DISCLAIMER: All characters are the property of Marvel Comics.
SPOILERS: This does not include any reference to AXM 13-18, mostly because at the time of this writing I don't know how that ends. This story takes place in the same fanfic universe as my previous AXM story, Unresolved Issues, and occurs some unspecified time after that story. This story refers to events in End of Greys.
WARNING: Dominance and submission, angst, borderline consent issues, references to past violence and trauma.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Force of Nature
By resolute


Scott heard the footsteps approach down the hall. Light and quick for one, firm and steady for the other. He finished adjusting the weights at the end of the balance and turned to the laser. Now he could smell something. Coffee. And, what? Peanut butter sandwiches? Okay, not Emma. Ah. Kitty.

Scott turned to face his guests. Kitty, as he guessed, the tread of sneakers and, yes, carrying a plate of sandwiches. The light steps proved to be Elisabeth, carrying two coffees. She held one wordlessly to Scott, a slight smile on her face.

"We brought you lunch," Kitty said too-brightly, handing the plate to Scott. He looked from one to the other, suspicious.

"And you two want, what?" he asked, accepting the obvious bribes. Mm. It was Emma's coffee. They must have stolen it from her locked cabinet in the office.

Kitty looked at Betsy, who shrugged and idly looked around the classroom while drinking her coffee. Kitty frowned, but faced Scott.

"We want a favor. From Emma. And we need you to back our plan up, your official support as headmaster and team lead."

"Hm." Scott washed the sandwich down with more coffee, and wiped his hands on the rag tucked into his pants pocket. "You know you have to tell me more than that."

"It's Rachel. Since, well, since the Shi'ar attack, Rachel's been having bad dreams," Kitty began. Betsy snorted, an undignified noise that, while at odds with the ninja's apparent poise, was completely in keeping with her dry, sarcastic humor. It had taken Scott awhile to get used to the contrast. Actually, it reminded him a lot of Emma, of the contrast between Emma's personality and the secret tender side she showed to him or to the occasional student who needed a boost. But Kitty was going on. "It's absolutely to be expected. I'd be really surprised if she wasn't having nightmares, you know? But she's getting them all over us, me and Bets. And it's -- " Kitty trailed off.

Betsy finished her coffee and arced the empty paper cup into the wastebasket across the room. She turned back to Scott, shrugging. "It's awful, Scott. We're not getting any sleep. And if we're getting a fraction of what's happening in Rachel's head, the girl needs help."

"Why the two of you?" Scott asked.

"Well," Kitty said, "Ray and I have always had a connection. And Betsy's been working with her on the team, so, I guess Ray's reaching out, to her friends."

"I don't think that has a thing to do with my case, Kitty," Betsy interjected, "I think it's that we've both died. Something in common." Scott and Kitty looked at her. Betsy shrugged in half-apology. "Sorry, but, there it is."

Kitty blinked and continued. "Yeah, well. Um. We can't leave the grounds, especially Ray, after that whole sneaking out thing --"

"Which I know you had a part in," Scott interrupted, leveling a finger at Kitty in mock disapproval.

Kitty waved her hand airily, dismissing such minor points. " -- and, I know that Emma can be helpful. With, uh, bad dreams. Not sleeping. And things." Betsy snorted but didn't say anything, scanning the ceiling as if it were actually interesting. Kitty frowned at her, continuing, "Betsy thinks if we give Emma the images Ray's been projecting, Emma can go in and find the source. And put a damper on it. Sort of tone everything down until Ray can handle it all herself again."

Scott turned back to the tenth-grade physics demonstration he'd been building. To work it needed to be complete, to have each piece working in concert. There was room for error, for slight miscalculations, but the whole needed each part. A blatantly obvious metaphor, sure. But Scott liked the simplicity of physics, of mathematics. He found the analogies useful when dealing with people. If Rachel was not working, he owed it to her to give her all the help and support she needed to get back on her feet.

Scott adjusted a mirror and, squinting, raised his glasses a fraction. The ruby force shot from his eyes as it always did, a small bolt careening through the array and setting the machine in motion. Everything worked. Emma would laugh at him, but he took it as an indication that he was on the right track.

"Betsy, you talk to Emma. Kitty, you will give them any assistance they need. I'll tell Rachel."

"I thought," Kitty said, "that I might tell her?"

Scott shook his head. "No. It's my call. And she won't like it. I'll be the heavy and tell her. You keep being her friend. That's what's going to get her through this, really. Us. A, a damper, that's a band-aid until she can heal."

Kitty and Betsy thanked him and left. Scott thought as best he could in Emma's direction. She usually left a connection open between them.

*I heard,* Emma answered, *and Elisabeth and I have been devising a plan for the last ten minutes. Tell Rachel I'll meet her this afternoon, won't you? And we can all get a decent night's sleep.*

Scott grinned. No tact. It was like a bracing spring storm, or a slap across the face. It got his attention, no doubt of that.

*Thank you.*

Rachel kicked idly at the leg of the chair, staring out the bay windows. Scott was a bit late. To be expected, she supposed, since he was headmaster of the school.

"Rachel," Scott said as he walked in, "I'm sorry I'm late. Thank you for meeting me."

She turned and smiled at him. Of all the minds still alive in this world, Scott Summers' was the one she knew best. All through Rachel's childhood her mom had linked the three of them, Mom, Rachel, and Scott. Sharing thoughts and feelings, sharing their lives in ways no outsider would ever comprehend. It was a great effort of will for Rachel to not know what Scott was thinking. To not share his mind and heart.

Of course, someone else held that place now. Scott had fallen in love with Emma, and the White Queen held the keys to his mind. Rachel tried to not be jealous. After all, the man standing in front of her was not her father. Her father was dead. Along with her mother. And, it hit her again in grief still raw, so was her family here.

She'd just met them. Her grandfather. Her cousins. Just met them. Just felt their shining minds, when --

"Actually, Rachel," Scott cleared his throat. "That's what I wanted to talk to you about."

Rachel pulled her feet up on the chair and wrapped her arms around her knees. She tried to be casual, to be serious, to be anything except guilty and a disappointment to everyone. "Talk to me?" she asked lightly.

"You've been handling things better than I think anyone here could've done it," Scott began, sitting on the edge of the desk. "I want you to know that. I -- This last week, I can only imagine your loss. They were my family too, but -- but I can only imagine." Scott stopped, gathering himself for something. Rachel held herself tighter, curled tight in the chair. She knew her dad wouldn't hurt her. But he was uncomfortable, so whatever he had to say couldn't be good.

"You've been having nightmares, Rachel." Scott paused. Looking at her.


"Kitty and Betsy are sharing with you so far. But, if it keeps going we'll all share soon."

"I thought -- isn't, aren't the rooms shielded?"


"Some is . . . not enough?"

"Not for you, Rachel."

"Oh." Rachel rested her chin on her knees. "Is there something I can do? I don't think O.N.E. will let me leave. Or move off campus. But it's not right to keep bothering everyone."

"Kitty and Betsy had a suggestion, and Emma concurs. Emma can help you get at the heart of your nightmares, help you work through them so they are less powerful." Scott shrugged, and, what, was he blushing? Yes, he was. Just a bit. "And I know she helped me."

A gold light grew brighter across Rachel's vision. It washed over everything, coloring the office, the windows, and Scott. The Phoenix light glowed in his hair, touched his cheeks, his chin, danced across his lips. The light always liked him. Rachel usually smiled privately when she saw it, like she'd delivered a secret valentine from her mom to her dad without anyone, even him, noticing. After all, no one could see the way the light filled her eyes, colored the world in fire and dawn.

Rachel wasn't smiling now.


"I know you haven't gotten along recently --"

"Scott, please --"

" -- but she's the telepath we have, and she's a therapist, she's good --"

"Dad!" Rachel shouted, coming up out of the chair to face him. He didn't look away. He never did flinch from responsibility. He'd made up his mind. Rachel could see it in his jaw, his mouth, the way he sniffed a little, waiting for her to finish her protest. She sat back. He was right. And she didn't want to keep plaguing Kitty and Betsy with her nightmares. God, the possibilities were endless. Rachel didn't even remember them, didn't know which of her many recurring nightmares she was projecting. She sighed. "What do I have to do?"

Scott smiled. "Meet Emma this afternoon --"

"This afternoon?!"

" -- I'd like this dealt with as quickly as possible. So, meet her in the Danger Room at 3:30. It's signed out to the two of you for the rest of the night."

"And what, what is she going to do?"

"I think, if I followed the insider jargon, she and Betsy planned out a subconscious damper. A damper on your subconscious, not a damper that works subconsciously," he explained. "This --" Scott leaned forward, putting his hand on her shoulder. Gave it a quick squeeze, a world of affection from this man who was not her father. "This is something we want to help with. We can't, none of us can fix this. We can't undo what the Shi'ar did. We can't make your grief less. But we can give you a space, a peace, in which you can regroup. A home to live in until you're ready for whatever comes next. Betsy, Emma, they want to help."

Rachel stood. She hugged him, feeling the familiar mix of affection and slight unease Scott always felt when she hugged him. She didn't mind the unease. The affection was worth it.

"All right. For you guys. 3:30, Danger Room. I'll be there."

Emma set the bag down between her and Rachel. She reached in and pulled out a metal collar.

"Put this on."

Rachel blinked. "No."

Emma held the collar out, impatient. "We are not doing anything until I know you won't follow in your mother's footsteps and put me in a coma. This is an inhibitor collar O.N.E. gave me for our little experiment. Put it on."

Rachel took an involuntary step back. "It's a, a what? What did you call it?"

Emma rolled her eyes. "An inhibitor collar. A control collar. I don't care what you call it, Miss Grey. Put it on."


"Fine. I'll tell Scott this is pointless."

"You do that."

"I'm sure Kitty will love to continue sharing your dreams."

"She's tough. She knows I don't mean anything by it."

"She loves, I am sure, the parts where you watch her get raped by the camp guards. Peter standing in sight telling her it doesn't matter if they can't have any more children because they'll have each other? That's touching, really, it is."

Rachel blinked and looked down suddenly. Emma jiggled the collar in her hand, impatient. "What, no reply?"

"You're a vicious cow."

Emma saw the glow start in the corner of Rachel's left eye. Dammit. Now things became dangerous. "I think, darling," she said airily, "we've had this conversation before. I don't like you, either. This is an assignment. A mission. Now be a good girl and put the damn collar on."

As Rachel's anger and frustration grew, the golden light spilled out of her eye, covered her face. Her hair started to flicker bright gold.

Emma maintained her front of derision and stifled a snicker. "That," she said gesturing at the fire, "is my point exactly." She held the collar out again.

"Emma. I can't."

"Your decision." Emma rolled the collar and put it away. She picked up her bag. "But if your nightmares continue reaching out you'll tag one of our fine protective staff in the nice Sentinels outside. And I suspect Colonel Reyes won't give you a choice at that point." Emma walked away.


Emma kept going towards the door of the Danger Room.

"Please, stop. I'll --"

Emma paused.

"I'll wear it."

With a bright smile Emma walked back. She took the control collar out again and shook it in her hand, a little come-here. "Well?" she said.

Rachel took the collar from Emma with shaking hands. It took two tries to open the clasp. Rachel held it up to her neck and stopped.


Emma sniffed. "Do we have an issue?"

"Emma, --" Rachel choked a little, her fingers white on the collar. Emma stepped up to her, the front of her corset against Rachel's trembling arm. She leaned forward, her lips brushing Rachel's hair. "Do you think," Emma hissed, "you are the only one to have bad dreams, Miss Grey? Of course not. You simply seem to be the only one who can't handle them." Emma stepped back and raked Rachel with a dismissive glance. "It it obvious to me, now, why that is the case. You can't manage to even begin therapy. You'll never stand what we need to do."

Emma did not smile as her scathing dismissal had the desired effect. Rachel glared and put the collar on. Emma felt the tiny tension of fear in her throat recede. Rachel had, until this instant, been the most dangerous person in the room. Possibly in the building. It was Emma's considered opinion that slightly insane people ought not be in receipt of cosmic power.

"Good girl. Now --" Emma stopped as Rachel's head snapped up, her eyes wide and unseeing. To Emma's surprise, Rachel dropped to her knees. She kept her eyes locked on Emma's. But Emma got the impression that Rachel was not seeing her, seeing the Danger Room. Emma waited. After a moment Rachel started shaking. She covered her face with her hands. Emma could hear Rachel's breathing, loud and ragged.

"Well." Emma shuffled through her plan. She discarded most of it. This would have to be done on nerve and intuition. Qualities which, Emma was proud to say, she possessed in abundance. "Scott wants me to put some sort of damper in your head. Block those nasty emotions and thoughts that you are projecting out to others. Tactical genius he may be, he's clearly wrong in this case. Rachel. Look at me."

Rachel shook her head.

"Rachel, we are in here until I tell Scott you are not a threat. Believe me, looking at me is the very least thing I will ask of you. Look at me."

Rachel kept her hands over her face and hunched down, sinking towards the floor. Emma transformed, turning into her physically stronger diamond form. She stepped next to the girl and grabbed the back of her collar. Yanking on the collar, she hauled Rachel to her feet. Rachel started to choke as the collar cut into her throat. She grabbed at Emma's arm. As soon as Rachel's face was visible Emma set the girl down, on her feet. With her free hand she grabbed Rachel's chin and yanked her head around. Rachel was still staring, wild-eyed. She was gasping for breath, more than was warranted by the quick yank Emma'd given. Emma turned back to flesh and put her hands on either side of Rachel's face. She leaned in, holding eye contact.

*Rachel. Rachel Grey. Listen to me,* Emma projected telepathically.

Rachel stopped struggling and looked at Emma, actually seeing her.

*Are you listening? Good. I can't leave you like this. Your head is like broken mirrors inside, did you know that?*

Rachel nodded, her head still in Emma's hands.

"Scott wants me to put a damper in your head. I think that would be criminally negligent. As long as you are this . . . vulnerable, and to such easy things, you are a weakness. A weakness that could get Scott or myself killed. You could get Kitty killed, do you understand that? Kurt? Betsy? You have to get over this, whatever this is. I am going to help you. Do you understand?"

Rachel nodded.

"Say it out loud."

"I . . . I understand. You are going to try to fix my head." Rachel smiled, very faint. "Good luck."

Emma let go of Rachel. "I haven't had a challenge in weeks. This should prove interesting. And, frankly, I can't imagine I'll need luck. Your head can't be that difficult."

Emma was pleased to see Rachel try to hide a smirk. Good. That's better than involuntary groveling. Voluntary groveling, now. That might play a part later. Emma was surprised to find she was excited. This was proving to be an interesting challenge, the likes of which she hadn't had since getting Scott to confide in her. Telepathically breaking someone, well, anyone could do that. Honestly. But, now. Getting people to give up their secrets of their own free will. That was a challenge worthy of her time.

Rachel watched Emma carefully. The blond was eyeing her with an assessing air. Rachel's head was a confused jumble, her emotions up and down. If it weren't for the collar, she knew, the Phoenix Force would be blazing. It tended to show up whenever her emotions were strong. A thing of passions, it had told her once.

The collar. Rachel tried to not dwell on it. When she did she got a panicky feeling, like she couldn't breath. Which was her imagination, she knew. The collar wasn't tight, not really. It buzzed a bit, oddly. Or maybe that was her head buzzing? Hard to say, hard to say. Hard to fight old habits, but habits from where, Rachel didn't really know. Her awareness of her surroundings seemed to be jumping. Emma was talking? No, she wasn't. But she was looking? Rachel couldn't hear over the pounding of her pulse in her ears. She couldn't breath again, Emma was talking, her lips were moving, but Rachel couldn't hear, but something, something bad? was happening, that was it. Rachel scrambled backwards, falling over her own feet to get away from Emma. Emma's face, Rachel couldn't see it, really, things were odd, faces, too many faces over Emma's. Now, now, can't breathe now, and dark spots formed in her visions, not like the Phoenix gold and fire, no, dark and cold and something was waiting for her in the dark. Things were waiting for her in the dark, have to breathe now, now, have to


Rachel blinked. Her eyes were watering, her cheek stung. Emma was right in front of her. Rachel's back was against the far wall. Rachel shifted slightly and found that one of Emma's hands was wrapped in Rachel's hair, holding her head still. Emma raised her right hand, waiting to see if Rachel warranted slapping again.

"How --" Rachel paused and cleared her throat. It hurt. Had she been yelling? Screaming, maybe? "How did we get over here?"

Emma lowered her hand. "You seem to have some . . . difficulty . . . focusing on where you are and what we are doing. Where were you, just now?"

Rachel shrugged. Emma let go of her hair and backed off. Almost immediately Rachel felt it. Dark splashes in her vision, no air, the cold. "Emma!" she yelled, panicking.

Emma lunged at her, slamming her shoulders back against the wall. Rachel couldn't see her face yet, couldn't see through the blurry overlapping images, all mouth and no eyes and dark holes where a face should be. Emma grabbed her by the hair again, yanked her head back, forced Rachel to look Emma in the face. There. Rachel could see her now. The dark faded away. Rachel felt herself calm, felt the trembling ease. She leaned back against the wall, leaned into Emma's fist.

"Hmm." Emma's eyes narrowed. "Fascinating."

"What's fascinating?"

"You dissociate unless I'm holding on to you. Did you know you had this . . . quirk?"

"I don't have a quirk. I don't know what you're talking about." Rachel shrugged slightly.

Emma looked at her, then lightly slapped Rachel's cheek. It still stung.

"Hey! What was that for?"

"Don't lie to me."

"I'm not!"

Emma pursed her lips. With an eyebrow raised, she deliberately let Rachel go and backed away.

It was worse this time. The dark filled the sides of her visions entirely, she couldn't breath at all. Rachel fell to her knees, wrestling the collar with both hands. She looked for Emma and couldn't find her, couldn't see her at all. There, there was a shape. It's face was sick, white and full of dark holes where eyes and mouth should be, black holes and cold. Rachel's view began to spin. She fell over, the floor cold against her arm. The black thing was leaning over, it was going to touch her and the last time he touched her he hurt her and she said she'd kill him but she couldn't breathe and there was no-one to help her and his hand was on h--

Rachel found herself on the floor. Her hands were wrapped around Emma's throat. Emma was in her diamond form, so no harm there. Emma had a grip on Rachel's collar, pinning her to the floor. Emma straddled Rachel's waist and sat on her.

"We're not doing that again, darling," Emma said calmly.

Emma had no real evidence. Just intuition, a glimpse of a look in Rachel's eyes.

The nightmares plaguing Elisabeth and Kitty were from Rachel's half-remembered past. But the energy behind them was not rage. Anger made Rachel lash out at people. A fact Emma was perfectly aware of, thank you very much. Fear made Rachel fight. But guilt, now. If Rachel felt she had some part in this. That she had something to do with the death of her family. If she felt responsible in some way. That would make her more crazy than usual. Responsible. Culpable, perhaps? The tattoo. The Shi'ar deathmark tattoo. Why hadn't Rachel removed it? The excuses offered by Rachel and Henry were, frankly, pathetic. If Rachel wanted the tattoo off her back she could do it. She'd removed her face tattoos years ago. On some level Rachel clearly wanted the deathmark. Thought she deserved it, perhaps? But what, what would make Rachel feel that she was a part of her family's death? After all, she hadn't wanted any-- Ah. What did Rachel want that caused such guilt? What did Rachel want that she thought made her responsible for the death of her family? What could she want that was so terrible?

Ah. Yes. That.

Emma was certain she knew what to do. Smoothly, Emma shifted her grip on Rachel, pulling her to a sitting position by the collar. Emma stayed where she was, straddling Rachel's legs. She kept a tight grip on the collar.

"I think I know what is going on, Rachel. Are you ready to hear what I have to say?" Emma asked. Rachel looked confused, eyes wide. But she was listening. She nodded.

"All right. First, we are going to get comfortable. Then I am going to talk. You will interrupt, deny, and make excuses. And then you will admit to my assertions and agree with me as to a course of action." Emma looked around. "But, first, somewhere to sit. Will you be all right for two minutes?"

Rachel looked bemused. Bemused was an improvement over dissociating post-traumatic psychosis. Emma chose to interpret it as a 'yes.' Emma stood and gathered up the Danger Room remote control. She shifted back into flesh and quickly picked a preset of hers. A comfortable, decadent bedroom appeared around them. Emma sat on the couch and gestured for Rachel to sit on the floor. Rachel did so without comment. She knelt, her back to Emma, facing out. A position of implied trust. That sealed it. Emma gathered her thoughts and began.

"Lean back, against my legs." As Rachel did so, Emma twined her fingers in Rachel's hair. Emma felt the redhead relax, lean into her. "That's right. Do you know what you just did?"

"No. I sat down?"

Emma tried to keep her voice gentle. Tried to keep the impatience from her tone. "You relaxed. When I pull on your hair you relax. When I tug on your collar, you calm down and listen. I've seen images of your nightmares. I've seen you in combat with the X-Men. I've read the post-action reports. I feel that I cannot mince words with you." Emma took a deep breath. Rachel was not going to like this. "Rachel, you are deeply submissive. You resist everyone, everyone's control of you, until the moment you give in absolutely. (And here is the part where you tell me I am wrong.)" Emma paused.

Rachel sat at her feet, stiff and unmoving. She didn't say anything. Not for a long while. "I . . ." Rachel cleared her throat and tried again. "I think . . . that I don't want to know what you're talking about."

Emma snorted. "Of course not. You've spent your entire life running from your nature."

"If I am what you say. Then they win. Every one of them. Who's tried to keep me prisoner. All of them. If I am . . . The thing you say. Then, then, that means I, what -- that I wanted it? That I wanted what they did to me? I -- I think I couldn't stand that, Emma," Rachel said levelly. "So I think you have to be wrong."

Even though Rachel couldn't see her, Emma nodded. Ah yes. The confusion. "You are mistaken, Rachel. About the fundamental difference between submitting when you choose to do so, for your own purposes, and being forced into servitude or bondage. One can," Emma said quietly, "choose to enjoy submitting yet loathe being forced."

Rachel shifted a bit. Emma tightened her grip on Rachel's hair, not enough to hurt, just enough to reassure. It was less effective now that Rachel was aware of the trick. But she sighed, and leaned against Emma's legs again. After a moment Rachel wrapped one arm around Emma's calf and rested her cheek on Emma's knee. Emma didn't comment, merely continued her hold.

"I don't understand, Emma," Rachel said. But she wasn't protesting. Hm.

"It's simple," Emma replied. "When you choose to give control of yourself to another, when you choose to make yourself vulnerable to those you trust, you are in control. Whatever happens, you have exerted your will to make it so. This is entire different from being captured, tortured, branded, raped, and forced into servitude. Do I need to explain further?"

"I guess not," Rachel mumbled. She sighed. "So I'm just stuck, then? I'll just keep breaking at the worst moments. I'll keep . . . failing. Everybody."

"Oh, I have a different plan," Emma said. "Your problem is that you are fighting your submissive needs all the time. What you need, darling, is a healthy outlet. That will let you be strong and resist actual coercion. You need a sex life. A nice, submissive, sex life," she said firmly.

Rachel jerked forward, out of Emma's grip, and turned to stare at her. Outrage writ large on her face, Rachel sputtered. Emma waved her sputter aside. "Don't bother. I know what's best." Emma leaned forward, her forehead nearly touching Rachel's. "If you have a safe place where you can give in. Entirely. Then you won't get so . . . confused . . . when presented with coercion in combat. It's this . . . repression . . . that is so unhealthy." Emma reached with both hands, slowly so Rachel could see what she was doing. She slid her fingers into Rachel's hair, tightening her grip at the back. Emma yanked Rachel's head back, exposing her throat. Rachel gasped. It was not a noise of fear. "I don't believe in repression," Emma purred. "I believe in working through one's little issues." Emma pulled Rachel up to her knees and held her. She leaned in towards Rachel's throat. She could see the pulse hammering in Rachel's neck. With utmost care Emma leaned in and pressed her mouth to Rachel's neck. Emma brushed her teeth over the soft skin, the quivering pulse. She began to bite. Tighter. Rachel was holding her breath. She leaned on Emma, trusting Emma with her throat. Emma bit hard for a flashing instant and released Rachel.

"em- god. Emma. I," Rachel whispered, not a protest, not an invitation. Was it consent? Not yet.

"It's simple," Emma said. "If you give in when you want, when you choose, you will be able to resist your training and compulsion to give in the rest of the time." Emma traced one finger over Rachel's cheek. "They trained you. I know. To be an animal. To obey without thinking." Emma brushed her finger down Rachel's neck, slid it along the metal collar. "When you wear a collar your training asserts itself. You submit, to anyone who is nearby. And you fight it, fight the submission, fight yourself until you dissociate, until you black out, you fugue." She traced the jaw line up to Rachel's lips and brushed her finger across them. Rachel exhaled sharply, her lips parting at Emma's touch. "Stop fighting. Stop fighting all the time. Give in to it, sometimes. When it's safe. Give those needs an outlet." With the slightest pressure Emma slipped the tip of her finger into Rachel's mouth. Rachel's eyes closed. "You can't help what you are," Emma said. Rachel closed her lips on Emma's finger. "But you can help what you do." Her tongue, now, Rachel stroked Emma's finger with her lips, the tip of her tongue. Her eyes stayed closed and she leaned into Emma's legs. "You can choose to whom you submit." Emma parted her legs and pulled Rachel towards her. Rachel willingly inched forward on her knees. Emma wrapped one hand around the back of Rachel's neck and began stroking her finger in and out of Rachel's mouth. Rachel moaned.

Emma stopped and pulled away. "If that's agreement, darling, you have to be more specific." Emma contemplated the walls of the room. "If you agree to my assessment and want to continue therapy, you must say so. In clear terms. You must, in short, tell me what you want." Emma looked back at Rachel. "Or you get nothing from me."

For a long moment they remained where they were. Emma on the couch, arms and legs spread wide in aggressive indifference. Rachel kneeling between Emma's legs, staring at the blonde. Rachel took a deep breath.

"I want you to help me control my habits, my tendency to give in to things," Rachel said. "And people. And I understand that I have to agree to things, but that you will decide what happens. And I want it. Whatever it is."

It took an enormous effort of will on Emma's part to neither laugh nor roll her eyes. That was among the top three least eloquent requests to bottom she'd ever heard. "But practice will make perfect," she murmured.

Rachel watched as Emma dug through the bag she'd brought in with her. Emma turned back, a pair of lined leather cuffs in hand, a length of chain dangling. Rachel felt dizzy for a moment. But instead of fighting it she looked at her feelings. Looked hard at her reactions. What did she want. Really. What did she really want? Rachel looked from the cuffs to Emma's face and held out her hands. Emma walked forward without a word. The cuffs felts cool and heavy on Rachel's wrists. And, oh god, they felt safe. Rachel wanted to curl up, wanted to close her eyes and sleep in Emma's arms, Emma who had put these on her, Emma who had made her feel this good. Rachel nearly started crying. She hadn't felt this relaxed, this calm, since before the Shi'ar attack. Maybe Emma was right. It was time to stop fighting herself all the time. Time to admit it. Time to stop fighting.

Emma clipped the cuffs together in front of Rachel. She stretched out the thin length of chain and motioned for Rachel to stand. Emma then passed the length of chain down, between Rachel's legs, and clipped it to the back of Rachel's collar. Rachel shifted experimentally. The chain was loose, but every time she moved her hands she could feel a tug on her throat. She closed her eyes, her breath catching in her throat. This was unbelievable. She sank back to her knees. That felt better. Kneeling. Rachel pulled up on her hands a bit. The chain slid against her jeans, rubbing between her legs. It pulled on her throat, pulled her head back. Rachel wiggled against the chain, her breath coming faster.

"Did I say you could begin without me?" Emma asked. Rachel's eyes flew open.

"Uh! Um, I'm sorry?"

"I doubt that. You don't look the slightest bit sorry. But I can fix that."

Rachel watched Emma circle her. Well, watched as she passed in front of Rachel. Rachel was not so foolish as to turn her head. Emma stopped at a chair across the room. She sat and looked at Rachel, a slow smile on her lips.

"Come here." Emma pointed at the floor in front of her.

Rachel thought frantically. Crawl? No, her hands wouldn't reach. Get up and walk. Um. That seemed a bad idea. Rachel settled on an undignified kneeling shuffle.

"Stop." Emma frowned, tapping a riding crop -- where in the hell did she get that from! -- against the side of her boot. Did she have that in the bag? Or was it a Danger Room prop? Was it in the chair all along? Did the woman just keep crops in her furniture for, oh, those random crop-needing occasions? And who would she need a crop for? Ah! Rachel shied away from the mental image of Emma and Scott, her father, dammit!, in this room doing, oh god, don't think about it. Emma was frowning at her. "That's just not right," she said.

Emma got up and walked behind Rachel. She rummaged in the bag, that damn bag she'd brought in. What exactly was in there? And why had she brought cuffs in the first place? God. Emma was behind her now.

"Rachel, don't move. If you move, you will be hurt." Emma grabbed the chain at the back of Rachel's throat. She held Rachel in place. Rachel felt it then, the edge against her skin. She froze. Emma reached around until Rachel could see the knife. Single edge, hilt, one of Gambit's, maybe? Similar. Emma slid the back against the skin of Rachel's arm, the edge holding her shirtsleeve taut. The fabric tore, as both women knew it would. Emma sliced up the sleeve quickly, before the shirt lost tension and became impossible to cut. At Rachel's shoulder Emma switched hands and cut the other sleeve. The wide-necked shirt was held together in front, barely, by three buttons. Emma flicked them off with the tip of the knife. Rachel's shirt fell to the floor.

"Hmm. Of course you don't wear a bra. Pity. It would've looked nice," Emma murmured. She left Rachel and returned to the chair. Sitting, she gestured for Rachel to come closer. Rachel tried to move as gracefully as she could. She knew she looked foolish. As she got closer to Emma, Rachel could feel the heat of her humiliation on her face. Emma reached out with the crop, pressing it against Rachel's lips.


Rachel stopped. She looked at the floor, embarrassed. Emma grabbed Rachel's wrists and pulled slowly up. Rachel gasped, her head pulled back, her half-naked body arching as the chain between her legs pulled on the inhibitor collar. Emma held her there and chuckled. She traced over Rachel's breasts with the crop. Rachel shivered, her breathing coming quickly. Emma began flicking the crop lightly against Rachel's shoulders. It didn't hurt. Not really. But Rachel jumped anyway. With each tap Rachel flinched, first to one side and then the other as Emma struck her. Emma smiled to see her move.

Emma struck harder. Mostly on Rachel shoulders and arms. Mostly. Rachel started to twist, as much as she could without cutting off her air.

"Now, stop that," Emma said. "Be a dear and hold still. This will hurt."

Emma let go of the chain but Rachel didn't move. Emma smiled. "Good girl." Then the pain began.

It was odd. Rachel had been injured in more ways than she could remember. But holding still while Emma hit her was more painful than anything she could recall. It was the act of will that made it impossible to ignore. Emma stood and began swinging the crop from the wrist, flicking the end across Rachel's shoulders, her upper arms. Occasionally the edge caught the side of Rachel's breasts and she whimpered. She tried to not move. She really did try.

Emma walked behind her. There was a long pause, then Rachel found herself being grabbed, moved, forced up and onto the chair in front of her. She fell forward onto her bound hands, kneeling over the seat. Emma placed a foot on Rachel's back, holding her in place. Rachel heard, felt maybe? the knife again. Where was Emma keeping it? In her corset? Her boot? Rachel had no idea. Emma leaned her weight on Rachel's back, the heel of the boot painful. And gritty, too. Rachel felt the dirt under Emma's heel against her skin. Emma slid the knife under the waistband of Rachel's jeans and in moments they were in a heap around Rachel's knees. Emma stood again.

"You moved. Which you know. Now, stay there." And the crop came down on Rachel's back. On her back, on the deathmark. In fact, Rachel was direly certain that Emma was hitting the deathmark tattoo on purpose. The blow on her ass startled her, coming as it did with no warning. Rachel yelped and jerked sideways. Emma stopped hitting her. This couldn't be good.

"I think," Emma said with a dangerous purr, "that you owe me an apology for that." Rachel heard a rustling of cloth behind her.

Rachel felt Emma's legs, naked now, as Emma straddled her back. Emma sat on Rachel's back, Rachel still bent over the chair. Emma shifted and Rachel realized Emma was not wearing pants anymore. Emma pulled on the chain running down Rachel's back, placed it directly where she wanted it. And then Emma began to move.

She wrapped one hand in Rachel's hair, pulling her head up and back. Her other hand rested on the curve of Rachel's ass. Emma rode Rachel, like a horse, like a toy. She slid back and forth on the chain. With each movement the chain pulled on Rachel. It pulled on her neck, cutting off her air and pulse slightly. Then it pulled between her legs as Emma moved forward. With each long, slow stroke Rachel felt the blood pound in her head, felt a momentary dizziness, then the tug of the chain -- warm now -- against her clit, along her labia, against her ass. Dizzy. Getting wet. Pounding. Wet. Emma tugged her hair. Rachel's arms were trapped under their combined weight, her knees were sore on the rug. The edge of the collar was cutting into her slightly, the links of the chain pulled oddly. None of it mattered.

Rachel listened to Emma. She was nearly silent. But her breathing came faster. The shifting of her weight became looser, less controlled. Rachel felt, or imagined she could feel, a growing heat and damp against her back. Emma was turned on. Rachel couldn't identify how that made her feel at first. But then she realized -- she felt proud. She'd done something right. Emma, the woman punishing and dominating her, was aroused by Rachel. Rachel was doing something right. She arched a bit, trying to help in some way. Emma slapped her on the butt in rebuke. Rachel subsided and focused instead on Emma's quickening pace. The chain between Rachel's legs was wet now as well. Listening to Emma, to her breathing fast and tight now, feeling the trembling of her thighs against Rachel's sides, it was hot. More than hot. It was exactly what Rachel wanted. What she needed. She pulled her hands a little forward, just a bit, and as Emma began jerking forward and back the collar tightened on Rachel's neck, tightened and held there and Rachel heard the blood pounding in her ears. Emma stopped, without a sound, and lay forward across Rachel's back. The pressure on Rachel's throat eased and the two women lay there for a moment, panting. Emma pushed off the chair and Rachel heard the jingling of keys. Emma unlocked the chain from the collar.

"Roll over."

Rachel rolled. Emma gestured at Rachel's hands. Rachel raised them obediently, even though she was eyeing Emma's half-naked body. Emma was wearing the corset still. As Rachel watched, Emma tucked the keys into the back of the corset. There must be a pocket in the back.

Emma walked over to a wall and opened a panel. She pulled out a pair of robes. She held one out to Rachel.

"They're real. Not Danger Room props. You can wear it back to your room."

Rachel stood. She put on the robe and waited.

Emma leaned in and traced the edge of Rachel's ear with her finger. "Listen," she said. "Take your will back, Rachel. Take off the cuffs and collar and take your will back." Emma stepped back and waited, tying her robe on.

Rachel looked at her hands. Her wrists. The cuffs had simple buckles. No locks. Rachel worked the leather straps free and let the cuffs drop to the floor. For a moment tears welled up in her eyes. She blinked them away. It was ridiculous to feel attachment to a pair of cuffs. But for a moment she did, and their removal was a loss.

Rachel reached up to her neck. The collar had a clasp which took a moment. Then she was free. Rachel looked at the collar. She handed it back to Emma.

"Thank you, Emma."

"Mm. Believe me, it was my pleasure."

Rachel turned to leave, unsure of what to do or say. Emma reached out, put a hand on Rachel's shoulder. "I hope this helps with the nighmtares," Emma said. "If I am right, they should become less powerful without the guilt to drive them on. If I'm wrong, well . . ."

Rachel smiled. "If you're wrong, we'll have to do this again, I think."

Emma's mouth twisted in a wry smile. "Hmm. We'll see. Good luck, Miss Grey. And good night."

The End

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