ysabetwordsmith: Damask smiling over their shoulder (polychrome)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem is a continuation of Creative Jam prompts by [personal profile] dialecticdreamer and [personal profile] chanter_greenie. It also fills the "It Wasn't Meant to Be" square in my 6-10-15 card for the [community profile] genprompt_bingo fest, and the "surrender" square in my 5-20-15 card for the Wellness Toolbox Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the Pain's Gray thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

WARNING: This poem contains some intense topics. Highlight to see the more detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features the aftermath of torture, severe betrayal, emotional manipulation, disciplinary action, discussion of betrayal and manipulation, disrespect of authority, laziness, envy, trust and trust issues, vulnerability, unequal relationship, emotional pain, abandonment, disappointment, self-criticism, low self-worth, emotional breakdown, messy crying, whole-body misery, need for physical assistance, unequal and unreasonable self-standards, exhaustion, and other challenges. There is a lot of power exchange, deep intimacy, and context of corporal punishment for behavioral modification even though no hitting actually happens. There's also some very interesting handling of consent, from explicit to implied. Each gang has its own flavor, and this one seems to attract kinky people. Basically, Gray's former "friend" Marcus is an asshole and dumps him because Marcus won't make up for his own mistakes. Gray hits what amounts to subdrop again. Ricasso and Thriver put Gray back together, so it ends with fluffy comfort. If you are into heavy-duty aftercare, this poem has a lot of that. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Switching Out"


It took several days after the beating
before Gray recovered enough to regain
his focus and leave his bed for more
than a few minutes at a time.

He spent most of those early days
sleeping, eating, watching television, and
trying to get a handle on his new superpower.

Ricasso waited until Gray started
moving around their current headquarters
and chatting casually with his friends.

Then the boss said, "I need
to talk with you about Marcus."

"What about him?" Gray said.

Marcus had betrayed him to a rival gang,
gotten him beat up, but that also led to
Gray getting superpowers so it wasn't
all bad. Ricasso had made Marcus
apologize to Gray, and Gray had
raked Marcus with his Pain Ray,
and that was the end of it.

Wasn't it?

"What Marcus did to you
was completely inexcusable,"
Ricasso said. "What he did to
the gang was even more so,
because betraying one person
undermines our whole group."

"He apologized," Gray said. "Sort of."

Ricasso gave him a perfectly arid look.
"No, he tried to wave it away as unimportant,"
said the boss. "You deserve better than that
shabby excuse for an apology, and Marcus
needs to learn that he can't get away
with that kind of nonsense here."

"Yes, sir," Gray said, trusting that
Ricasso knew what he was doing
even if Gray had thought that
everything was settled already.
"What do you need from me?"

"Come to my office after lunch
for the reparations," Ricasso said.

Gray nodded, surrendering himself
to whatever the boss had planned.
Surely it would work out all right.

Thriver made Irish stew for lunch,
beef and vegetables thickened with
copious amounts of pearl barley,
alongside a carton of bakery biscuits.

There was also beer, which made
Gray whine, because Thriver wouldn't
let him have alcohol as long as he was
taking painkillers, and what good
was Irish stew without beer?

"Hush," Thriver said. "I brought you
a Kaliber." He passed Gray a bottle.

"You are my new best friend,"
Gray said, leaning against him.

He'd never had non-alcoholic beer
before this, but it was ... surprisingly good.
Fresh and crisp in a way that made him think
of spring lettuce and autumn mornings. "Wow,"
said Gray. "I could drink this for flavor."

"Glad I could help," Thriver said.

The stew was as delicious as the beer.
Thriver made excellent comfort food, and
nobody nagged Gray about how many
extra calories his body demanded
while making necessary repairs.

Lunch couldn't last forever, though, and
that left Gray to square his shoulders
and head to Ricasso's office to deal with
the unpleasant confrontation with Marcus.

Their boss sat behind his desk, and
he was definitely the Boss right now,
not just Gray's friend Ricasso.

Glancing around, Gray realized that
the other chairs had all been tucked
out of the way, and he didn't dare
pull one of them out to sit down.

Marcus slouched against the wall,
not taking the hint to stand at
something approaching attention.
He looked at Gray, then looked away,
uncomfortable with him in a way
that he never had been before.

Ricasso held a short black riding crop,
its springy length ending in a slim leather tip.
A hand loop attached to the leather handle,
and a silvery cap winked at the butt end.

It was a lovely little toy, Gray thought at first,
then realized that it was in fact black
and Ricasso preferred browns or
brighter colors for his toys.

So this one wasn't a toy, it was a tool,
meant for more serious disciplinary action.

Gray wondered if Marcus had any idea
how much trouble he had gotten himself into.
Probably not. He almost never did.

"Now then, what brings us here today is
that Marcus got Gray into a world of hurt,
which also changed his power status,"
Ricasso said, giving Gray a look that
asked whether he might like to give
Marcus another lick or two like
he had on that first day.

Gray gave a tiny shake of his head
to indicate that he that didn't want to use
his superpower against a friend like that,
not with Marcus already so antsy about it.

Ricasso nodded back just as subtly,
then flicked his gaze down to the crop.

Gray tilted his chin down a fraction, then
back up. He accepted corporal punishment
as a fact of gang life, and he much preferred
a precise tool made for that purpose than
something improvised like making a real switch
out of a willow twig -- or worse, fists and feet
that could easily do real damage.

Besides, the thought of laying a few stripes
(or maybe more than a few) on Marcus for
what he'd done held definite appeal for Gray.

It was less certain whether Marcus would
surrender to that kind of discipline or
wheedle for something else.

Ricasso bent the crop in his hands,
its shaft as thin and limber as
a willow switch but without the risk
of leaving splinters in anyone's skin.

"Marcus, the issues we need to resolve
are the harm you've done to Gray, and
the harm you've done to our gang,"
said Ricasso. "You can choose to stay
and accept your punishment like a man,
or you can choose to leave the gang.
Do you understand your options?"

"Yeah," Marcus said.

"Yes, what?" Ricasso said.

"Yes, sir," Marcus grumbled.

Gray shifted his weight, wondering
what was really going on. Ricasso
didn't usually insist on so much formality.

"Gray, do you understand?"
Ricasso asked, turning to him.

"Yes, sir," Gray said crisply,
and repeated the parameters
out loud just to make sure.

"Marcus, you take this to start,"
Ricasso said, handing him the crop.
"If you decide that you want to leave
the gang, you lay it on my desk. If you
want to stay and work out your apology
to Gray, then you give it to him instead."

"What am I supposed to do with it?" Gray asked.

"If you want to take it out of his hide personally
once your injuries heal, hold onto it," Ricasso said.
"If you want me to handle the discipline for you
right now, hand the riding crop to me."

"What if I don't want it at all?" Gray said.
"If I feel like his apology is no good?"

"Drop it on the floor."

"Yes, sir," Gray said.

"Marcus? We're waiting for
your answer," Ricasso said.

"Yeah, fine," said Marcus.

"First, do either of you have any
grievances you want to state?"
Ricasso invited, opening his hands.
"I'd like to know what, if anything,
precipitated this incident."

"No, sir. I thought we were friends,"
Gray said quietly. "It's been a bit rough
sometimes, but nothing unusual."

"Would you like to add anything to that?"
Ricasso said to Marcus.

"It's not fair," Marcus complained.
"You're always picking everybody but me,
even though I've been here longer! Now you're
handing out treats to Gray, spending all this
extra time with him, and what has he
done to deserve a promotion?"

So much for any hope of Marcus
surrendering himself to the process.

"I haven't promoted you,"
Ricasso said evenly, "because
you haven't earned it. Gray has
worked hard to build trust with me.
He needs the extra attention right now
in order to master his new ability."

That was touch and go, but Gray was
making progress, thanks to his mentor.
He tried to catch Ricasso's eye, hoping
to convey the depth of his gratitude.
Ricasso captured him with a smile.

"Gray, can you think of any mistakes that
you made leading up to this?" Ricasso said.

After a minute's careful thought, all that
Gray could come up with was, "We split up."

"Correct. That left you more vulnerable,
although fortunately I managed to figure out
your location once I realized you were missing,"
Ricasso said. Then he turned to the other man.
"Do you understand what you did wrong, Marcus?"

From the mulish look, Marcus didn't even
agree that he had done something wrong.
"I didn't mean anything by it," he said,
but his feet shuffled as he crossed
one foot over the other at the ankles.
"They weren't supposed to hurt him,
just scare him a little. I was going to
split the take with him anyway."

"And that makes it all right?" Ricasso said.
He shook his head. "Since you can't seem
to figure this out on your own, I'll explain.
You put Gray in enemy hands and got him
hurt very badly. That also put me at risk,
and through me the rest of the gang,
including yourself. What do you think
would have happened if they'd attacked?"

Marcus blanched. Apparently he
hadn't thought through that part.
"Sorry," he muttered.

It occurred to Gray that Marcus didn't care
about hurting him, only that it might
have backlashed onto himself.

That hurt worse than the beating had.

"Gray, I've discovered that Marcus
received two thousand dollars for
that ill-advised attempt to get at me
by setting up someone who could
disclose my habits, presumably with
the goal of removing me," said Ricasso.
He slid a cash card across the desk.
"This is yours now, in appreciation
of your integrity under fire."

"Thank you, sir," said Gray as he
slipped the card into a pocket.

He realized that something must
have made Ricasso suspicious --
probably Marcus' pathetic excuse
for an apology -- which sent the boss
digging for further details on the incident.

"I am deeply disappointed in your behavior,
Marcus. It's going to take a lot to make up
for what you've done. Do you have some
ideas to start with, or do you need more
suggestions from us?" Ricasso asked,
steepling his fingers on the desk.

Marcus gripped the riding crop so hard
that his knuckles turned white.
"Like what?" he said.

Ricasso looked at Gray
and turned one hand palm up.

"I want a real apology," Gray said,
licking the scabbed cuts inside his lip,
"but only if you mean it. Then if you're
honestly sorry, you could help me out
until I'm back to normal. I can't lift or
carry anything more than a few ounces
right now, and my dexterity is for shit."

Gray didn't actually want Marcus
around while he was this vulnerable,
but it was the only thing he could think of
that might repair their relationship.

Marcus grimaced like he'd bitten into
something sour. "I'm not a nurse."

"There are plenty of other punishment details
that I could put you on, most of them worse
than that one," Ricasso said ominously.
His gaze dropped to the riding crop
still clenched in Marcus' hands.
"Of course, there are other options ..."

Marcus looked back and forth between them.
His fingers opened and closed. "Fuck it,"
he said abruptly. "I'm through with this shit."

Then he threw the riding crop on Ricasso's desk.

Gray flinched at the clatter it made
striking the smooth wooden surface.
He had hoped, right up to the last moment,
that they could patch things up somehow,
but it wasn't meant to be.

"I'll have Ryland escort you out," Ricasso said
in a cool tone. He activated his vidwatch
and made the arrangements.

Ryland arrived in moments;
he must have been waiting nearby
just in case of need. The big, tall man
in the black leather jacket towered
over Marcus' slight form.

"Let's go," Ryland said as his huge hand
closed over Marcus' shoulder. The door
swung shut behind them with a click.

"Well, at least it's over," Ricasso said.

"That's all?" Gray asked, feeling
numb and cold. "He just walks away,
like switching out an old light bulb
for a new one?" A shiver
rippled over his skin.

"We don't do jump-outs here,"
Ricasso said. "I explained it when
you first joined. What did I say about that?"

"The way in and the way out tell you
what kind of group it is, whether it's
a gang or something else," Gray recited.
"We don't beat people coming in, because
a good gang is like a family and members
have to rely on each other. We don't
beat people going out, because if
somebody doesn't want to be with us
anymore, then the sooner he leaves,
the better it is for everyone."

"That's right," Ricasso said. "You've got
a good memory, Gray. I've proud of you for
keeping your head through this whole sorry mess,
and sticking with the standards I've tried to set."

"Thanks, boss," said Gray.

His eyes stung. Gray took
a deep breath and pushed down
the wrenching sense of loss.
He wouldn't cry over this.
He would not.

Gray bit the inside of his cheek
to distract himself from the emotion,
which tore off one of the many scabs.
That small spark of pain helped him
to focus on something else.

"Gray? You don't look too good,"
Ricasso said, his hazel eyes going
soft with concern. "Do you need me
to walk you back to bed? It's no trouble."

The offer made Gray flinch.
God, what would his boss
think of him if he started
blubbering like baby?

The first tear escaped anyway.

Gray wiped it away with the back
of his hand. "Why does this hurt
so much?" he whispered.

"Because you thought of Marcus
as a friend, and he made it clear
that he doesn't feel the same way
about you," Ricasso said gently.
He slipped out from behind the desk.

"I guess -- I wasn't expecting --"
Gray's voice gave out on him.

"Betrayal always hurts, Gray,"
said Ricasso as he approached.
"Whatever you feel right now, just
go ahead and let it out. It's not good
for you to bottle it up inside. You know
enough Emotional First Aid to grasp that."

Gray sniffled, his breath catching.
A muffled sob sneaked out, and
then another. "I should go."

Instead of waving him toward the door,
Ricasso cupped a hand behind his neck
and urged him closer. "Come here, boy,"
he said. "I don't think now is a good time
for you to be alone. Come on, you can
let go with me. I've got you now." His thumb
rubbed gentle circles underneath Gray's ear.

It was that tenderness which undid
all of Gray's control and unraveled him
into a sobbing mess on Ricasso's shoulder.
His boss curled the other arm around him,
careful of the ribs that Thriver had said
might be cracked or just badly bruised.

Once Gray started crying, he couldn't stop.
He cried over the beating and the betrayal
and Marcus promising to get food but not
doing so. He cried over the loss of their
friendship (or at least his impression of
what it had been) and the loneliness that
left behind. He even cried over gaining
a superpower, and that was a good thing.

Gray surrendered himself to the grief
and let it roll over him, like waves
battering the stones of a beach.

Ricasso never pushed him away
or told him to stop sniveling.

He didn't care that Gray was getting
snot all over his expensive silk suitcoat.

He just smoothed his fingers through
Gray's hair and murmured soothing nonsense
until the tears finally began to wind down.

"Feel any better now?" Ricasso asked
after Gray stopped crying.

Gray seriously considered lying, but
Ricasso was too canny at detecting it. "No,"
he admitted. "I've got a headache, my chest
feels tight, and both of my arms are killing me ...
everything hurts. I just want to curl up and die."

"All right, I'm putting you to bed,"
Ricasso declared. "You don't have
any other responsibilities today anyway."

He shifted his grip to support Gray
on the way back to the room,
then helped the injured man
to lie down since Gray couldn't
brace himself on broken arms.

Gray relaxed into it and just
let his boss handle him as needed.

"It's a few minutes early, but let's
turn on your buzzers," Ricasso said.
His fingers moved smoothly over
the control screens of Gray's casts,
careful not to tap hard enough to hurt.

The gizmotronic circuits activated,
sending their low, soothing pulses of
ultrasonic and electromagnetic energy
through his damaged forearms.

It didn't so much make the pain
less severe, as make it less noticeable.
Even the heartache receded a little.

"Thanks," Gray whispered, wishing
that he could just melt into the mattress.

"I'll send Thriver to check on you,"
Ricasso said as he let himself out.

Despite the residual aches, Gray
was half-asleep when Thriver arrived
as promised. "Come on, Gray, wake up
a bit," Thriver said, patting his cheek.
"You want to swallow these."

Something gurgled nearby.

Gray opened his eyes to find
Thriver offering a bottle of water
and two of the dark blue pills that
mixed an ordinary painkiller
with something stronger.

It took some wrangling to get Gray
propped upright against Thriver's chest,
but he couldn't move his sore arms
enough to reach for the damn pills.

"It's okay, I've got this," Thriver said.
"Just open your mouth for me."

Gray obeyed, and Thriver
gently tipped the pills into
his mouth, following them
with a sip of water.

"Drink as much of this as you can,"
Thriver said. "It'll help make up
for what you lost crying."

Gray felt his face heat with a blush.

"Hey now, none of that," Thriver said.
"If my best friend had stabbed me in the back
like that, I'd have been bawling my eyes out
a lot sooner than this, believe me."

Well, but Thriver was the closest thing
they had to a medic. Gray was an enforcer.
He was supposed to be tougher than this.

Thriver didn't pester him any more, though,
just trickled the cold water into him
one careful sip at a time.

When the bottle was empty, Thriver
lay Gray back down and pulled up
the blanket to keep him warm.
Instead of leaving, Thriver stayed and
chattered on about supper plans.

"I'm fixing chicken tonight," he said,
"only I haven't decided exactly what.
I was thinking chicken dumplings, but
Cason asked for chicken pot pie stew
and Zhonn wants to make chicken gumbo.
Sheesh, I don't know if he can even cook.
Do you know how well he can cook?"

"Ask boss," Gray mumbled.
He couldn't muster the energy
for a real conversation --
he was all talked out for now --
but it was kind of nice just
having someone to listen to.

Marcus might be gone, but
at least Gray wasn't all alone.

"So then I need to decide on dessert,
probably either chocolate cake
or fruit pie ..." Thriver continued.

The soft sound of his voice
talking about comfort food
carried Gray down into sleep.

* * *

Notes:

Pain's Gray (Gray Agamau) -- He has fair skin, gray eyes, and ash-blond hair swept up toward the crown of his head. He's on the slim side for a fighter, but still has nicely defined muscles; they're just not overbuilt. He is heterosexual, but omnisensual, and often mistaken for homosexual. He tends to take out his temper on the homophobes when they pester him. Gray is popular among supervillains for combat support and running errands. He works for Ricasso, who sometimes loans out his services. He's prone to low blood sugar after stress or exertion, and needs to be careful to eat often enough. He is discovering a knack for making fancy pastries.
Uniform: Charcoal dexflan suit piped in reflective silver, with a cape of Payne's grey capery. His utility belt contains a well-stocked first aid kit; he's known for treating both sides in a fight, and for having the best bleeding-edge equipment from friends in zetetics.
Origin: Torture. He was an ordinary mook until someone decided to get information out of him the hard way. That really did not end well for them. Gray escaped, returned to his boss, explained his new talent, and got a raise.
Qualities: Good (+2) BDSM Switch, Good (+2) Observant, Good (+2) Pastry Cook, Good (+2) Supervillain Henchman, Good (+2) Tough
Poor (-2) Low Blood Sugar
Powers: Good (+2) Pain Ray
Limitation: This is a gaze attack that requires eye contact for maximum effect. Without that, it's only Poor (-2). It becomes combat-ineffective, merely uncomfortable, if the target is nearby but he can't see them.
Motivation: "You're not as tough as you think you are."

Ricasso (Antonin Torriani) -- He has fair skin, hazel eyes, and short wavy black hair with a mustache joining a complex beard. His eyes are the shade of hazel that blends amber and green toward the outside with darker brown near the pupils. His name refers to the unsharpened part of a sword blade that allows greater precision by placing a finger over it. His father's family comes from Duno, Province Varese, Lombardia, Italy. His other heritage includes French, British, and Spanish. Antonin is first-generation American.
Origin: He inherited a sword pendant which granted him superpowers. It was made during the French Revolution.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Crime Boss, Expert (+4) Fashion Sense, Good (+2) Ballroom Dancing, Good (+2) Lockpicking, Good (+2) Power Exchange, Good (+2) Strength, Good (+2) Suave
Poor (-2) Coping with Crudity
Powers: Good (+2) Cutting, Good (+2) Precision

Thriver (Alec McKinney) -- He has fair skin with freckles, green eyes, and short wavy brown hair. He is slender and graceful. He can go for a long time without resting, if necessary, because of how his body stores energy.
After his superpower developed, Thriver lived on the streets for a while. He earned money by selling himself, not for sex, but for the thrill of playing with superpowers. Some supervillains in particular liked the fact that he could juice them up. Ricasso met him in passing, gave him money and food more than once, and tried to convince him to go to a shelter. Thriver always refused. Then one night, Thriver gave away too much of his energy. Ricasso found him passed out on the pavement and took him home. After some coaxing the next day, Thriver agreed to stay with him, and eventually joined the gang. His job is basically taking care of the other gang members, things like food and medical care and a sympathetic ear when they're upset.
Origin: His superpower manifested while he was in paramedic training, probably stimulated by the intense study. They kicked him out.
Uniform: Street clothes. He often wears a black leather jacket.
Qualities: Good (+2) Endurance, Good (+2) First Aid, Good (+2) Loyal, Good (+2) Soup Friends, Good (+2) Supervillain Henchman
Poor (-2) Hates to See His Friends Hurt
Powers: Good (+2) Energy Transference
Motivation: Keep everyone running.

Marcus Arnold -- He has ruddy skin, brown eyes, and brown hair buzzed short at the sides but left longer on top. Marcus is a supervillain henchman belonging to Ricasso, mostly for running errands and stealing things. He wants more, but doesn't want to work for it. He was a friend of Gray Agamau until Marcus betrayed Gray.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Fast, Good (+2) Manipulating People, Good (+2) Observant, Good (+2) Thief
Poor (-2) Toxic Friend

Ryland Ivens -- He has fair skin, dark blue eyes, and dark blond hair buzzed short with a short beard and mustache. He is big and tall. Ryland works for Ricasso as an enforcer. Although he's not very intelligent, he is good at choosing role models. Ryland not only found a good boss in Ricasso, but also made friends with several other enforcers, especially Cason.
Qualities: Expert (+4) Strength, Good (+2) Enforcer, Good (+2) Friends with Cason, Good (+2) Obedient
Poor (-2) Not So Smart

* * *

Gangs define themselves by membership, location, and areas of expertise. Each gang has its own culture and structure, so if you look at different ones I've written in Terramagne, you'll see a range from small to large, crude thugs to gentlemen criminals, and so forth. Both joining and leaving a gang tend to be violent activities, but Ricasso frames his use of corporal punishment rather differently.

Betrayal is a fundamental breach of trust. It involves relational transgression and expectancy violation. Understand how to recover from it.

Slow cookers make a great Irish stew.

Among the best non-alcoholic beers is Kaliber. T-America has much better options for NA drinks than L-America does, so even people who don't regularly use them tend to be familiar with what they are.

Kink spans a wide range of power exchange activities, which may be sexual or nonsexual. Consent is a fundamental part of this, although in a gang context it's different than ordinary kink play. In essence, Ricasso will push soft boundaries but not hard ones, and people who aren't comfortable with kink tend to move somewhere else -- but he won't force anyone to participate. He finds corporal punishment an effective method of behavior management, although he uses many other techniques as well. This sort of practice is a matter of debate within the kinky community, largely because it works quite well for some people and badly for others.

Physics dictates several things about riding crops, which you should understand before choosing and using one. The longer it is, the more force it picks up; the narrower the tip, the more it concentrates that force; and therefore, the more it hurts. Also the longer it is, the more difficult it gets to control. Wide-tipped crops are more popular for play, unless the bottom has a high pain tolerance. Narrow-tipped crops are more popular for punishment, because they can hurt without doing harm. Here's a good example of a bedroom toy. This style is better suited for discipline.

Articulating thoughts and emotions can be difficult. Men in particular often find it hard, for various reasons, and may need extra time to respond. Effective communication requires describing your thoughts and feelings. There are ways to teach about emotions and communication. Ricasso excels at this, but he also understands that there are limits to what he can reasonably expect from even well-trained gangsters.

Nonverbal communication conveys a great deal of information. Tools such as a talking stick can help moderate difficult conversations. Communication is crucial to safe kink, so people have devised nonverbal safewords, in case the submissive is prevented from speaking or goes nonverbal. In essence, that's what Ricasso does here with the riding crop, because he knows that both Gray and Marcus may be unwilling or unable to spell out all their feelings and decisions in words, albeit for different reasons.

Apologies require specific parts to be effective. Marcus is shit at apologies for the simple reason that he usually is not sorry. Step Nine in recovery entails making amends to those you have harmed. Know how to apologize and make amends.

Bad friends can do more harm than good. Know their traits so you can recognize a toxic friend. Realize when and how to get rid of them. Fortunately for Gray, it was Marcus who bailed out of their relationship, because I doubt Gray would have done it despite the emotional abuse.

Envy and laziness are signs of a dysfunctional employee. A good boss knows how to handle them.

The body language of dishonesty also overlaps with aggression and frustration, such as clenching hands.

Reading faces can help discern when someone is upset, even if they haven't said so or have tried to distract from it. There are ways to console an upset friend and help them feel better. Notice how Ricasso could see through Gray's coverup and coaxed him into letting go -- without crossing any firm boundaries. If Gray had claimed a need to be alone, rather than an expectation, it would've unfolded a bit differently.

Vulnerability is the key to intimacy. It opens the way to healthier relationships. Understand how to deepen vulnerability and become more comfortable with it.

Vulnerability-based trust is fundamentally about investing in a relationship. A good leader can encourage teamwork by building vunlerability-based trust into the organization. The members of Ricasso's gang learn to trust each other -- and him -- from all the times that someone has been vulnerable and gotten helped instead of hurt.

Comfort foods typically include things that are warm, soft, and rich. Chicken dumplings, chicken pot pie soup, and chicken gumbo all do that. The differences come from another aspect of comfort foods, which is that people gravitate to dishes associated with positive experiences in the past. After that clusterfuck of a restitution meeting, everyone feels the need for some reassurance.

Lancing an infected wound

Date: 2015-12-25 12:55 am (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Difficult to read, but the comfort of someone simply staying with Gray until he fell asleep made it worth the road to get there.

Thanks.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-12-25 04:10 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
Honestly, I think the only reason Marcus bailed was that Ricasso wouldn't let him get away with nonpologies and half-truths. That confrontation pushed him into having to make a clear and unambiguous decision, which is a better ending for Gray because it gives him real closure.

The Dr. Nerdlove link about toxic friends is good. Here are some Captain Awkward links on the same general topic. I like Captain Awkward because you get a lot of good chewy discussion in the comments as well as the top-post.

Re: Yes...

Date: 2015-12-25 06:35 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
Ricasso must have warned him, repeatedly, about the problems with laziness and envy. It just hadn't stuck yet.

This is a common pattern with toxic relationships. Why should the toxic person change, when the status quo suits them well enough?

This is where I part company with the Christian advice to "forgive seventy times seven". After a certain point, continuing to give a toxic person more chances is effectively telling them that it's okay for them to be toxic, that there will never be any consequences for the way they treat you.

Re: Yes...

Date: 2015-12-25 06:56 am (UTC)
thnidu: plus sign (plus)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
Interesting way of applying the observation.

Re: Yes...

Date: 2015-12-26 06:02 am (UTC)
stardreamer: Meez headshot (Default)
From: [personal profile] stardreamer
There's an awful lot of advice which is wise and useful in healthy relationships but falls down miserably if you try to apply it to dysfunctional ones. One of the things that gets hammered on a lot in my online dysfunctional-family-support community is that you cannot apply the same standards to a toxic relationship that you do to a normal one.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-12-25 10:11 am (UTC)
moonvoice: (t - as a sponge i belong in this sink)
From: [personal profile] moonvoice
Even though I don't really know this world very well at all, I wanted to say I really enjoyed this (I was drawn in by the tags), and that you're a wonderful writer (which I'm sure you already know *blush*), thank you for sharing this (and the links afterwards, you have way more patience than I do! The time it must take you to construct just one of these with the link-feed afterwards, that's amazing).

(no subject)

Date: 2015-12-26 06:22 am (UTC)
thnidu: Lucy bright and bold. Lucida Bright font, boldface: backslash, small-o, slash: YAY!! (yay)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
She amazes me, too, with that, along with all the rest. That's part of why I have her on my Reading page, and why I also keep looking around and at her index pages to catch up on series I'm reading or pick up something of hers that I don't know yet.

Kaliber is 404

Date: 2015-12-26 06:25 am (UTC)
thnidu: A whale and a pot of petunias fall through space toward the Earth. By mitsje at deviantart.com (oh no not again)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
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please contact us

Re: Kaliber is 404

Date: 2015-12-27 05:30 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Kaliber is *delicious* cold but *nasty* once it warms up. I wish L-America even had as many good options as L-Canada.

It's tough being a pregnant foodie :)

--Laura G.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-12-25 03:58 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
Interesting. It's been a long time since I've seen corporal punishment done (or at least hinted at) *right*....

Thank you!

Date: 2015-12-25 04:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I'm glad this worked for you!

And yes, they really do that too. Usually it works better, because most of Ricasso's boys are not idiots. One of the later poems has some pain play in it, although that's sparring and stress relief rather than discipline.

Zhonn is the one who finds physical punishment the most useful. It is his favorite mnemonic device for avoiding a repeat of mistakes. Trouble is, he's just black enough to have that problem with keloid scarring, which makes physical kink very risky for him. Enter Gray. :D Feel free to prompt for that if you'd like to see it; I've had it on my to-write list.

RE: Thank you!

Date: 2015-12-25 07:45 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (tux)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
I might just. The way you do kink... I'd say "I'll be in my bunk," except I am alreddie. ;)

Re: Thank you!

Date: 2015-12-25 07:53 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Aww! <3

I forgot to mention that there is some very hawt hand-feeding in "No Feeling of Being Alive."

(no subject)

Date: 2015-12-25 04:01 am (UTC)
ext_3294: Tux (Default)
From: [identity profile] technoshaman.livejournal.com
... and I'm gonna get *two* recipes out of this... :)

Yes...

Date: 2015-12-25 05:12 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
Thriver's specialty is comfort food. But oh, just wait until Gray discovers his new hobby. :D

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