Suzy, of course, had not forgotten about Susan. She could never forget about Susan.
"You sure you're okay with doing this tonight?" Quinn looked at Suzy intently.
Suzy nodded her head emphatically. "I'd say we've waited too long, but it won't seem like any time to Susan. You know how important this is to me. Tonight's just the experiment, to see how it goes, before we get more elaborate." She returned Quinn's look with equal intensity. "Just make sure I don't get stuck underneath Susan."
Quinn put her hands on either side of Suzy's bare hips, rubbing them fondly -- Suzy had already stripped naked, as part of the preparation -- and said, "If nothing else works, I can get her drunk, though that might be a temporary fix. But I don't think it will be a problem. I talked her down from control before, when I barely knew what I was doing, and couldn't be sure it would work. I've read more since then, and I've already established that trust I need from her."
Suzy nodded, and lay down on her side on the bed. "Okay, ready." She curled up and put her hands behind her back.
As Quinn began hogtying her, Suzy suddenly thought of an important point she'd overlooked. "Oh! Once I'm gagged, I can't tell you if I'm me or Susan. If you start thinking I'm Susan and it's still me, I'll wave my index finger back and forth, like this." She demonstrated.
"Got it." Quinn fastened the elaborate gag in place, and buckled on the blindfold. She finished up with the hogtie cloth -- very short, the way Susan liked it, and running through her crotch for the usual stimulation. They were using cloth rather than rope, to avoid raw scrapes against Susan's sensitive parts that Suzy would have to live with afterward.
Quinn completed the tie, and patted her wife on the hip. "Okay, babe. Ready for you. Call up Susan."
Suzy nodded, took a deep breath, and began the relaxation effort, analogous to letting down for urinating, that she had always done to let Susan resume control.
She grunted softly when it didn't seem to work. When Quinn softly inquired "Susan?", Suzy waved her index finger behind her.
Suzy had never been able to sense Susan's presence in her mind when she, Suzy, was on top. Susan, it seemed, had no existence at those times. Yet Susan had always floated upward and taken over when Suzy let go. It wasn't happening this time.
A wave of fear swept through Suzy. Please, she thought, please don't let her be dead! I couldn't bear to think I killed her!
The moment the fear coalesced, a familiar feeling bubbled through Suzy, seemingly from below. Of course! thought Suzy. My fear helps. Being afraid is what created Susan to shield me to begin with.
Suzy sensed the gauze curtain forming around her perceptions of the world. And heard Susan's thoughts. For the first time in weeks, Susan was back!
Quinn asked again softly, "Susan?"
Susan heard Quinn, while the rest of her senses reacted to the perception she was suddenly back in bondage! She seemed to be indoors, hogtied, blindfolded, and gagged on a soft surface that was most likely a bed. She squirmed, testing her restraints, as excitement shot through her, coupled with confusion. Just an instant before, she had been with Quinn in the woods, her hand holding Quinn's within the duct tape cocoon. Susan was accustomed to sudden unanticipated shifts, but not from one bondage situation to a new one. And not without drinking.
She remembered, then, letting Suzy come up. She wasn't completely sure how she had done it, but she knew she had. That's interesting, she thought. I guess I can do that.
Quinn said, still more softly, "Susan, I'm here. Some time has gone by. You don't need to worry about anything. I'm here to take care of you and take care of Suzy, and I always will."
Susan relaxed. Something about Quinn's voice made her feel wrapped in a warm blanket.
"You're living here with me and Suzy. You don't need to work at the library anymore. Suzy is doing that. All you have to do is be tied up and have fun with it. Is that okay?"
Oh, wow, thought Susan. Can this be for real? Hoping it was, she said, "Mm-hmm."
"The only thing we ask of you is that you always let Suzy come back to me when it's time. You know how. You may not think you do, but you did it before. Do you remember that?"
Susan nodded her head. "Mm-hmm."
Quinn's voice, as it had been that night -- just moments ago to Susan -- was slow, deliberate, and almost hypnotic. "I'm going to leave you alone in just a minute. After I do, you just need to do whatever feels good. Just remember one thing, and you can tuck this in at the bottom of your mind, out of the way until you need to remember it. I know that after your orgasm, you usually fall asleep. When you feel yourself drifting off, that's the time to let Suzy come back up. You know how to do it," Quinn repeated, "Even if you think you don't. Just let go when the time comes so my Suzy can come back to me. You can hold off the orgasm for as long as you want, if you want to. There's no worries, no hurries. Tonight is for you. Okay?"
"After you let go for Suzy, you'll always come right back, and it won't seem like any time has gone by. Tonight we're just testing, to make sure everything goes okay. Next time you might find yourself in the woods alone, not knowing where you are or how to free yourself."
A burst of excitement whipped through Susan.
"When it's time to let Suzy come back, don't worry that you're giving up anything, or not doing your job. You don't have to protect her anymore. I promised you I'll protect her, and I always will. And we'll always let you come back again."
There it is again, thought Susan. Quinn said before that I was protecting Suzy somehow. I still don't know from what.
But she felt the sense of warmth from Quinn. The feeling of safety.
Her voice now sinking to a whisper, Quinn said, "I'm leaving now. Do anything your body wants you to do. Just remember what to do at the end."
I promise, thought Susan. Whatever it takes to do that, I'll do it.
She heard a door close.
She resumed testing her bonds, trying not to arouse herself too much. She believed Quinn when she'd said she'd let her do this again, and again -- and not as a periodic treat, but as one continuous, if somewhat choppy, experience. But she did want some time to really feel the restraint before her body took her over the edge to climax.
She felt her hands, securely fastened behind her back. Felt her feet joined, inseparable. Felt her heels touching her butt, was unable to pull them away, to straighten her legs.
Her hips started wriggling on their own. Her breath came faster, and faster still.
She lost the battle to stretch out her time. Her body wriggled, spasmed, strained, and she felt every bond, every movement thwarted, every muscle flexing in vain.
The orgasm came on fast and burst over her, vibrating every part of her as if her entire body was violin strings, playing higher notes, and higher... then slowly quieting, losing strength, fading to silence.
It had been one of those not-quite-maximal climaxes, one of the 80% kind. Susan wasn't worried, though. She was happy with it, and knew bigger ones would come later.
Susan felt herself drifting, floating towards sleep. And the drift began having, without her thinking of it, a slight downward component. She encouraged the movement in that direction, let herself move farther downward, downward...
Quinn rose to her feet silently after Susan's orgasm. She hadn't really left the room. She stood still, biting her lip, until the bound girl before her shook her index finger back and forth.
With a shout of joy, Quinn moved quickly to the bed and unbuckled the gag.
As soon as she had spat out the mouthpiece, Suzy shouted, "Honey, it worked! And she loved it! She's so excited about what kinds of things we're going to get her into later! Or she was, I mean. I can't sense her now, she's gone."
Quinn bent down and kissed her. "Well, we better figure out what those things are. I love you, babe."
"I love you too." She giggled. "Now get me out of this."
Suzy closed the front door behind her and plopped her keys down on the table in the entryway. She had stopped using a purse. She didn't really have that much she needed to carry around with her, and now used a wallet for the various cards she needed on her person, a small leather case that held her keys, and another small pocket-sized makeup restoration kit in case of decorative emergencies. "I'm home, hon. Kitty tonight?" They usually went to the Pretty Kitty two nights a week for drinks and meeting up with friends. Suzy's drinks were always non-alcoholic, just in case.
Quinn came out of the living room and kissed her, her eyes alight. Suzy could read in them that something was up. "Jill Seward just called and made an appointment for tomorrow night at eight. Want to assist?"
Suzy's eyes shot wide open. She had been getting a feeling Quinn thought she was ready, but Quinn hadn't said anything. "For real?"
Quinn grinned at her. "There's no way to find out if you're really up for it without just doing it. Tell me about Jill. What does she come here for?"
Quinn's clients required a variety of different services. Some came purely for pain -- in some sense pain aroused them, or in some other way satisfied them. They might have an orgasm during the session, or they might masturbate later at home, remembering their experiences with Quinn. Some preferred Quinn's various implements of torment, or one of them in particular, while some only wanted to be slapped. Some had fantasies they had longed to act out in roleplay, which might or might not involve varying degrees of pain. Some had no interest in pain, but did become aroused by verbal abuse, or by being given orders they must follow or risk punishment. These clients might enjoy nothing more than the act of submission itself, others the humiliation. No two of Quinn's clients were quite exactly alike -- even when their preferences were identical, their limitations might not be.
Suzy had watched Quinn in sessions with Jill three times, and read the notes from Quinn's initial interview with her. Jill was 35, a bank clerk, divorced. She had broken her arm a decade earlier, while out bike riding with friends, and had experienced a reaction to the pain that she hadn't expected -- as she put it, it made her feel "more alive," to an extent she'd never before felt. She had, over the intervening years, developed a fantasy, within which she liked to lose herself while she masturbated. And then she had discovered Quinn. Suzy recalled the details of Jill's preferences, and recited them to Quinn. "Roleplay with corporal punishment. She likes to imagine she's been arrested, by something like Nazis except they speak English. Accused falsely of being a spy. She's punished when she denies the accusations. She gets off on the helplessness and hopelessness of the situation. And the pain." Suzy smiled at Quinn. "I always thought Jill was probably really fun, because you can make stuff up in your head on the spot, to accuse her of it, and it doesn't matter what it is, so you've got a lot of creative freedom." Suzy frowned, summoning more particulars into her memory. "She wears panties in session, but nothing else. She'll take the whip or the paddle, or slaps with the hand, as long as you don't mark her legs below where shorts would cover them, or face, or hit her in the vaginal area. But you can touch her anywhere, in ways as erotic as you want. Any amount of verbal abuse, fitting the context of the fantasy." She paused for more thought. Just as Quinn opened her mouth, Suzy continued, "Oh, yeah. She doesn't have any kids, but for the roleplay she has an invented son you can threaten, so you don't have to fight her to get her to strip or take a position."
Quinn blinked at her, and smiled. "That's exactly what I was about to say. Oh, what's her safeword?"
Suzy closed her eyes. It came to her. "Crocodile. She's always free to say it, because she's never gagged. A gag wouldn't fit with the fantasy."
Quinn nodded. "What I'll do tomorrow is start the session, then you come in. I'll introduce you to her beforehand, so she knows what's coming. When you come in, you could, say, have some new information I wasn't aware of."
Suzy's eyes lit up. "I just make it up, right?"
"Of course. So how does that sound?"
Suzy threw her arms around Quinn and hugged her tight. "Sounds wonderful. I'm ready, coach." She backed away. "Instead of the Kitty, let's order pizza. I want to spend some time alone and think over what I want to do. Okay?"
Quinn kissed her. "Sausage pepperoni?" When Suzy nodded, Quinn said, "I'll make the call."
THE NEXT DAY
Suzy spent a full hour on her makeup. She was more excited than nervous, but either way it was hard for her to hold her hand steady.
For sessions, she had worked out a look that was more dramatic than anything she would wear to the library.
She wore a very short black leather skirt -- it stopped just below the bottom of her buttocks -- and for sessions had decided to wear no panties underneath, in case it seemed appropriate during a session to have the client pleasure her sexually. Above, she wore a black leather strapless bra that left the tops of her breasts visible while pushing them up, to give her more pronounced cleavage than usual. Around her neck was a black cloth choker, because she had always loved that look.
On her feet she wore her most expensive purchase, black leather boots that zipped up the side and came to mid-calf, with four-inch stiletto heels that she had spent three weeks practicing walking around in for a half-hour at a time. The boots were essential, contributing to the intimidation factor in two ways: beyond the purely stylistic, they took Suzy's height from a near-average 5 feet 5 inches, up to a tall 5' 9". In this session in particular, Suzy would tower over the 5' 1" Jill, who would be barefoot.
Other than the boots, skirt, bra, and choker, the rest of her skin was bare. She was actually glad Quinn had made her wait this long -- by now her work with the weights had paid off in a preliminary way: the muscles in her shoulders and upper arms had gained definition and bulk in a satisfying way. Her abs were more taut by the week. Her legs were toned.
To make her eyes more penetrating, Suzy had used a little more mascara than usual, and used black eyeliner below the eyes. She used a darker blue eyeshadow, that suggested storm clouds gathering over a wind-tossed ocean. She replaced her usual soft-colored lipstick with black. As a final touch, she had combed her boy-short hair towards the middle from both sides, held in place with the help of a small amount of mousse, making a short ridge from front to back.
Suzy had gone to the Kitty in this outfit and makeup once, to the fascination of their friends, adding black thong panties under the skirt to avoid possible hassles about exposure in public. She loved the looks she got from passers-by as she walked with Quinn from the parking lot to the front door -- for the first time she could remember, their eyes were more on her than on Quinn. Among her friends, who knew the context it was meant for, none of them had any improvement to suggest. Jodie said in awe, "You look like you just got kicked out of a biker gang for having a bad attitude." Everyone laughed.
Suzy beamed at her. "That's what I'm going for."
Quinn's dungeon was an enclosed, appropriately decorated space within the basement at her father's house. The dungeon itself took up most of the space; outside it there was a small reception area between the entry door and the dungeon. The outer walls and ceiling of the basement were effectively soundproofed, making the inner chamber a world of its own. As the session with Jill started, Suzy stood outside the door to the inner chamber, watching through a new peephole Quinn had made in the door. Suzy had waited with Quinn for Jill to arrive. Quinn had introduced Suzy as "Mistress Suzerain," who would be assisting in tonight's session at no extra charge. Suzy had taken Jill's hand in both of hers and reassured her that she had read over the specifications Jill had given and knew what the rules were. She gave Jill her best smile, hoping Jill would carry the memory with her into the session because while it was in progress, Suzy intended to be pretty scary. After the introduction, Quinn took Jill's cash payment and led her into the inner chamber, the dungeon.
Suzy loved her nom-de-domme. Obviously "Mistress Suzy" didn't have the necessary heft, but as soon as Quinn suggested "Suzerain," Suzy had nearly fallen on the floor laughing, and had told Quinn there was no need to bother thinking of any other alternatives. Suzy recalled that in the Middle Ages, a suzerain was a feudal lord who exerted control over the lives of the vassals in the surrounding area, usually requiring regular payments in tribute -- in short, a dominant among submissives.
Suzy gave Quinn a few minutes to establish the flow of the scene. She looked on, through the peephole, as Quinn, now in character, ordered Jill to strip down to her panties, and to stand against the St. Andrews cross -- an upright X made of wood, nine feet tall, to which the client's wrists and ankles were bound at the extremities in a standing spread-eagle. Quinn, as usual with Jill, made veiled threats to the safety of Jill's non-existent son in order to establish compliance, after accusing her of espionage against the state. Once Jill was bound to the cross, Quinn began badgering her for a confession and information about her mission and contacts. Since Jill was, in the roleplay, an innocent woman, she had no information to give, and could only insist on mistaken identity and beg for mercy.
After Jill had yelped in pain several times, from Quinn's use of the riding crop, Suzy took a deep breath, told herself I know what to do, I can do this, I can do this, and yanked the door open and stalked in. After a few paces she stopped short and gave Quinn a military-style salute. "Major Quinn."
Quinn, still holding the crop in a menacing way, looked at Suzy. "Captain Suzerain?"
"Major, we have just received new information on the spy's activities." She looked at Jill, curling her lip in distaste, and spat out, "If I may question the disloyal bitch?" She approached Jill immediately, as if certain of gaining permission.
Suzy took in Jill's situation at a glance. She was standing with her back to the cross, with arms raised and legs spread. Aside from her panties, her clothes were discarded carelessly off to the side. The cross had wooden pegs projecting from its arms, each thrust through one of several holes in the arms of the cross and anchored with a clip from behind, so that it couldn't be pulled out of the hole while clipped. Before a session, any of the pegs could be moved to different holes, to accommodate clients of different heights. Jill's wrists and ankles were each tied, using cloth, directly to one of the pegs.
Jill was sweating already, her cheeks red though she hadn't been struck there, and amid the streaks of sweat it was possible to distinguish tears beginning to stream from her eyes. She said in a weak, whiny voice, "Please, I haven't done anything! I'm not a spy, or anything like that!"
Despite the obvious signs of fear and distress, there were other signs Suzy, after Quinn's instruction, could easily pick up. The reddened cheeks were one, as was the rapid breathing, and the way she was licking her lips. Suzy had no way to tell whether Jill's breasts were swollen, never having seen them under normal circumstances, but her nipples were prominent and hard. It wasn't from cold. And even wearing panties, the fabric was thin enough that Suzy could see her labia were puffy.
The woman was very, very sexually aroused.
Suzy stepped forward and stood in front of Jill. "Miss Seward," she began, in a mockingly polite way, "Last Thursday at your teller window you served a Mr. Harold Grant. Didn't you?"
Jill gave her a blank look. Suzy knew that due to Jill's experience in previous sessions, she would know to play along. "I... I serve lots of customers, every day. I can't remember all of them. If he's the spy... Please, I could look him up for you, find his home address. Anything you want!"
Suzy glared at Jill, then turned and walked towards the left-hand wall, where various instruments of punishment were hung over hooks. She took down one of the whips, and heard Jill's frightened whimper. Jill had been whipped before in previous sessions, so this would be nothing new. Quinn, for tonight, had told Suzy she would be using the crop, a slightly less fearsome device, and would leave the whip to Suzy.
Jill, no doubt, was surely a little more afraid than usual -- Suzy, or "Mistress Suzerain," was an unknown factor. But as always, in sadomasochistic play, it came down to trust. Jill wouldn't have come back, to session after session, if she hadn't come to trust Quinn to observe her boundaries. If "Mistress Suzerain" was someone Quinn trusted, then Jill's trust in Quinn transferred to Suzy. At least provisionally.
Suzy held the whip, stroked its leather strips -- there were six of them, each nine inches long, attached to a handle of that same length easily held in one hand. Still stroking the leather, she turned and approached Jill, with a slightly meaner look on her face than before. Jill was wordlessly shaking her head, looking more afraid than Suzy had seen her so far. Yet still showing the signs of excitement.
Stopping directly in front of Jill, looking down at her from her boot-assisted height, Suzy pushed the end of the handle of the whip underneath Jill's chin to make Jill look up at her face. "Did you serve Mr. Grant or not?"
"I -- I -- I guess I must have. If you say I did, then I did. Please, that's all, I don't know anything about him."
With a flourish she had practiced, Suzy swung the whip around and to the left, and landed a backhanded stroke on Jill's right hip. Jill squeaked and tried to bend her body away after the blow had already landed. Suzy hadn't swung especially hard. She would build up to it gradually. She snapped at Jill, "Did that help you remember any better?"
Her voice shaking, Jill stammered, "Please, it's not -- I don't -- I'm not trying to hide anything. I really don't remember AIEEE!!" The last was in response to Suzy slapping the whip against her left breast, harder than her first stroke.
"So you don't remember entering an elevator with Mr. Grant during your lunch break the very next day? We have that in footage from a security camera."
"Is -- you can't -- is this just because of somebody I rode in an elevator with?"
"After serving him at the bank the day before? We should think that was a coincidence?"
"It had to be! I don't know any... AIEEE!!" Suzy had taken a full swing at her left hip. The leather strips followed the curve of Jill's hip and slapped their ends stingingly against her buttock, just missing being stopped by the side of the cross, which would have blunted the blow considerably. As it was, the sting of the whip had obviously hurt.
"You stood very close to him. So you could pass something to him."
Jill shook her head violently. "I didn't have anything..."
"So you do remember!" She raised the whip, as if preparing to strike again.
"I mean I couldn't have had anything to pass to him, because I'm not AIEEE!!!" Suzy had struck her other breast, backhanded but hard.
"Please!" Jill's eyes begged Suzy to stop. But no safeword. Nothing counted without that. Her lower lip was quivering. "If you'll tell me what you want me to say, I'll say it. I'll sign it. Anything."
Suzy leaned in, her face just inches from Jill's. "We don't want you to tell us what we already know. We want you to tell us what you know."
Quinn was standing to Jill's right, and slightly behind, out of Jill's field of vision. Out of the corner of her eye, Suzy saw Quinn move in slight startlement. Suzy was proud of that line she'd just used. She'd anticipated Jill's plea for a chance at signing a confession that could end her torment -- Jill had said something similar in an earlier session Suzy had watched -- and had her response ready.
Still glaring at Jill from inches away, Suzy reached down with the whip, put the end of the handle between Jill's spread legs and tapped it very lightly against her swollen labia, protected by only a thin layer of fabric and nothing more. After the first few taps, she made the taps just a little harder. Whipping Jill there was out of bounds. But touching her was not. In peripheral vision, Suzy saw Quinn momentarily raise an arm, then subside. She thought about stopping me, thought Suzy. She's decided to wait and see.
Suddenly Jill's entire body tensed and began quivering, and a gargling cry escape her lips. She breathed rapidly, whimpering with each exhalation. The spasms intensified, she let out an inarticulate high-pitched shout, and then she slumped in her bonds.
Suzy backed away and grinned at Quinn. Jill's fainting was feigned. It was the signal she used to indicate she'd had an orgasm, as if it wasn't obvious, and that the session could end now.
She didn't reach climax every time. Suzy had seen her do it once with Quinn. More often her sessions ended on reaching an agreed-on time limit, after which she went home and, presumably, gave herself sexual release on her own.
Quinn untied Jill's ankles, and Jill brought her feet together and stood, shakily, as Quinn freed her wrists. As soon as she was released, she lunged forward and threw her arms around Suzy for a hug and said "Thank you so much! That was wonderful!" She backed away, and hugged Quinn as well, saying, "Could Mistress..." She paused, seeking the name in memory. "...Suzerain come back next time?"
Quinn looked at Suzy. "Up to her."
Suzy smiled at Jill. "I'll be there."
Quinn closed the door behind Jill's departing figure, and turned to look at Suzy. She seemed at a loss for words. Finally she said, a little hesitantly, "Do you have... maybe a little of the same thing I've got? I wasn't expecting you to hit her that hard. I mean, it was just right, it was like I would have done. But do you get some enjoyment out of causing pain? You've never said so."
Suzy shook her head. "It wasn't like that. I was focused on her. As soon as I could tell, from up close, that she really was getting off on it... See, that's what I like. I enjoy... causing orgasm. It's such a powerful feeling, being able to do that."
"But that didn't come..." Quinn stopped and laughed. "SHE didn't come, until the end. What was going on before that?"
"I could tell she was getting there, that it was building up. I could tell whipping her was helping, so that encouraged me to hit her as hard as you do. And I had a feeling that last thing was what would send her over the edge."
"Yeah, at the end... I almost stopped you. You knew you weren't supposed to go there. You're saying you knew that would work?"
Suzy nodded her head. "I was never going to whip her there. But I wanted her to be afraid I would."
"Afraid? You mean like..."
"Like with Susan, yeah. I feel like I know more than anybody about what fear can add to arousal, give it more intensity, like a spice. It wasn't the same as with Susan. With Susan, the fear by itself is an aphrodisiac. She doesn't like pain, but she gets off on fearing it, or fearing discovery, or fearing anything else. With Jill, it's the pain that she wants, so I gave her that, and I thought if I could add fear of even worse future pain on top of that, anticipation of pain coming, mixed with manipulation of an erogenous area, both of those things together, I thought that would do it for her."
Quinn gaped at her. Almost to herself, she said, "I never looked at it that way. I never thought to do that. I... You..." She stopped and smiled. "I don't know what I thought I could teach you about this. You already know more than I do."
Suddenly tears started running from Quinn's eyes. Her lip was quivering.
Suzy had never seen Quinn cry before, had never imagined it happening. She moved closer, worried. "Honey, what's wrong?"
Quinn gave her a shaky smile, sniffled, and brushed the tears away with her forearm. "This..." She made a sweeping gesture to indicate the dungeon. "This has been such an important part of my life for so long. It's not just what I do, it's what I am. It's my place in the world. And I love it, and feel so happy I found it. But I never thought I was going to be able to share it with anybody, because people don't really understand what it's about, what it's for. But you..." She took a deep breath, and wiped new tears away.
She sniffled again and went on, "Here's what I feel like, right now. That when I met you, months ago, it's like I picked up a stone." She took Suzy's hand, and looked directly into her eyes. "The earth had swallowed that stone up years before, and crusted it with gunk over all that time. I saw it, and picked it up, and didn't know what I had. But I brushed a little of the gunk away, and a saw a little light underneath. And I didn't have to do anything else. The stone itself finished shaking off all the rest of its gunk, and I saw it was a perfect, beautiful gemstone, worth more than all the treasures on Earth. And it gave off such a light, it brightened my life more than I thought it could ever be." She sniffled harder, the tears flowing again. "And I just want that light in my life forever."
Suzy stood stunned. Her own tears started flowing. Finally she managed to say, in a choked voice, "There's nothing I could ever want more than to be in your life forever. So that you can be in mine."
She wasn't even sure, seconds later, how she and Quinn had moved together and put their arms around each other, the sides of their heads pressed together with their chins resting on the other's shoulder, their arms tightening.