… was stronger than my reason."
Shaking her head, she whispered: "I made a mess of this. That will teach you to consult with me…"
"No…" He coughed, trying to clear his parched throat. He poured himself some more water and he spoke softly between sips. "When I'm training for a stunt, things like this happen. I hurt myself, because I run into the danger head first, despite the advice of the expert I hired to help me. I learn something about the danger. And we keep trying until I get the stunt right." He ran his hands over the blanket. "This is very nice. You've been amazing, all the way through these sessions."
She nodded, sitting back. "Take all the time you need. Drink some more."
"I have a question, Octavia." He poured more water into his glass. "You did something that the mind-controlling sorceress in the script does too. But you don't know the script, do you?"
"I only know what you've told me." She smiled. "What is it?"
"Why do you change from the hot, seductive way you used to get me into the devoted mindset to that cold, commanding presence? What is the motivation? What are the benefits?" He studied her face.
She folded her hands in her lap. "Both of those… roles, masks, voices, whatever you want to call it… are persuasive tools. To regulate your mood. One to make you hotter, the other to cool you down." She licked her lips, looking for the right words. "You are stronger than I, your eagerness is an energy I must try to control, or you might take over. I try to make it less romantic and less sexy by being cold. But it's not just for you, I am also regulating my own feelings."
"That's helpful to understand her role. Thank you." After a moment of silence, he looked at her again. He seemed much more himself now. "You're regulating your feelings? Will you tell me about that?"
Smiling at him, her eyes almost closed. "I am a dominatrix and I enjoy my work, Henry. I derive a certain amount of pleasure from consensually hurting someone. And your gorgeous body does give me feelings. So yes, I'm regulating my feelings. You are not one of my regular clients, we are not doing this for pleasure. This is training for your role."
Henry nodded slowly, drinking some more. Being reminded why he was here seemed to help him focus. He turned towards her and said: "We're not done yet. Are you willing to show me more?"
She broke into a smile. "At some point, you and I need to have a talk about your masochism. But yes, I think I can show you more. Stuff that's relevant to your role even. When you're ready to continue."
He took another sip of water and then put the glass down. "What's next?"
"Relapse," she said, observing his reaction.
He gave her an alarmed look.
"Say your character has recovered from being mind controlled." She said as she stared off in the distance, goading him to do the same. "Say you're going about your life as usual again. Sometimes, in quiet moments you think back and remember and it gives you feelings. But mostly, you tell no one, and it's almost as if it never happened. Until you're confronted with her again. Then what happens?"
Letting the blanket slide off his shoulders, he leaned forward in the chair, a thinking pose. Octavia rose to her feet and slowly walked into the open space, staring at the wall so that he could see her profile.
"And then, she appears, unexpectedly." She let her voice soften into that dreamy tone as she narrated the scene. "And memories start to drift to the surface, don't they? You thought you were past that. You thought your adoration was a thing of the past. But those feelings come surging back to you. Is the longing you feel now even stronger than it was before? How long have you been longing for me? Were those feelings ever truly gone?"
As she slowly turned towards him and their eyes met, he seemed to be frozen in place. His eyes large and his jaw sagging open. His chest rising and falling dramatically with each breath. She made a gentle beckoning gesture with her hand and nodded at him. He stood up and almost drifted towards her, as she held his gaze.
Embracing him, her voice turned more sultry. "How much control do you have over what you're doing right now? Don't you know you shouldn't be giving in to me like that?" She stroked his cheek and cupped his jaw in her hand. Slowing down, she drew out her words, as if she was just savouring the sensations of each letter on her tongue. "Why does it feel so good to fall back into this pattern, just when you were free of it? Don't you remember the shame, the guilt? Or do all those feelings pale in comparison to my touch?"
She traced a finger up his cheek, over his temple and then up over his forehead. He shuddered and his eyes fell shut. He sagged in her embrace and she hugged him tightly, hoping that would help keep him standing upright.
"And as you drift in my arms, so blissfully…" Her voice changed again, this time to an urgent whisper. "...it's not the same as it was before. Somewhere in the back of your mind, it gnaws at you. You know you shouldn't be doing this. And somewhere deep inside, some part of you is fighting. Struggling to shake off this enchantment. Feel what that's like. Which side of you will finally win? The heavy surrender of giving in to me? Or your better judgement?"
His eyelids moved as he frowned, and twitches travelled over his skin. A soft groan grew in his throat as he found his balance, no longer leaning into her embrace.
She stroked his cheek again, admiring the little hints of the inner struggle. "You fight it because you remember how I used you. Because you know what a fool you were. It taints your adoration for me. Do you still want to be mine?"
He turned his head away from her, and started to let go of her, but he didn't seem to be sure yet whether he wanted to retreat from her or not. Nor was he ready to open his eyes.
With a deep breath of exhilaration, she pulled him in for a kiss, and she laid her hand on the bulge in his crotch to softly massage it. "Why does it feel so good to give in to something that's so bad for you?" She whispered in his ear.
For a few seconds, he kissed her back, and his hips moved in reaction to her hand. And then, with a moan, he finally found the strength to pull away. He turned his back to her and rubbed his face with his hands.
Octavia stayed where she was, crossing her arms as she watched him. "How many times would you relapse? Is there something that would keep pulling you back to me, no matter how much I would hurt you?"
He covered his mouth and shook his head. The way his shoulders hunched, worried her. So she cleared her throat and took on a colder, more professional tone. "Take a deep breath, Henry. Clear your mind. Just stand here, in my studio with me. Feel the carpet under your feet. Maybe you want to stretch? Take a moment? I'll get some more water." And she moved past him to pick up the pitcher and fill it in the corner.
He sank down on the chair and folded his hands in front of his face. "Thank you. I…" He sighed. "I just had a realisation about the character I am playing in that show."
She brought the water to the table and sat down. "Good. I'm not sure I have more to show you than this. I mean…" She leaned towards him. "I think we should stop and make sure there are no more effects for Henry after this."
"How do we do that?" He poured himself some water and looked at her.
"The process is similar to what we've already done." Octavia gave him a mischievous grin. "You open up and listen, and I blather at you."
"Blather…" He smiled. "Is that more jargon?"
"Oh yes!" She giggled. "Just wait till we get to the waffling, that's when things get really complicated."
Chuckling, he set the glass down. "Seriously, Octavia. Thank you. This has been amazing and insightful. I'm impressed by the marvellous things you can do as a hypnotist."
"As a hypnoDom." She corrected him. "Not many hypnotists would agree to work with you in this way. My work gives me some unique insights."
"Would you work with me again?" He asked.
She gave him a mysterious smile. "If you want. Think it over for a few weeks before you come again. But first, I want you to sit back and close your eyes."