She has to keep reminding herself that she's actually still in their bedroom.
It's a very strange thing, the mind. Kate took a semester of psychology in college, but they never quite got around to discussing just what happens inside your brain when your boyfriend has you blindfolded and bound to your own bed.
One of the last times she was blindfolded and tied to the bed (while Ari was forced to answer a phone call from work, and was sitting in the kitchen; the battery on the cordless phone was dead), she'd gotten the strangest image in her head. She'd been lying there, and some switch in her brain tripped, causing her to think – no, be certain – that she was lying on a bed that was dead center of a very empty warehouse.
The picture in her mind had been as clear as any crime scene photograph she's ever taken; 20 foot ceilings with dim lightbulbs encased only in dust, and nothing but smooth gray concrete walls surrounding her. She would have sworn in court that she even heard water dripping from an unseen tap nearby.
When Ari finally ended the call and made his way into the room, he found her trembling in the warm room, her entire body covered in goosebumps. He'd immediately pulled a knife from the bedside table, slicing his brand new silk tie off of her wrists in a matter of seconds.
He'd lifted her into a sitting position and cradled her in his arms, whispering Hebrew phrases into her ear. (She still doesn't know exactly what they meant.) She hadn't been able to explain to him why tears were running down her face.
She knows she's not in any real danger, of course; they have safewords, which they go over each time they do this, but they haven't had to employ them in months. They can read each other's body language so well that if Kate so much as flinches the wrong way, Ari will stop immediately.
Right now, she's so relaxed that she doubts that her body remembers how to flinch.
Kate is lying face up on the bed, with her wrists secured in wide sheepskin-lined leather cuffs. The chain connecting the cuffs loops through the headboard, keeping her arms stretched above her head, but not painfully so. (You'd never know it, but there are steel reinforcements inside the thick wooden slats; a home improvement project from the second week they moved into this house.) The duvet beneath her feels softer to her than it did this morning, and the blindfold covering her eyes smells faintly of fabric softener. She can't remember washing it; he probably threw it in with a t-shirt while she wasn't looking.
As much as she wants this, as much as she's anticipating what's about to happen...if something doesn't happen soon, she's going to fall asleep and not wake up until morning.
(Strangely, she always gets a better night's sleep after she spends an hour or two in handcuffs. If she ever gets kidnapped or held hostage for any length of time, she'll sleep for a week.)
"You aren't paying attention, Caitlin." His voice cuts through the slight fog in her head, and she shivers just a bit. He's right next to the bed, and she doesn't remember hearing him come up the stairs.
"I'm sorry," she says automatically. (Even these situations, she never forgets her manners. Ever the good little girl, she thinks.)
"Are you?" he asks, and lightly draws the tip of a knife up from her left ankle to the curve of her hip. The blade is freezing (thanks to an hour in a bowl of ice water), and Kate gasps at the feel of it. Her back arches slightly and her head drops back against the pillows.
He chuckles, a low rumble in his throat, and if she'd been in more control of her own head, she'd have dropped to her knees in front of him on the spot. "No, Caitlin, not God. It is only I."
The blade continues its path up her body, and Kate is very aware of the thin trail of condensation it leaves in its wake. Ari knows quite well how to make her focus on the smallest sensations, and also how to make her ignore them.
Tonight, she chooses to focus on the sensations, because it will help distract her from the pain she will also feel. And a small part of her brain hopes that there will be quite a lot of pain; if there is, she will have succeeded in what she set out to do earlier this evening.
Too many times, Ari has carried her burdens without complaint. Tonight, she will carry his.
He had returned from an assignment three days ago, and immediately, Kate had known something had gone badly.
Ari had called her from the airport, claiming only that he missed her. Kate said nothing of the fact that he'd only been gone for two weeks, and he hadn't even left the country; it had been a trip to Seattle. She'd though it odd, but said nothing of it. A man was allowed to miss his girlfriend, after all. Especially when he spends the time living out of a hotel room with nothing but an overpriced minibar to keep him company. He had also suggested going out for dinner that night, which struck Kate as extremely odd. Usually, Ari spent his first night back home after an assignment eating cold leftovers and watching less-than-stellar movies on tv. He capped these evenings off with a very long, very hot shower (alone) and a 14-hour nap. The only thing that ever varied about this routine was the meal and the choice of film.
Still, Kate said nothing of this behaviour, and made reservations at a small Italian restaurant Abby had introduced her to three weeks after she moved to D.C. After they returned home, Ari had poured himself a drink and settled onto the couch to watch a crime show on CBS.
Kate threw the remains of the pizza out the next morning while Ari was in the shower.
The knife stops moving once it reaches the hollow of Kate's throat, and she swallows instinctively. Ari turns the blade so it lies nearly-flat against her skin, and presses down on it ever so slightly. The pulse in her throat causes the blade to tremble, and Kate can feel Ari ease up on the knife instantly. (One good thing about fucking someone with a medical degree is that they know just how much your body can withstand, Kate thinks.)
"Are you sure about this, Caitlin?" Ari asks. He sounds slightly faraway, but Kate knows he has not moved from beside the bed; she's just dropping further into her own headspace.
"Yes. I want this," she says. Goosebumps rise on her arms, and Kate can feel her nipples harden. Ari reaches out, almost absently, and brushes his hand over one as he turns away from the bed. His hands are warm, and they make Kate's skin feel colder by contrast.
Kate hears him open the wooden chest at the end of the bed, and begin to rummage through it. Metal clanks, and the smell of well cared-for leather wafts up to Kate's face. Ari stands and uncoils the whip, letting the end hit the ground softly.
It is then that Kate knows that Ari must have had a Very Bad Trip. He rarely uses the whip; she's always had to beg him for it, and even then, he has never truly enjoyed using it. He prefers things that keep them in closer contact; he relishes the touch of her skin under his hands, not some toy.
Ari lifts the whip, letting the end trail up her legs and across her abdomen. The leather is cool and smooth. "Is this what you want? You want me to mark your skin, maybe make you bleed a little?"
Kate swallows once more, and wiggles her fingers within the cuffs, so they don't go numb. "Yes, Sir."
In truth, Kate thinks that trying to hide whip marks is an absolute bitch. There's only so much she can do with makeup, and working with observant people like Gibbs and Tony does nothing to help.
Still, Ari chose the whip, and she knows that he needs some form of release. Better to use the whip and get it over with, than to have him pretend everything's fine and end up shouting at her in a week when nothing seems to go his way. Kate takes a deep breath, releasing it slowly as she relaxes further onto the bed.
The whip lashes out across the top of her left thigh while she's still thinking of lies to tell Tony, and she cries out. Ari's free hand is on her skin instantly, stroking it, reducing the fiery pain to a dull burn. The whip strikes her other thigh a moment later, before Kate can even register that Ari moved his hand away.
Waves of heat radiate down to her toes, and Kate becomes very aware that her clit has begun to throb steadily, in unison with her heartbeat. She ignores it as much as she can, and the whip licks at her belly and thighs repeatedly. Kate tries to count each strike as it lands, but quickly gives up; Ari barely lets one blow land before delivering the next.
After what feels like forever, but she's sure is only minutes, Ari leans down next to her and whispers into her ear; his breath causes a strand of hair to tickle her neck. "Tell me you want this."
Kate sucks in a lungful of air, praying that Ari didn't notice her right hand just twitch. An unconscious movement, she tells herself. "I'm yours. Do whatever you want with me."
Ari only growls in response, and squeezes her left breast gently, pinching the nipple. The motion makes Kate whimper as Ari lets his hands trail down her belly. He turns his fingers so that the edges of his nails scrape her skin, and a moan escapes her.
His thumb strokes her clit twice, quickly, and she raises her hips up, trying to keep the contact. Ari takes his thumb away, taps her hip sharply with an open palm, and moves close to her ear once more.
"Keep still," Ari orders. Kate forces her ass and her heels down into the duvet, and her eyelids flutter behind the blindfold.
Ari stops moving, and Kate strains to figure out what's happening. All she can hear is a siren, faintly through the open window. The sound faded quickly, and is replaced by the slightly ragged sound of Ari's breathing.
Then, with a sharp intake of breath, Ari raises the whip once more. Kate braces herself as it licks a thin path just below the curve of her belly, and across her hips. It stings like fire, but Kate does not cry out. Tears form at the corners of her eyes, but she refuses to let them fall.
Ari lets out a strangled sound that may have been a sob; Kate is too busy focusing on the burn spreading over her lower body to really listen. She knows that was the last blow, however. The game is over. The goal has been accomplished.
She clears her throat, and calmly says, "Butterflies."
Kate inhales deeply, through her nose, and exhales through her mouth. She hears the whip hit the floor in what she knows will be a slightly messy coil.
She turns her head from side to side, listening to the subtle popping sounds issuing from her neck. As she does, Ari reaches for her right hand and unlocks it from the cuff.
"He had two children," he says (quietly and matter-of-fact), and unlocks her other hand. "The man I was sent to kill. Two little girls."
Kate isn't sure how to respond, so she simply says nothing. Instead, she concentrates on rubbing the slight numbness from her fingers.
"They had pictures of him in the file. One was a family picture, not a formal portrait. They were having a birthday party in their backyard. Their younger daughter was turning 4, and the cake had pink icing roses on it." Kate hears the snap of a light switch, and then Ari returns, reaching behind her head to remove the blindfold. She turns her face into the pillow as he does, wanting to come back into the light slowly. After a minute, she does, blinking at the fading beams of sunlight coming through the window.
Ari goes into the bathroom, returning a moment later with small tin. He sits on the edge of the bed, and begins applying the ointment to Kate's thighs as he speaks. He keeps his gaze focused on the bruises already beginning to form. The ointment is green and smells of the herbs Kate's grandmother used to keep in her garden. The smell always makes Kate feel like a child.
"The older girl is 7, and she has pink streamers on her bike, but no training wheels. I know this because it was lying on the edge of the driveway when her father's car exploded."
Ari finally looks at her then. The grief on his face is naked and unmistakable. "I killed a man, and his children saw it. His wife and daughters came running out, and saw his shredded, bloody body lying on a chalk hopscotch drawing."
Kate watches (not without some horrified surprise) as tears begin to fill his eyes. He wipes them away roughly with the back of his left hand, and continues speaking.
"My father had his throat cut as he returned from buying a newspaper one morning. It was the beginning of June, but it was already very hot, so my mother allowed me to go swimming in a pond near our house. My little sister wanted to come with me; she grabbed me around the knees and begged me to let her come along."
Kate nods slowly, curious. Ari has never spoken to her about his family. She didn't even know he had a sister until a faded photograph fell out of a book while she was dusting the bookshelves last month. Kate hadn't said anything about it.
"It took us a while to get ready, because we couldn't find my sister's shoes. I found them in her dollhouse. I still don't know why she kept them in there."
Ari pauses, clearly lost in thought. Kate knows better than to interrupt.
"I was getting oranges from the bowl in the kitchen to take with us when I heard my sister screaming in the front yard. My mother heard her, too, and we both ran. When we reached her, we...we found Ziva kneeling next to my father with his blood on her hands." Ari says, focusing on Kate's left thigh. His hands are warm on her skin.
"God, I'm sorry."
"When she was 14, Ziva found out who had killed our father. I have yet to figure out how she did that. Even though she didn't remember him, she got revenge for our father." Ari pauses, and begins tending to the mark on Kate's hips. "My mother never knew about it, but Ziva called me to tell me what she'd done. I know it's probably wrong, or immoral, but I've never been prouder of my sister since that day."
Kate places a hand on his back, and swears she feels the muscles tighten slightly at the contact. She doesn't remove her hand.
Ari stands, taking Kate's hand and pulling her up with him. He wraps his arms around her firmly, being careful not to come in contact with her wounds. He speaks, and his voice is thick. "I never meant to hurt you, Caitlin. Forgive me?"
She answers by kissing him and pulling him back down onto the bed.
Feedback to Amanda