First Meeting

by scifiscribbler

Tags: #consensual_kink #dom:male #implied_memory_play #m/f #sub:female

Several times, over a few months, two friends meet for the first time, and each time they confirm their commitment to changes.

“I’m glad we’re finally doing this,” Debbie said as they walked into the restaurant out of the cool spring air. “It’s been too long.”

“Definitely,” Mark agreed. He stopped partway to the table, turning to look over the place, then hurried to catch up. “Looks like a nice place,” he said. “Yeah, I’ve been here a few times,” she agreed. “Hoping you like it.”

The waitress showed them to a window table. “Good to see you again,” she said to Debbie. As the waitress walked away for their drinks orders, Mark smiled. “I always like a place where they actually remember you,” he said.

“Yeah. I haven’t been here that often, I swear.”

He spread his arms, palms wide open. “I believe you.”

They’d known each other for years online, even if this was the first time they’d actually met, after - well, let’s say years, the number of years wasn’t something she needed to calculate - and they’d sort of known they were relative neighbours in the global village for most of that time. But they’d never got around to meeting up, the same way a tourist to your city has seen more of its sights than you; you can always tell yourself it’s coming in time.

Something about his particular mix of amused teasing and focus was what she’d expected from his online presence. But she hadn’t expected him to be quite so tall.

Her drink arrived first; bright, vibrant, fruity.

His came in two parts. The glass full of ice with a twist of orange peel, and a beaker, the drink at the base of it, the rest filled with smoke, capped off with more peel.

Debbie leaned forward slightly as the waitress left. “Is it supposed to have smoke like that?”

He nodded. “It’s not so common today, but the fact they mentioned smoke on the menu was one of the reasons I chose it,” he said. “Means they’re making it right.”

Without ‘uncapping’ the beaker, he held it up briefly by the neck, letting it catch the light, and gave it a quick flick of the wrist to start the smoke swirling. The swirl caught Debbie’s eye, and her glance lingered on it perhaps longer than it should have.

When she realised she was lingering, she looked away, caught Mark’s eye. He was watching her reactions and his amusement was clear.

“You did that on purpose,” she correctly, if cheerfully, accused. Then, lowering her voice against the birthday party at the next table, “Are you testing how responsive I am?”

He shrugged, tilting the beaker to let the brown, syrupy liquid and the smoke mingle at the edges. “Call it two things at once,” he said. “I like the smoke imagery, though. You could do something with that.” His voice abruptly dropped to a quieter, softer pitch, with just a hint of a sing-song purr. Considering the subject matter, Debbie honestly wasn’t even sure if it was deliberate - he had an idea, and he was going with it.

“It’s like fog that way. I took a subject for a walk on a foggy morning, once, the kind where you can only see five feet in front of you. This was back when I was living in the country, so it was quiet, peaceful, and the fog was everywhere, unbroken. And it was easy for her to get lost in the fog.”

He paused for just a moment, then let the next word draw out as he was choosing his next angle. “Welllll… that’s not true. She didn’t get lost in the fog. But her mind did, bit by bit, muddled and shed.” Debbie’s eyes were back on the smoke. She imagined herself walking through smoky mist. It would be an autumn day, one she’d wrap up warm against, to judge by that tempting brown liquid gleam beneath the smoke.

She inhaled gently. She could smell that comforting scent of a wooden fire in your home fireplace all around her, as she pictured herself walking through the smoke. She could imagine him beside her, dripping his honeyed words into her willing head, as little by little she shed her thoughts and her mind, drifting away like leaves in autumn.

Mark was talking to her, and she was vaguely amused by how her mental picture and the words he was saying seemed identical.

Which came first, the smoke or the fog?

Debbie was just deciding it was important to pay attention to the next thing Mark told her as he said “…but it’s important you pay attention to this next thing, Debbie.”

She lifted her eyes to his. She felt her thoughts and her mind slip away, left behind her, lost in the smoke.

All she could see, somehow, were his eyes, twinkling with amusement. He lifted the flask into view, slipping its peel cap away. “Lost in the smoke,” he said softly. “But watch what happens when I pour this out…”

Into the glass went the drink and the smoke, and as it hit the ice, the smoke vanished, leaving nothing behind.

Whatever she’d lost in the smoke was gone now, vanished. Debbie sat very still, eyes on the drink, her thoughts and mind nowhere to be seen.

She blinked, and her food was in front of her. She didn’t remember ordering. She waited for the waitress to be out of earshot, swallowed, and lowered her voice. “Have you hypnotised me?”

His eyes sparkled as he grinned his amusement. “Yes. Don’t you remember?”

“No-”

“That’s very impressive.” He sounded genuine, complimentary to her, not bragging for himself. Fuck. Her thighs squeezed involuntarily together. He’d hypnotised her and she’d forgotten it. That wasn’t expected… was it?

Either way, it was pretty much what she’d been hoping for.

“This is what I wanted to order, but…”

“I did ask. I just didn’t feel the need to wake you up for a decision that minor.”

“But larger decisions…?”

“None have been made yet.” He smiled. “And maybe they won’t be today. But maybe we should begin discussions.”

Debbie’s breath caught for a moment. Rather than say anything, she nodded.

***

“I’m glad we’re finally doing this,” Debbie said as they walked into the restaurant, lowering her umbrella and closing it now they were out of the rain. “It’s been too long.” He chuckled, nodded, looking away as he did. “Yeah,” Mark returned, smiling warmly.

“Looks like a nice place,” he said, his eyes running over the place. “Yeah, I’ve been here a few times,” she agreed. “Hoping you like it.”

The waitress showed them to a window table. “Good to see you again,” she told Mark with a smile. Debbie blinked.

As the waitress walked away for their drinks orders, Debbie leaned forward. “I thought you hadn’t been here before?”

Mark smiled that smile of his and shrugged. “I have one of those faces.”

It wasn’t much of an explanation, but for right now it was enough of one. Mark had a basic level of her trust; they’d known each other for years online, even if this was the first time they’d actually met, after - well, let’s say years, the number of years wasn’t something she needed to calculate - and they’d sort of known they were relative neighbours in the global village for most of that time. But they’d never got around to meeting up, the same way a tourist to your city has seen more of its sights than you; you can always tell yourself it’s coming in time.

They made polite small talk until their drinks arrived. Debbie had a whole project she’d started that ran along their shared interests. Mark just seemed happy to trace how often their paths had nearly crossed. Her drink arrived first; bright, vibrant, fruity.

His came in two parts. The glass full of ice with a twist of orange peel, and a beaker, the drink at the base of it, the rest filled with smoke, capped off with more peel.

Debbie stared at the beaker. And why not? It was the strangest thing on the table.

“Be easy to get lost in smoke like that,” Mark said softly as she followed its curls. She nodded, not really wondering about the remark. Somehow it seemed reasonable to say.

He took off the beaker’s cap and poured it into the ice. The smoke vanished, with whatever had been lost in it gone, too. Debbie felt a strange emptiness at the thought; half confusion, half expectation. An emptiness with a specific shape, ready to be filled, but still an absence she couldn’t quite identify.

“That’s what I like to see,” Mark said, his voice cheerful but so soft, so calm, so low. It was a purr as sweet as her drink. She smiled, sitting up a little straighter, somehow feeling as if it was her being praised even though she knew his attention would be on his glass, just as hers was. “I need to ask you one simple question. Percent?”

He reached out and took the twist of orange, curled up but relaxed, like a wilting spring. He swirled it into his drink, drawing her attention even deeper down.

Without knowing why or what it meant, Debbie said “Fifteen.”

Debbie stared absently at the glass. There was probably conversation to be had, or other things to do, but they could wait. She was empty, absent. There was no hurry. Hurry could only come if you had something on your mind.

Mark was saying things, but they didn’t matter. It was just interesting to watch the orange peel spiral through the ice.

He reached across the table, put his hand on her arm, and feeling his fingers touch her skin, she realised she’d shed her jacket without noticing. Well, it was warm, and his touch was…

…was really good. Impossibly good. His finger roamed teasingly up and down the inside of her wrist, feather-light touch, tracing a slow, narrow spiral. And it wasn’t supposed to flood your body with pleasure, so light a touch on such a part of you. It wasn’t meant to make you flush, and try not to catch someone’s eye in case you were embarrassed.

It certainly shouldn’t make you squirm in your seat. But Mark’s touch, the first time they’d ever met, was setting her skin alight with delight and desire.

She felt her whole self being pulled into that slow spiral.

She didn’t want him to know how he was affecting her. So she bit her lip, kept her eyes elsewhere, and tried to appear demure and undistracted.

Then the waiter arrived to take their orders. Mark had never been here before, but he ordered with confidence and without looking at the menu. And he ordered for both of them, a show-off power play of a move that, with his finger still tracing that spiral, she was in the mood to be okay with.

She ordered a side to let him know he wouldn’t have it all his own way. Her voice was level, composed, and didn’t crack even when he suddenly picked up the pace of his spiral for a moment. The waiter smiled down on them both like young lovers, anticipating a giddy, larger tip.

Once he was out of earshot, Debbie mustered her expression into a mock frown. “Naughty,” she began. “How are you doing that?”

Mark grinned. “Do you want to know, or…” He paused, but he wasn’t searching for the word. He was just savouring the moment. “Do you want to continue being conditioned?”

Debbie squeaked involuntarily in surprise. Suddenly the spiral on her arm was the least of it. Her spine and scalp were suddenly tingling with mixed apprehension and delight. She wasn’t sure whether to blurt out a yes or demand he stop at once.

That would have needed her to know what she wanted, and right now? She was not at all convinced she did.

Her mouth was dry as she realised she was nodding, eyes helplessly locked on his, watching them for a clue, a hint, anything.

“Good girl,” he purred. She felt a shiver run down her. She was committed now. Committed to conditioning. And that felt so good, so right…

When they left later, her bag was a little bit heavier. Puzzled, she looked inside, but couldn’t see anything new.

***

“I’m glad we’re finally doing this,” Debbie said as they walked into the restaurant out of the hot summer sun. “It’s been too long.” He chuckled, nodded, looking away as he did. “Yeah,” Mark returned, smiling warmly. Inwardly, Debbie was celebrating. The surprise she’d found in her bag two days ago was snugly in place, held there by her panties, but while she was sure its presence threw off her walk, Mark obviously hadn’t noticed.

It was her little secret, a naughty treat to herself.

“Looks like a nice place,” he said, his eyes running over the place. “Yeah, I’ve been here a few times,” she agreed. “Hoping you like it.”

The waiter showed them to a window table. “It’s good to see you guys again,” he told them, and Mark thanked him. He ordered drinks for both of them; Debbie was about to protest, but she realised he’d nailed it.

As the waiter walked away for their drinks orders, Debbie leaned forward. “Does he think we were here before?”

Mark smiled that smile of his and shrugged. “Maybe he says it to everyone, just in case. Or maybe we just have one of those faces.”

It wasn’t much of an explanation, but for right now it was enough of one. Mark had a basic level of her trust; they’d known each other for years online, even if this was the first time they’d actually met, after - well, let’s say years, the number of years wasn’t something she needed to calculate - and they’d sort of known they were relative neighbours in the global village for most of that time. But they’d never got around to meeting up, the same way a tourist to your city has seen more of its sights than you; you can always tell yourself it’s coming in time.

Mark pulled out his phone and set it on the table. He looked up at her, smiling quietly, amused, making a point of it.

She smiled back. It was amazing how comfortable she felt around him on a first meeting. “Are you going to set a timer or something?” she asked. “Are we being recorded? And if we are, why?”

He held up a finger with one hand. Opened an app with the other. There was some sort of scale bar on the screen, currently empty. The details on the app were hot pink on white, not quite something that fitted their aesthetic.

She decided that, for all he’d signalled her to be quiet, she was going to remind him he didn’t own her. “So, what’s this f-”

Her voice died away on a sudden shocked inhalation. Mark had pushed the scale bar up to its first notch - and the hidden vibrator between her legs, the secret of her own that she’d thought would be fun to wear without him knowing, sprang into life.

She’d placed it well, but she’d walked since then, and sat down, and it wasn’t exactly where she needed, but it was still enough for her eyes to go wide with shock. Her mouth was a perfect O of surprise while she reached desperately for composure.

Surely nobody would design a vibe control app that could be used on any vibrator in range? No - somehow he knew.

Somehow, on the first time they met, Mark had the controls for a vibrator she’d bought (hadn’t she? No, she must have - it had been in her bag, how else could it get there? She must just have forgotten) and had chosen to wear just as a little titillating secret for herself…

…which she might have thought was out of character for her at any other time, but somehow her thoughts never quite went near that.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw the waiter approaching their table, a tray of drinks in hand. She composed herself, clamping down on her expression firmly, and even managed a smile and a warm ‘Thank you’ as she received her drinks, her voice not wavering.

Then she turned the same smile to Mark, who returned it with an amused smirk of his own, his hand over the smartphone screen, concealing the app. He said “I need to ask you one simple question. Percent?”

“Forty,” she said, before forgetting she had. Taking her time over her words, making sure they were perfectly formed, she took advantage of the waiter’s departure to ask “How… did you do that?”

“Do what?” he asked. As she opened her mouth to reply he bumped up the settings to the next level, and she jumped again, squeaking slightly. She scanned the room to see if anyone had noticed, but thankfully there were no direct neighbours today.

“Oh, you know what, mister-” she retorted, her voice starting to wobble a little.

“So do you want me to stop?” he asked. “Or do you want to continue being conditioned?”

Debbie’s jaw dropped.

“What - how - what have you done?”

She reached out for the phone. Mark promptly increased the setting another notch; undeterred, she slapped his hand away from it, grabbed it, slid it over to her, moved to turn it off -

- and didn’t. Her finger halted a full half an inch above the screen. She tried again, but stopped the same distance away.

Her frustration turned into a slow smile as she tried a couple more times. “Very slick,” she said, “I don’t even remember going under.”

“Well, you hadn’t yet.” He reclaimed the phone and shut the vibrator off, although the knowledge he could start it again was buzzing through her, even more effective than the toy itself.

“So when did you hypnotise me? When I met you? Or-”

“You really wouldn’t believe me,” Mark said with a smile.

Her hand went to her hair as she tried to process that one. “Why not?”

He shrugged.”Just trust me on this. You won’t let yourself.”

The confidence he had in that might be misplaced, Debbie thought, but it was also… delicious. Before she could really enjoy it, though, Mark carried on. “You didn’t answer my question,” he said.

“I think I missed that.”

“Do you want me to stop, or do you want to continue being conditioned?”

She wasn’t sure whether to blurt out a yes or demand he stop at once.

That would have needed her to know what she wanted, and right now? She was not at all convinced she did.

She took a deep breath. “How… long… have I been being conditioned for?” she asked.

“Since we first ordered drinks,” he said. His face, never exactly hard to read, said plainly: *This answer is not the whole truth.*

But if it was true at all… then he’d done far more in one short period than she could imagine.

The waitress interrupted her deliberations, and she paged quickly through the menu to answer. As she finished, Mark was uncapping the beaker his drink had come in and pouring the smoking liquid over the ice, where the smoke and anything lost in it vanished completely.

She didn’t really hear Mark give his own order. Instead she was looking at the glass, somehow absent, somehow incomplete, but contented, even happy, though she didn’t know why.

He brought her quickly back to reality - and added to the delicious sensation of being toyed with - when he turned the vibe back on. She sat up sharply, shuddering with surprised pleasure, and reached out to grip the table’s sides with both hands.

Looking at him levelly, she managed “Are you sure you want to push this? Do you think you can handle what you’re trying to wake?”

She had the satisfaction of seeing him blink, look startled, and realise for the first time that she might not be the only one who didn’t realise what they were getting into. He took a big gulp of his drink as he considered the question, and even with her attention below her waist, with her thighs clamped tight to try to minimise her reactions, she found herself watching that rich brown rum cocktail (how did she know it had rum?) go down, feeling somehow as if some of her self-control had gone with it, been consumed by him, become part of him.

Did that mean he had some control of her?

*Why was she even thinking this?*

Mark set the glass down. “I don’t know,” he said. “But for me, nothing’s changed. I’m willing to find out.”

“Even if I wreck you and walk away?” She didn’t know where that line had come from. It felt like it might be bravado - but if she was honest, she wasn’t sure about that.

He took his time answering. When it came, it was in the form of a sudden jump in the vibe’s intensity. She set her mouth firmly against the sounds she wanted to make, gripped the table harder, drew back her foot, and kicked the air.

Thinking she’d just missed his shin, she tried twice more, until the size of his smirk confirmed that he had a safeguard against that.

“I can’t kick you, can’t change the settings on this thing, and I probably can’t slap you,” she said, wanting it to sound annoyed but knowing it would come out excited instead. “What can I do, exactly?”

As soon as the words were past her lips she expected him to turn it back to his question - that seemed like the perfect set-up she’d given him - but it turned out she had, in fact, handed him a different, even better one.

“You could go deeper,” he said, and picked up his drink to hide that smirk as her vision swam, her scalp tingling as her thoughts went awry, drifting away like leaves on a sudden autumn gust.

That was not the kind of drop just those four words could create off a single trance. But she was absolutely sure they’d never tranced online - something about his behaviour suggested that she’d know if they had eventually, even if not to start with. He was far too pleased with himself not to stage a grand unveiling.

She bit her lip and tried to decide whether she wanted him to do that again. To go deep enough for obedience to be on the cards.

…Conditioning was looking really tempting right now. But she was far from thinking straight.

“Turn that off.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“Turn it off, sir,” she said, but what she thought she’d said was *Turn it off, please.*

Mark grinned, and turned it off. “Come back up, if you like,” he said. “Let’s enjoy dinner.”

As they were leaving the restaurant, he said “You know, you still haven’t answered my question.”

“Oh, yeah,” she said thoughtfully. “I think… I’m more curious than I am worried.”

“…Soft yes?”

“Soft yes, sir.”

He smiled. “Just one thing I need, then.” His phone came out again; for a moment she wondered if he was going to turn the vibe back on, and if so, how quickly she could get to somewhere she could change and get it out. But then he opened up a memo app, and asked a question, and while she was surprised, it was something she was prepared to answer.

This time, as they parted ways, the embrace came with a gentle kiss on her cheek.

It stayed warm and flushed the whole way home.

***

“I’m glad we’re finally doing this,” Debbie said as they walked into the restaurant. She was relieved, too, to get out of the summer heat, especially on a muggy day that kept threatening to rain. “It’s been too long.” He chuckled, nodded, looking away as he did. “Yeah,” Mark returned, smiling warmly.

“Looks like a nice place,” he said, his eyes running over the place. “Yeah, I’ve been here a few times,” she agreed. “Hoping you like it, sir.”

The waitress showed them to a window table. “Welcome back, you two.” Debbie didn’t think about how odd it was that they seemed to recognise Mark until after drinks orders had been taken. By that stage it would have been odd to bring it up.

It didn’t help that she was keen to make a good first impression. They’d known each other for years online, even if this was the first time they’d actually met, after - well, let’s say years, the number of years wasn’t something she needed to calculate - and they’d sort of known they were relative neighbours in the global village for most of that time. But they’d never got around to meeting up, the same way a tourist to your city has seen more of its sights than you; you can always tell yourself it’s coming in time.

Mostly, she was glad to have got back indoors before the skies opened with rain the way they seemed ready to. She was at her most comfortable in multiple layers, everything covered, to keep from the chill, but the mugginess had had her picking out a rather more revealing outfit. Then, on her way out of the door, she stopped for a moment, thought about it, and - wanting to make a good impression - changed again. What she was wearing couldn’t quite be called skimpy but it was a lot tighter and clingier than her usual outfits.

And, of course, there was *much* less of it.

It had seemed like an obvious thing to do before she left the house - so natural and basic she hadn’t questioned it - but she’d begun wondering again on the way to their meet. Too late to do anything about it, of course, but all the same… this was their first meeting. Would she give the wrong impression?

Did she care?

*Where did that come from?*

Now probably wasn’t the time to try to work that out. Mark’s eyes on her were appreciative, even delighted, and this all seemed much more like one of his fantasies of control than real life. Like she was scripting herself for… his delight? Her secret fantasising?

Because, yes, alright, they were her fantasies too, and like him, she was an old hand when it came to the hypnosis that can make them feel, however temporarily, real. And yes, alright, it was fun to imagine she might walk into a restaurant with someone of her own free will and walk out with someone else’s hand on the reins, awake but obedient, blank and absent, or knowing full well she’d been changed but programmed to love it.

And yes, alright, she might have spent time the last few evenings edging with her remote-control vibe on low, thinking about going under that way.

But she wasn’t going to throw herself at him. That wasn’t the plan.

Now she came to put it like that, she was no longer sure she had a plan. But she sat opposite him, and smiled, and folded her arms under her chest to amplify her cleavage, and didn’t think about how odd that was.

It didn’t help that Mark was smirking like he knew all this, even though he obviously couldn’t. She glanced over his shoulder and checked her reflection in the bar mirror, just in case she’d managed to miss something on her face.

No - nothing out of place; in fact, looking fantastic, if still… well… very much showing herself off.

“…I look like such a slut,” she muttered, not quite quietly enough that Mark couldn’t hear.

“Oh, I wouldn’t say so,” he said. She looked up sharply, realising he’d heard. Met laughing eyes looking back at her.

Mark lifted his hand, two fingers splayed, to direct her to his eyes. “Except you might be a hypnoslut.”

The word was barely out of his mouth before she felt it take effect. Her eyes were already on his but now, she knew without having to check, she would not be able to look away from his gaze. The compulsion to stare was there, and it wasn’t just her; it was triggered, too.

A hypnoslut by command.

She bit down hard on her lip rather than give him the satisfaction, but just through eye contact she could tell he was getting plenty of it.

“How… did you do that?”

“Do what?”

“You messed with me before this somehow?”

“You have my word,” he said, his voice low, soft, and gentle, obviously the voice he’d usually use when playing with someone in trance, “that I never hypnotised you before we met up and came here.”

There was obviously more to that than he was giving away, but her mind wasn’t getting much further than just that fact. Thoughts seemed somehow lost in smoke, coming through out of order, disjointed, or not at all. Mostly not at all.

“I’ll give you answers to a lot of your questions,” he said. “But first - I need to ask you one simple question. Percent?”

“Eighty three,” she said, then blinked. She could feel that exchange trying to tuck itself away out of her awareness, in the back of her mind. But, locked onto her eyes though she was - she wasn’t completely under, and she was interested. “Wait - what does that mean?”

Mark smiled. “Be interested to hear your guess first.”

Debbie tried to dredge up the few thoughts that weren’t drifting away on the breeze. “You prepped me for something,” she said. “Some kind of intense hypnotic instruction. Uh… the word that keeps coming up is *conditioning?”*

She couldn’t see more than his eyes, but from the way they shifted she knew he was nodding. He glanced off to one side, but she kept looking as he said thank you to someone. Must be the drinks.

Debbie decided to show off, or try. Her right hand slid carefully, slowly, across the table until she found her glass. She lifted it. Took a drink.

Mark chuckled. “You said you wouldn’t make it easy.”

“I’d hope so,” she retorted with spirit, but she’d been losing herself in his eyes for longer now, so she added “Sir,” after a moment.

“Good girl,” he said, his voice now entirely the hypnotist’s purr. A shiver ran down her spine. “Now, the wait staff are going to be coming back,” he continued. “And eighty three is pretty good. So now we know enough of where we stand…” He snapped his fingers, enough to draw some attention but not enough to give it away. Not to an uninterested audience focused on their own food.

Debbie blinked, and saw the whole room. Her thoughts began to flow again, a slight sound of rustling lives whispering in her ears.

“So… what’s going on?” she asked, and then had to wait for an answer while the two of them dealt with ordering food. She was pretty sure her body’s calm refusal to be frustrated or annoyed with him meant she was OK with this, but it was… well, she was gambling on having done the smart thing before now.

“I’ve been conditioning you,” he said simply. “Since we first met in March.”

“We’re just meeting today.”

Mark nodded. “You’re… *really good…* at hypnotic amnesia,” was all he said in explanation.

“Did I sign off on this?”

“We agreed you wouldn’t get the answer to that,” he said, and grinned.

Debbie sighed… but had to admit it sounded like the sort of deal she’d make.

“So. Conditioning me for what?”

He paused, looking away, searching for an answer that gave as much and as little information as he wanted. “Weekends,” he said at last.

“You want me to be a - what was it - hypnosluuuuut…”

Mark snapped his fingers again and Debbie jerked back to reality. Mostly.

“Careful around that word at the moment,” he said. “I was using it to draw a distinction.”

As if that was any kind of answer. She rolled her eyes. “You want me to be a whatever every weekend?”

He shrugged. “Just some,” he said. “When I want, or when you want. Or need, if you ever finish a Friday too stressed.”

“So some weekends.”

Mark smiled. “Basically. But don’t worry. You’re well on your way. You’ve been doing the conditioning for me for a while. And giving me updates.”

“And I don’t get to remember?”

“Not until the first weekend, no.”

A sigh. “I mean-”

“In point of fact, you won’t remember all of this when our food comes.” She wasn’t in trance. He’d used no triggers. But his tone was sing-song hypnotic and she felt it settle into her head like a command. Which… did not make the situation any less exciting.

She smiled. She couldn’t help it. “Yes, sir,” she said.

“But eighty three… that’s pretty good. You should have finished brainwashing yourself by next time.” He grinned. Debbie ran through a list of possible responses and eventually settled for sticking her tongue out at him.

“Which reminds me…” He unzipped his backpack and took out a large plastic shopping bag. It was bulky but evidently light; it looked like he’d been clothes shopping - and then he was putting the bag alongside her own.

“What’s in there?”

“Well, I can tell you now, or.”

“…Or?”

“Or do you want to continue being conditioned?”

This felt like her last chance to get off the railroad. He was hinting pretty heavily it might be. But still… she’d sunk a lot into this.

And something about the way he’d gone about it, as abrupt as it might be, seemed like she could let go eagerly.

She nodded, and didn’t look in the bag. “I just realised I dressed up for you because I had to,” she said. “Just don’t embarrass me too much next time or you might still lose it.”

Not that she thought that was likely. But that wasn’t the point.

Mark grinned. “Nope,” he said. “Next time will be a Friday night. By the time you get into that bag we’ll be away from the public.”

Another pause as the waiter brought out their food. And with that, Debbie forgot the conversation they’d just had.

But that was OK. For a first meeting, this dinner was going very well.

x5

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