Bradley James and louis_garneau: Revelations
Players Only. The morning after Louis comes to Bradley's rescue.
Bradley's quickly growing addicted to lots of things about Louis. His eyes, his hands, the way he laughs. His cock, his wicked sense of humor. His flat and, most definitely, his shower.
It's that last one that's got him sighing with pleasure right now. Three showerheads, all pouring hot water over him, and he can barely force himself to finally turn the taps off, step out, and dry himself off. After nearly eleven hours of sleep, some languid kissing, and a good breakfast, he'd needed a wash desperately, and he's certainly had one. He just hopes Louis wasn't worried he'd drowned in there.
Opening the washroom door lets out a cloud of steam and a damp, pink, cheerful Bradley, still toweling his unruly gold hair dry. He grins at Louis, who's doing something or other on his laptop. "I think I probably used all the hot water." He can't even bring himself to feel all that apologetic about it, since Louis had washed up last night.
Louis looks over and smiles. "That's okay. I showered last night," he says, more than willing to wash up with cold water if a hot shower has Bradley grinning like this. "You seem to be feeling better," he observes, sitting back in his chair, his email minimized.
"Finally back, close to normal, thank god," Bradley nods. He hangs the towel carefully--no good being a slob here, he's noticed Louis's neatness--and drifts around behind Louis, wrapping arms around him from behind, taking advantage of their momentary height reversal. He leans in, takes a deep breath, and chuckles lightly in Louis's ear. "You don't need to wash anyway. You smell good enough to eat." A bit of spice from his shampoo, but mostly just warm, masculine man. He kisses just under Louis's ear and then moves off to take his own seat.
That kiss sends the lightest of shivers through him and Louis smiles, the happiness he's feeling suddenly dampened by the knowledge that he needs to tell Bradley about Citadel. Sooner rather than later. Before the boy thinks he's been hiding the truth from him. Lying. Or worse yet, before he becomes so involved in the relationship that Bradley walking away tears him to pieces. "We need to talk," he says softly.
Bradley doesn't even bother to try to hide how he goes suddenly, unexpectedly tense at the words. He can't imagine Louis could have expected anything else, starting a conversation like that.
"Has anything pleasant followed those four words in the entire history of human conversation?" he asks rhetorically, reaching out and grabbing an apple off the table, needing something to hold in his suddenly-nervous hands. He's starting to withdraw protectively already, leaning back, face stiffening, as he braces for impact. "I suppose you'd best just come straight out with it, whatever the bad news might be."
"It's about my work," Louis says quickly, hoping that might help some. "Not us. At least not directly about us." Hating that he's the one who's put that look on Bradley's face. "I told you that I basically run a group of clubs, of very exclusive members-only clubs."
"'Like gentlemens' clubs, but not only for men,' or something like that," Bradley recalls, quoting what he can remember back to Louis, nodding. "I remember." He's a tiny bit more relaxed, hearing that it's about Louis's job, but not 'directly' about them? Maybe he really is married or something, Bradley thinks morbidly, and then makes himself stop jumping ahead. "Your father's involved. You told me."
"Yes, well, that's not the whole story," Louis says, gingerly feeling his way, stunned at how much harder this is than usual, when he explains it so simply, unconcerned with the other person's reaction. "They're... adult clubs - a place where those with money can live out their wildest fantasies, with others who have the same sort of fantasies."
Bradley sits, silent and stunned. Lurid news stories race through his mind...sex clubs, human trafficking, prostitution, that one movie about the Russian Mafia he'd seen. Then he gets himself back under control, and makes himself take a deep breath. He's not one to fly to conclusions or jump to judgement, he reminds himself fiercely. The Louis he's gotten to know wouldn't do things like that. He thinks.
"'Adult clubs,'" he emphasizes. "People with money. Fantasies. Tell me you're not running a very high-end brothel, please, Louis, tell me that." He's staring at Louis, sitting very still, shocked at how shaky his own voice sounds.
"No, not exactly. Our employees are there completely of their own volition," Louis says after a moment, a sick tight knot in the pit of his stomach. "We take care of them, we pay them well, salary, benefits, housing allowances - they're members as well, and they don't do anything they don't want to, I swear." Searching for a way to make things better. "But mostly, it's members meeting members. Some of them are gay and only want a place away from prying eyes, some have open marriages, a lot are dominant or submissive and want somewhere to meet people they can trust, who are taking the same sorts of risks and have as much to lose if their preferences became public."
Bradley's in shock, he realizes that, and scrubs his hands over his face, blowing out a heavy breath, trying to get his scrambled thoughts in order. He looks at Louis, at his tight, still, frozen face, how white and tense his mouth is. He takes another deep breath.
"I can see why you didn't say anything," Bradley says as evenly as he can. "I see now why the security was so tight. God, I was naive, wasn't I? No, don't answer that, I'm just thinking out loud." He stands up out of the chair, unable to sit still, and paces tightly back and forth beside the table. Arms crossed tightly, protectively, over his chest. He hates that he's still just wearing a towel, wishes he'd gotten dressed. "So, your family business is a very discreet, very posh sex club for people who like things that are not quite socially acceptable. Okay. Okay. And you're not bringing in mail order brides or kidnapping teenagers off the street, everyone's an adult, I'm assuming, just going on...right. Yes." He's still processing out loud, and it's helping. It lets him relax a little, actually, and his arms drop to his sides. He takes one more deep breath, and actually sits back down. "Okay."
"That's not all," Louis says, determined to get it over with as quickly as he can, knowing it's like a bandage, more painful the slower you take it off. "Our employees - our in-house submissives, we call them - as well as our dominants - they go through a training program, six weeks, when they first come to us."
"Most people do training for their jobs, Louis," Bradley says, rubbing his face again, knowing he's probably gone pale as well, hating the way he knows he looks like this. Mind spinning round and round, but, as humans tend to do, slowly assimilating the new information he's been given. Trying to fit it into his concept of Louis. "Jesus."
"I know." Merde. "But I'm one of the trainers," Louis says quietly, knowing there's no way to cushion the words. "It's not all I do - I do run the clubs, with all that entails, but I'm also responsible for the in-house training program."
Bradley just stares at him. He doesn't get why Louis keeps emphasizing this. "And I'm guessing you do the budgets and, clearly, board meetings, too. So you run the new employees through orientation. Are you going to describe all your job responsibilities for me? One by one?" He immediately shakes his head. "Sorry, sorry, that was beastly. I'm just, I'm not sure how I'm supposed to react, here. I mean. It's not exactly like you've told me you bag groceries down at Tesco, you know?"
"I do know, and it's why I don't normally see anyone outside the club," Louis says, his chest so tight he can barely breathe. "But what I'm trying to explain, and apparently very badly, is that our in-house training program consists of training our boys - and girls - to meet our members' needs, their particular sexual needs, and we can only do that hands-on."
"Ah." Bradley can't make sense of anything just now, and the word comes, automatically and politely, out of his mouth, after a few endless moments of frozen silence. An acknowledgement that he's heard and understood what Louis has said. Only, he doesn't understand. He knows what the words mean, but.
"Hands-on. Training. You...train them to have sex. By having sex with them. Many of them." He is speaking very slowly and very carefully, staring at his own hands where they rest on the tabletop. Making sure he's absolutely clear on this. Face pale. "I...you explained it fine. I didn't know what you meant when you said 'training,' is all." Taking refuge in meaningless chatter. "I suppose that explains why you're so good at it, how you knew just what to do with me. It definitely makes sense. Okay." He runs out of words.
"I, um, I..." he bolts up from the table, scrambling for his clothes, his shoes, his phone. "I need to move. Running helps me think. You," he points at Louis, "stay right here, because I am coming back. I'm coming back and we'll talk but I need to move right now. This is big, and I need to run. Do not leave. Okay."
Dressed in mere seconds, he's out the door, and he's running as soon as he hits the street. The clean, primal rhythm of running is the only thing he knows that can calm the vicious twist of hurt in his heart, before it jumps up and says something horrible, unforgivable, to this man who has come to mean so much to him, so quickly. The way his feet slam into the pavement, the measured force of it. It makes sense when nothing else does.
Louis stays right where he is, watching Bradley go, knowing there's nothing he can say or do right in this moment to make things any better, except let Bradley have the time he needs. Elbow on the table, he pinches the bridge of his nose between his fingers, rubbing over the same spot for a long few minutes, his thoughts crashing and clanging inside his head. He should have known better. He did know better. And yet he'd gone ahead and asked Bradley out anyway. Had taken one look at that face, those eyes, those lips, heard the first few words from that mouth, and he'd fallen.
Fallen in a way he hadn't done since school. And maybe not ever.
But there's nothing for it now. Nothing but waiting and wondering and wishing so hard his whole body aches with it.
A fast hard mile and more clears Bradley's mind fairly well, or at least blanks it out. He's sweating lightly, but feeling much better by the time he rounds the final corner, back towards the apartment, and drops back to a walk, hands on his hips as he controls his breathing, making sure he's getting good deep breaths. Cleansing. The sharp, aching pain that had hit him in the breastbone at Louis's revelations has eased somewhat.
He turns the knob, walks back up the stairs, much more clearheaded than when he'd barrelled down them twenty minutes before.
Louis is at his computer. He looks terrible. That's the first thing that hits Bradley; the fact that Louis is clearly hurting, here, too. That it hadn't been easy to tell him, surely. Still, it had been weeks.
"I'm back," he says, unnecessarily, as Louis has looked up from his laptop and is giving him his full attention. "Sorry. I don't sit still, very well, sometimes." When he's under stress. "I...look. I can't say I understand, because I don't, yet, it is kind of a shock. And I think it's fairly rotten that you didn't tell me until now, when...when you could tell I felt...things. For you, I mean. But I do, I feel those things, and I want to hear about this. Your job, I mean And why you do it. What you do. All of that, no more hiding, okay?"
Exhausted as much by figuring out what he needed to say as by the run, he slouches into the couch by Louis's chair, shoving his too-long fringe out of his eyes. Knowing he probably looks ten years old and sulky and not caring.
"No more hiding," Louis promises, moving to the couch beside Bradley, the tightness in his chest starting to ease a little. "And I did want to tell you earlier, but there never seemed to be a right time, with me going away, and then it wasn't something I wanted to spring on you the moment I got back. I wanted to see if you still felt the same way about me - if there was a reason to tell you."
Bradley turns a tired look on Louis. "If it's a dealbreaker, you just broke my heart, too, along with our dating plans," he points out. "Might've been better to say it up front, before feelings did get involved. No, no, I understand," he shakes his head, "I do, why bother if it's just a fling? But it's not just a fling. Is it?" His uncertainty is clear as he looks at Louis.
He has no idea how many people this man fucks every week. As his job. How many of them he spanks, or whips, or any of the other things he'd just glanced at, in the books. How could he possibly be special, one among so many?
"No, it's not," Louis says earnestly. "And I'm sorry I hurt you. You have to believe me, please, that's the very last thing I would want to do." He exhales softly, wanting to touch Bradley, yet scared to death he'll be rebuffed.
The sincerity in Louis's voice reassures Bradley a little. He can tell that Louis is uncertain, here, feeling his way as much as Bradley is, and at least he's not alone, lost at sea as he is right now. "I don't even know what to ask," he admits softly. "It's...I didn't know what you meant when you said 'training,' I still don't, really. It's like we're talking different languages here and I don't know...I can't get my mind around it, quite. Can you, can you just tell me, what your job is? What your day is like. So I can get some kind of context?"
Louis sits back a little, still facing Bradley. "Most of my days are like any businessman's day. I look over and sign whatever documents Marie has for me, check my email and respond to everything there, deal with our suppliers - we have restaurants and bars in each location," he explains. "Sometimes there are financials to check and if I'm on location, I take a walk around, talk to the managers and employees, inspect the sites, make sure everything's running smoothly - and here, in Sarlat, I talk to our other trainers about how the various trainees are doing and whether there are any problems."
Cautiously, slightly comforted by what he's hearing, Bradley turns a little, so his body is facing Louis again, so he can watch him talk. He nods. "I suppose with rich and posh clients, you've probably had your hands full with customers, from time to time, too," he comments, remembering that phone call Louis had taken on their date night. This doesn't sound so bad. Sounds like a regular workday, like he'd thought all along. But then again, Louis hasn't mentioned the "training" yet, either. "So you're more...a supervisor," he guesses.
"Yes and no," Louis says, wondering if a few white lies would really hurt but determined to tell Bradley everything. "For the organization, yes. I'm... the CEO, if you will, although I don't have a formal title. But I am one of the trainers and that means when we get a new batch of trainees in, I'm usually responsible for two or three of them, depending on how many we have in that particular intake." He tilts his head a little to the side, feeling so incredibly tired, his eyes on Bradley, watching him process all that he's telling him. "Are you sure you want to know all the details?"
"Not right now," Bradley admits, voice still soft. He's got enough new information whirling about in his mind, he doesn't know if he can handle more just now. "Later. Sometime later, you can tell me. I think I need to know, but it can wait." He reaches out, very tentatively, and puts his hand on Louis's arm. "I'm glad you told me. I'm glad you didn't wait longer, it would've been...devastating, if you had. So." He shakes his head, smiling, wry. "I suppose I did force your hand a little, with the condom question. Guess you're probably not up for that, considering."
The touch brings tears to Louis's eyes, which he quickly blinks back. It's the first solid sign that he's not going to lose Bradley, at least not yet, not over this. "You have no idea how thrilled I was when you offered that to me," he says softly. "The last time I went without was at boarding school, and it wasn't like you, with the idea of commitment, it was stupidity, foolishness, and I was simply lucky. But ever since then, I've used them, with all my partners, and I get tested on a regular basis, so if you ever decided you wanted to, still, if you felt you could trust me to keep you safe, then yes, I would be." In an instant. He doesn't let Bradley answer though, simply rushes on. "I don't do this. I don't date. I don't do evenings out, long drives in the country - I don't leave work for anyone, except maybe Adrian - he's the one I told you about, and I told him about you. I wouldn't have done that if you weren't important to me. Special to me. If I wasn't hoping I was important and special to you too."
Bradley listens, eyes widening, to this outpouring of words, every one clearly coming from the heart. His eyes prickle with what must be tears, but he can't even blink them away; he's too busy drinking in the emotion on Louis's face, the way he moves, the passion in his voice. Louis, usually so urbane and composed and collected, is very nearly babbling, and it touches a chord deep inside Bradley, eases something that's been tight since Louis's confession, starts soothing some of the hurt.
"You are," he answers, simply. He moves his hand from Louis's arm, up to cup his cheek, rub a thumb over his lip, then moves over on the couch until he can put that arm around Louis's neck, lean into his shoulder. "You are, or I'd've just kept running. I wouldn't have stayed to hear the details or try to understand or anything else. I didn't realize that I was special to *you* though, at least, not so much as you are to me, with all the others you have sex with, relationships with. I don't really feel it yet, for sure, but...but I think I could, if we try. Together." His eyes are still leaking, stupidly, the emotional rollercoaster exhausting, and this relief that it's not all over is nearly overpowering. "I can't promise I'll understand everything but I promise I'll try. And that I will listen if you explain."
Louis wraps his arms around Bradley and holds him tight, burying his face in the crook of neck and inhaling deeply, memorizing the scent of him, the feel of him. "Thank you," he whispers, exhaling raggedly and pulling Bradley still closer. "I promise. Nothing but the whole truth from now on."
"I'm holding you to that," Bradley vows, not struggling in the least to get away as he's swept in and held tightly. In fact, it feels so good that he exhales, shakily, and feels like he's finally stopped holding a breath that had gotten stuck back when Louis had said 'we have to talk.' "This is mad. This is the maddest thing I've ever done, I think," he says, and then laughs, a real laugh, into Louis's shoulder. "I suppose life would be terribly boring without the occasional bit of madness, though."
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