Pairing/Characters: Reese/Fusco, Carter (briefly)
Rating: R (eventually)
Summary: '"Saw this; thought of you." This is printed on a scrap of paper folded on top of a small package sitting in the middle of Fusco's kitchen table. It's not signed. That's alright. He knows who it's from.'
Warnings: D/s, collaring
Word Count: 2,879
“Saw this; thought of you.”
This is printed on a scrap of paper folded on top of a small package sitting in the middle of Fusco’s kitchen table. It’s not signed. That’s alright. He knows who it’s from. He sighs, steels himself, and settles down at the table.
The package is a thin, white cardboard box, iridescent and textured, the kind his ex-wife used to keep jewelry in long after she brought it back from the store, feather-light gold chains resting on dusty cotton wool. It’s heavier than those boxes ever were, though. He gives the box a curious shake, hears a solid, gentle thud within. Probably not jewelry. Probably something illegal. When he opens the box, he’s cautious. He’s expecting a joke, one of the sickly funny jokes his boss likes so much. Part of him is expecting a severed finger, a lonesome ear, a gory little reminder of what will happen if he ever slips up again.
He is not expecting this.
A dog collar, thick brown leather, soft and scuffed with age, rests on the cotton padding like it’s a goddamn diamond necklace. It’s a heavy, old fashioned thing, dull metal buckle, last notch in the belt wide and protruding from years of use. Well worn, well loved.
His first thought is, “oh god, oh god, he killed someone’s dog.” He can’t think of why Reese would do that, why Reese would send him the collar, but that’s where his mind goes. He tosses the box aside, begins to turn the collar over and over in his hands, each dark splotch in the leather a potential bloodstain. Finally, it occurs to him to check the tag. The dog tag is the only thing new about the collar, clean and unscratched and winking in the light. It’s silver, brightly polished, perfectly round. On one side, a blank. On the other side, just a name, simply but emphatically engraved.
“You’re really fucking funny, you know that?” he growls to no one. Maybe it’s for the benefit of the microphone of his cell phone, because someone might be listening in. You never know. He laughs to himself, short and derisive, but he can’t shake the chill down his back. He considers throwing the collar out, decides not to in case his friend in the suit has an actual reason for giving it to him. Considers throwing it out just to piss him off. Resolves to stash it in a drawer and forget about it.
He ends up lying awake in the dark, worrying the collar in his hands half the night. He wants to throw it out, never look at again, but something about it nags at him, makes him frightened.
He’s still holding it when he wakes up.
“Did you get my gift?” Reese whispers on the other end of the line.
He leans back in his chair with a sigh. “Yeah. Yeah, I got it. What was that, a joke?”
“You’ve been a very good dog lately, Lionel. You come when you’re called; you don’t bite. Might as well make it official.” He’s smiling, just a little, that terrifying, smug, flirtatious look. He doesn’t even have to see it to know. “But you’re not wearing it. I put thought into that gift, Lionel. I’m hurt.”
“What can I say? It didn’t match my eyes. Did you call me for a reason?”
He can still hear the smile in his voice. “The juvenile criminal record for an Angela Vickers. I need it unsealed.”
“See you tonight, Lionel.”
His boss hangs up, leaving that feeling of dread and excitement to creep over Lionel again. He puts his phone down on the desk a little harder than he needs to, and across the way, Carter glances up.
“Who was that?” she asks.
“Old friend from Narcotics,” he says. Did he always lie this easy?
“Does he know you hate him?”
“Wouldn’t be much of a friend if he didn’t.”
She smiles a little, gets back to reports.
See you tonight. He wants a drink.
He forgets about it until he gets home and finds the door unlocked. Immediately, he thinks break-in, drug cartels, he’s about to get murdered, but then he hears, “Come in, Lionel,” and somehow that’s a relief.
He’s standing in the middle of the apartment, suit flawless as always. He doesn’t belong there, too tall and handsome for this small and dingy place. He’s holding the collar in one hand.
“Did you go through my stuff?”
“Shut the door, Lionel,” he says pleasantly.
He’s still angry, but he does. “We need to work out some boundaries,” he says, slamming the door and locking it behind him. “You can’t be breaking into my apartment whenever the hell you want.”
“You know I can.”
Fusco sighs, resigned. “I know.”
“Come over here.”
He doesn’t want to, doesn’t want to be anywhere near him, but he still moves closer, almost involuntarily. Reese catches him by the wrist and pulls him the rest of the way, maneuvers him backward into a chair.
“Sit,” he says, and Fusco, to his own horror, does. No hesitation, on command. He’s going to get so much shit for this, but Reese is just smiling to himself, faint and sweet and still unbearably smug. Reese’s fingers slip under his chin and guide his head back. He loosens Fusco’s tie, draws it over his head and sets it beside him, undoes the top few buttons on Fusco’s shirt and draws it open, leaving his throat exposed.
“What the hell are you doing?” he gasps. He never meant to gasp. His breath comes so quickly now, short fits and starts.
“Shh.” Fusco tries to lift his head and Reese pushes him back again. “Stay.”
He stays. God help him, he stays. Reese’s hand leaves his throat for a second, returns with the collar. The soft leather is heavy and cool against his skin, the buckle and tag sharp points of cold, but Reese’s fingertips are warm and steady as they draw the collar around his neck. He’s careful, accommodating, sliding fingers between Fusco’s throat and the slowly constricting band to check that he has room to breathe. He feels the leather slide liquid through the buckle, Reese’s breath close on his neck as he fiddles with the tongue of the buckle as it slips into one of the pinholes, adjusts the whole collar so the tag hangs bright in the hollow of Fusco’s throat.
“There.” He pats him on the cheek. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” The pat becomes a stroke, languid and careful, along the side of his face and back into his hair, long fingers scratching at his scalp. “Now you look like you belong to someone.”
His eyes slide shut, sharp intake of breath. “I don’t understand,” he says, and his own voice sounds like it’s a thousand miles away.
“I know,” Reese whispers. “I know you don’t.” He fastens the buttons on Fusco’s shirt, straightens it. “Just leave it on a while.” His hands rest on Fusco’s knees a moment, squeeze hard, and as suddenly as the pressure comes, it’s gone.
He doesn’t open his eyes until he hears the door to his apartment click open and shut, and he’s sure he’s alone again. His hand goes to his throat, fingers scrabbling at the buckle, but almost immediately he stills. He listens for footsteps on the stair, to the whir of electronics. Reese is gone now, but Fusco isn’t so naïve that he thinks this means Reese can’t see him, somehow. He’s not alone now; he never is. The collar has weight to it, a not-unpleasant weight, like a warm hand on his shoulder. It’s this weight of ownership that makes him reluctant to take it off just yet. So he leaves the collar on.
Only for a little while.
It haunts him, a little.
Reese doesn’t mention it, doesn’t mention anything, doesn’t even take a glance at his pointedly bare throat the next time they meet in person (business, this time) but the collar follows him around, a humiliating, sickening little memory. He can carry on pretending he doesn’t know what it means, but why lie to himself? He knows it’s just Reese’s way of telling him that Fusco’s his bitch now.
Like he doesn’t already know that. Like he isn’t always somebody’s bitch.
Like he needs reminding.
But he wears it sometimes anyway. Not where anyone can see him, not even every night, just some nights when he’s tired and beaten down, his thoughts turn to the leather strap coiled under a shirt at the back of his dresser drawer. He can hesitate for hours, the drawer looming large in his mind, the weight in the pit of his stomach growing, telling himself he shouldn’t even think about that weird, embarrassing thing, but when the mood takes him, it’s only a matter of time before he has the collar in his hands again.
So he wears it when he’s home alone at night, when he’s got no one but himself to judge him for it. It’s heavy on his neck and it keeps him still, keeps him grounded. He wears it tight around his throat, secure, until it becomes a part of his skin and he forgets it’s there.
Once he’s woken up at night by this persistent jingling sound, only to realize that it’s the tag clinking against itself whenever he rolls over in his sleep.
Once he’s at work, talking with Carter about key witnesses in robbery gone wrong, and her brow furrows and she gives him the strangest look, and he only figures out why a second before “Fusco,” she says, “is that a necklace?”
He tugs the collar of his shirt up higher, straightens his tie. “Nope.”
She looks like she’s about to ask for an explanation, but she rolls her eyes, gives her head a little shake. She doesn’t care; it’s not her business. They keep talking like nothing happened, but sometimes she’ll kind of side-eye him and he wonders if she’ll ask one day.
Once he’s getting ready to go to work and he catches himself in the mirror, collar still around his neck. He thinks, “That was a close one.” He goes to take it off but instead he just loosens it, so it hangs low on his neck, and he wears his tie just tight enough to cover it, just loose enough so that there’s no suspicious bump. He goes through the day like a well-oiled machine filled with quiet, alien confidence, the collar burning a hole in his throat.
Sometimes this whole thing scares the shit out of him.
It’s probably the hottest day that summer, that kind of blazing unbreathable atmosphere that makes him want to find an excuse to work from in front of his desk fan all day, but instead he’s sitting on a park bench, wincing as his skin goes pink and tight in the sun, because that’s where Reese asked him to be. He’s got his jacket crumpled up beside him on the bench, stolen file tucked underneath, his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, but he doesn’t dare loosen his tie, because. Well, because.
He’s a sick man. He understands this now. The buckle is heating up even under his shirt, and in the places where it touches him, it sears.
He jolts when wet, icy fingers slide down the back of his neck. “You’re wearing it,” Reese says. His voice is flat as always, but Fusco still picks up on an undercurrent of quiet amusement.
“Will you get off? Your hands are freezing.” He starts to rise, to turn to face him, but Reese’s hand locks around the collar and pulls him back down and tight against the back of the bench.
“You’re wearing this too loose,” Reese whispers conversationally. “But you prefer to wear it tighter, don’t you? You’re marking yourself up.” His fingers probe at the soft, raw ruts in Fusco’s neck, the ones you’d only know were there if you really looked for them. He flinches and tries to force Reese’s hands away, but Reese just pulls back hard, just hard enough to make breathing difficult, and his hands drop to his lap. “You have to know that’s too tight, right?” He lets go and Fusco jerks forward, as far away from him as possible without actually leaving the spot.
“Look, I didn’t come out here to get heat stroke and listen to you act like a creep. You want this file or what?”
Finally, Reese strolls around the bench into view, and Fusco hates him instantly. 90 degrees in the shade, and he’s going around in a breezy, half-open shirt like he’s never been uncomfortable in his life. He’s got a drink in one hand, straw bobbing over the side, and he’s never looked more like a model in some cheesy ad.
Fusco takes the file out from under his jacket, hands it off, and Reese settles beside him to read it. He’s never done that before, always quick to glance through and then vanish with a quip. This time he stays, reads the file thoroughly, and when Fusco tries to get up and leave, Reese’s fingers are tangled in the collar again. “Stay,” he says absently.
Finally, Reese closes the file with a snap. “This is good work, Lionel,” he says. He takes his hand off Fusco’s neck, and Fusco can’t remember if Reese has ever complimented him before, so he stays put. Reese plucks an ice cube from his drink, and casually presses it to the back of Fusco’s neck.
He flinches. “What are you doing?”
“Relax, Lionel. Think of it as a reward.” He pushes it in a slow, freezing circle up his neck and down the back of his shirt, across his shoulders. A confused feeling rises in his chest, violation mixed with excitement. Then Reese says, “Those cuts on your neck. Do you think you deserve them?”
Fusco slaps his hand away, but he doesn’t give an answer, and finally Reese leaves him there. When Fusco looks over his shoulder, he can still see him walking away across the park, file tucked under his arm, peculiar set to his shoulders, decidedly not looking back. He realizes that Reese doesn’t have to be seen, that if Fusco wanted to, he could follow him.
Ice water runs down his back, and it’s 90 degrees in the shade and he shudders.
He’s not sure who’s avoiding who.
He just knows that he hasn’t heard from Reese in a few weeks.
At first, it’s a relief. No pressure, more time to focus on his real job, no oppressive, intangible hand upon his shoulder. For the first time in a very long time, he feels safe. Safe enough to have the kid over on weekends, like he’s supposed to, only he just hasn’t had the time or the energy or the peace of mind.
So he has the kid over, and the kid’s sitting at the table, socked feet dangling a few inches from the linoleum floor still, gesticulating with a cereal spoon and telling him about his hockey game last weekend and how he should have been there and he’s sorry, so sorry, he’ll get the next one, and he almost feels like a human being again when his kid squints at him and says “Dad, what’s that on your neck?”
It’s a shock to his system. How long has he had it on? Who has noticed it? Why is he still wearing it when he knows he hasn’t thought of Reese in weeks?
He brushes off the question, slips into his own room first chance he gets, throws the collar in the back of the drawer where it belongs. He’s got a long, red stripe looped around his neck, a raw reminder, and throughout the weekend his hand is drawn unconsciously to his throat.
It’s six weeks, maybe seven, and he thinks he’s been discarded.
He must have been because how the hell could nothing have come up in six or seven (eight?) weeks? This is New York City. Someone’s always getting murdered.
He doesn’t check his phone as often now but there’s still nothing from him, just an ever-growing pile-up of missed calls from his ex. He has old numbers saved up on his phone, single-use numbers he never bothered to name and he could try the ones that reoccur but he won’t. There wouldn’t be an answer anyway, he knows. Reese isn’t that easy to find. And he’s not sure what he’d say anyway.
But he looks for him in the streets and in bars and in the cases that land on his desk until his own work and Carter’s start to blur and meld in his mind.
He’s a better cop than he’s been in a while, but he drinks more these days.
He doesn’t believe it, he knows it’s not true, but in the back of his mind he’s scared that Reese might be dead, and what hope does that leave for the likes of him?
He swears to God he saw him in a bar once. Could have been.